Talking with God: A Practical Plan for Personal Prayer
**I received this book as a free Advanced Readers Copy from Netgalley**
Before I picked up this book, I had never heard of Mr. Eastman or of The Hour that Changes the World, of which this book is apparently an abridged version. Mr. Eastman is the president of Every Home for Christ. Having also never heard of the organization before, I did some bare minimum digging. According to their website, they’re a charity that is focused on evangelism, specifically training local populations to evangelize their neighbors. Ministrywatch.com gave them a C, but that is apparently a better rating that it seems: Every Home met two out of three of Ministrywatch’s standards for transparency. However, they are not accredited with the Better Business Bureau.
I wasn’t out of chapter one before I hit questionable interpretation practices. In defining praise as used in the Bible, Eastman references the Old French word for praise as the most accurate description. “The full meaning of praise can be captured only in its Old French origin, preiser, which means “to prize.” (emphasis added). However, this isn’t good biblical interpretation. One should always go back to the original biblical languages (Hebrew and Greek) for finding an interpretation for a word used in Scripture.
Chapter two starts throwing in necessities for Christian living: “Such [spiritual] silence is necessary if the believer hopes to minister effectively for Jesus.” Eastman fails to provide much more of a connection between spiritual silence and effective ministry; he proceeds on with the topic of waiting upon the God. Eastman further muddies the waters by rambling on about what this silence is, describing it as wordless praise but not a time of listening.
Chapter three moves on to the topic of confession. Here, Eastman defines his view of confession by the New Testament Greek word for confess. Point in his favor here. He goes on to make the odd assertion that “This act of declared [confession] gives God access into the heart of a believer, removing all hindrances to effective prayer.” This hints at a theology where God is limited in his interactions, rather than being omnipotent.
In chapter four, covering Scripture praying, Eastman asserts “The degree to which we believe in God’s Word and apply it to prayer is the degree to which God will pour out his power during our prayer.” Again, this hints at a God who is not capable of acting, but must patiently wait for human action to do anything. He goes on to quote George Mueller testifying to freedom from unanswered prayer. “[George Mueller] claimed the secret to receiving answers to prayer lies in how the Christian applies God’s Word during prayer.” (emphasis added). The promise of if you do a, God must provide b is a dangerous equation that has led untold number of people to grief and assuming they are doing something wrong that is keeping God from answering their prayers. Again, it lessens God’s sovereignty and places emphasis on human action.
By chapter 5 I’m wondering if this book is doomed to the did not finish stack of shame. Nevertheless, I persist. Eastman tackles the concept of watchfulness in prayer, evoking the image of a devil behind every bush: our prayers will cause Satan to attack us. He then messily combines this idea of devilish seige with a call for intercessory prayer. Eastman then oddly asserts “It is clear from [Romans 8:26-27] that a prayer warrior is not left to himself in understanding the ‘how’ of prayer.” Instead, the Holy Spirit directs one’s prayers. However, if this is the case, why write a book on prayer? Especially one on the how to of prayer. Eastman goes on to allege “God earnestly desires to reveal special secrets during prayer that help us pray more specifically for particular needs.” Claiming that the Lord will reveal special secrets is suspect and can lead to individuals believing they have special revelations from God.
Chapter six covers intercession. Eastman states that intercession is a means to become more involved in God’s plans, particularly in evangelism. Intercessory prayer is the “highest plane of prayer.” Eastman again evokes battle imagery. “There is a certain spirit of authority that must accompany a good deal of intercession. In that authority, we take back the ground the enemy has gained.” This view point encourages a more dualistic cosmology, one where God is constantly both gaining and losing ground in a spiritual battle with Satan. And while this view is popular in Christianity, it’s dubious that this is an actual biblical view.
Chapter seven moves on to the idea of petition for one’s own needs. He references the prayer of Jabez: because one man thousands of years ago asked for a special blessing and received it, we can use this as a rule to live by. Once again, he puts God into a box where if you do x, then y must follow. Eastman claims “In a practical sense, petition is not the prayer of a person opening heaven’s doors to release God’s power. Rather, it is a person opening his or her heart’s door to received power already appropriated by God.” What Eastman doesn’t seem to understand, is that both statements require action on our part before God is able to act. God may have appropriated power, but if he is sitting back, waiting on the person to open their hearts to it, his power as a sovereign God is weakened to a god that must wait on his followers to act in any circumstance.
I’ve reached chapter 8 and I feel like this post has gone on for too long and has probably lost the reader’s interest by now. To sum up the remaining chapters of the book, it’s more of the same. A God patiently waiting on us to do something so he can act. Weak theology aside, Eastman’s writing style is somewhat choppy; there are several times he could have combined sentences to assist with the flow of the text. Eastman asserts that his prayer style is based on the Lord’s Prayer, but then he rarely sites it. There is some good practical advice. I put an emphasis on contemplative prayer in my personal devotions, and it was nice to have a section covering the topic. I suggest to skip this one; choppy writing and weak theology are no-goes for me.