Tag Archives: Don Whitney

Look at My Muscles, Dad

When my children were younger, they would suddenly get it into their heads to start exercising. They’d do some jumping jacks and some push-ups, taking all of five minutes. After they were done, they would flex their biceps and say something to the effect of, “Look at my muscles, Dad. See how strong I’m getting? I’ve been working out.” Not wanting to crush their spirits, I would praise their efforts, after all I remember doing the same thing when I was younger. Not surprisingly, it would be weeks (or even months) before they would work out again. This is how Christians, including me, act towards growing in our strength. A little Bible reading here; a little Bible reading there. A prayer today; another next week. The difference is that many times, we don’t become giddy with accomplishments like a young child after doing push-ups. We lament that we are not growing in faith and strength.

Paul wrote to Timothy that he was to “train yourself for godliness” (1 Tim. 4:7, ESV). The word for “train” is where we get the word “gymnasium.” It has reference to training or to exercising. Training might work, but exercising is not helpful in our culture since many exercise like my children and I used to do. The best word is perhaps “discipline.” My godliness is linked to my discipline—my buckling down and getting to business, consistently and intentionally. If I were to consistently and intentionally do all the disciplines that Don Whitney wrote about (Bible reading, study, meditation, and memorization, prayer, worship, evangelism, serving others, stewardship of money and time, fasting, silence and solitude, journaling, and learning on my own) there is no telling what type of man I’d become! Two things are for sure: I would be a very busy man and I would be so busy, I wouldn’t have time to get ensnared by sin. That isn’t to say that I would never sin, but that being captured by it would be nearly impossible. Holiness, or as Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 4:7: godliness, would be a near given state of being.

In some ways, I wish Dr. Whitney’s book was introduced by the concluding chapter, but then again, it probably would not have had the impact that it does as a conclusion. In that chapter, he articulated what discipline really was: “But even though disciplining yourself is sometimes difficult and involves struggle, self-discipline is not self-punishment. It is instead an attempt to do what, prompted by the Spirit, you actually want in your heart to do.”[1] This will probably be the point that I am going to take with me. I’m not seeking to make my life drudgery by disciplining myself; I’m seeking to give my life godliness. That’s what I really want. It is easy to forget the reason for doing anything, especially the things that go against the flesh. The flesh has a way of fogging up the mind. Whitney reminds the reader that the heart (not the stony heart, but the born again, heart of flesh) wants godliness and holiness. It is a struggle, but it is one worth fighting.

In my bullet-journal, I have a habit tracker in which I record whether or not I did a certain habit (good or bad). My goal is to actually add a Spiritual Discipline’s tracker which would include all of the disciplines Dr. Whitney wrote about. I was planning on having it done by August, but as the saying goes: “No time like the present.” As J. C. Ryle wrote, “Tomorrow is the devil’s day.” Thus, I will be sure to finish my Spiritual Discipline’s tracker today, and begin today with disciplining myself unto godliness. May God allow me to supplement my faith with virtue and virtue with knowledge and knowledge with self-control and self-control with steadfastness and steadfastness with godliness and godliness with brotherly affection and brotherly affection with love (cf. 2 Peter 1:5-7).

[1] Donald Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, (Downers Grove, IL: 1992), 244.

Book Review: Praying the Bible

Don Whitney has done it again. He takes something that seems to bewilder most people and simplifies it and yet enhances it all at the same time. From the first chapter, Whitney understands the struggle that most Christians have with prayer. “We can be talking to the most fascinating person in the universe about the most important things in our lives and be bored to death,” (p. 12). That statement isn’t so much an indictment against those who struggle to find prayer meaningful, but an acknowledgement that something has happened to our understanding of what prayer is. One thing I found humorous about this book is that Don Whitney says the same sentence time and again, and I am sure he did it for effect. If you pick up the book and read it, you’ll understand; I won’t give it away.

From chapter 2 on, Dr. Whitney takes his reader on an adventure of seeing prayer in a new light.  Each chapter takes the reader step by step through praying through the Bible. He explains the actual solution in the second chapter, making the claim that “every Christian can have a meaningful, satisfying prayer life,” (p. 24). I would agree with him if every Christian who struggles with prayer would take this book to heart and simply employ the principles he has written.

Chapters 3 and 4 are more about the method–going deeper than chapter 2. Starting in chapter 5 is when the reader gets to see the prayers in action. Dr. Whitney takes one through praying the Psalms. Having read the book, it has been the Psalms that I have used mostly. It wasn’t until yesterday that I went elsewhere in the Bible to pray.  “God gave the Psalms to us so that we would give the Psalms back to God. No other book of the Bible was inspired for that expressed purpose,” (p. 46). The next chapter deals quickly with praying through the other parts of Scripture.  By chapter 7, the beloved author is not willing to let praying simply be theoretical, but actual. He calls upon the reader to stop reading and pray. . .for 7 minutes! By the time one has read through his work, seven minutes while sounds daunting, isn’t. In fact, it went by way too fast for me.

I must say that this book is the most practical book on prayer that I’ve read. I love Paul Miller’s A Praying Life and Tim Keller’s Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God. Paul Tautges has a wonderful book on prayer called Teach Them to Pray. But it is Dr. Donald Whitney’s book that takes the cake for most practical. Published by Crossway Books in 2015, Praying the Bible barely squeaks out 100 pages (my arbitrary minimum number of pages to be considered a book), including the appendices. If you have trouble with your prayer life, try picking up a copy of this book and put it into practice. Five out of five stars! It retails for $13.99, but you can get it on Amazon for $11.89 with prime shipping or on Christian Book Distributors on sale for $5.99 (+ shipping)!