Book review: Longing for God: A Prayer and Bible Journal
Longing for God articulates our deepest need and desire—to have a vibrant personal relationship with the living God—and provides practical tools to create those life-changing encounters. This 352-page book leads readers through the entire Bible in one year and shows them how to encounter God in practical and life-changing ways.
In this insightful book, Frank Hasel gives practical suggestions that are tried, tested, and refined in the crucible of experience. His suggestions, if applied, will have the same transformative result—a richer, more meaningful relationship with God. In simple, logical steps he teaches us how to pray for others in a more meaningful, effective, and structured way, bringing blessing to both the person who is praying and the person prayed for.
To call the book a prayer and Bible journal is somewhat inaccurate. It has four distinct components: a guide to productive Bible study, a book on prayer, a Bible reading plan, and a journal. Hasel skillfully interweaves these components, creating a whole that is considerably more than its constituent parts.
In the introduction and first part, Hasel draws on his experience as teacher, pastor, and theologian, providing suggestions and tips as to how the reader can engage and explore the Word, applying it at a deeply personal level. His challenge to the reader to diligence and engagement, leading to new and refreshing encounters with God, is coupled with a touch of realism. Should intentions and practice not align for a day or two or ten, he encourages the reader-user not to be discouraged but to pick up where they are and continue.
The Bible reading plan divides the Bible into Old Testament, New Testament, and Psalms. The occasional irritant of a psalm popping up in the middle of a gospel is outweighed as the sprinkling of psalms throughout the year provides a welcome counterbalance to some more challenging passages.
Every encounter with God and His Word involves prayer. At the end of each month there are practical insights and tips on a specific aspect of prayer. This is where the book excels. Each section is a gem showing a different facet of prayer, enhancing and deepening understanding and experience. The authenticity of the author and his intimate walk with God shine through. This is not academic theory; rather, these are practical, personal lessons, gained in the crucible of pain and loss. The book deals with some challenging aspects of prayer: What happens when my prayers are not fulfilled the way I was hoping for them to be? What does it mean to pray and to fast? How do I get rid of bitter feelings and grudges? How can I meaningfully praise God and develop an attitude of gratitude?
Longing for God invites engagement. The pages for each day’s reading provide space for reflection on the Word and prayer. For the journaling novice, the amount of space is not daunting. For the more experienced, the space limitations prompt deeper reflection to encapsulate the thoughts, ideas, and questions from the day’s passage. Writing acts as an antidote to spiritual amnesia, and as the year progresses, themes and reflections feed into each other, creating valuable insights that otherwise might be missed.
The prayer space provides a frame-work for more dynamic prayer by reminding the reader-user to begin with praise, then thanks, before finally arriving at petitions.The regular expression of praise and thanks recalibrates and enhances our relationship with God. It prevents the slot-machine prayers that just ask, hoping that we hit the jackpot and get the desired answer.
As a delightful, thought-provoking bonus, quotes about prayer from a wide variety of authors are found on the left-hand pages throughout the book. This book is designed to be written in and used. It is a powerful, practical tool that will enrich and deepen your relationship with the living God.
It is a practical tool that will enrich, deepen, and expand your understanding of the Bible and help you to remember and apply what you learn to your life.
This is not a book to set on the shelf; rather, it is a daily companion to be used and applied. I would recommend this to anyone who is willing to step out and try something practical and different and who longs for a closer walk with God.
—Audrey Andersson, executive secretary, Trans-European Division of Seventh-day Adventists
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