Reinders, Philip F., ed. Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible Through the Year. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, Faith Alive Christian Resources, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship (2010). ISBN 13: 978-0801072642 Foreword by Eugene H. Peterson.
After waiting almost three months (!) while it was on backorder, I finally received my copy of Seeking God’s Face (SGF) in the mail last week. And after becoming acquainted with it, I wanted to publish a brief review of this little resource.
Appearance: Although it really shouldn’t matter, this is a handsome, rather smallish, book with a nice faux-leather cover. A book’s appearance (typeface, cover, ribbons, illustrations, etc.) can really set the tone for the text, and SGF gives a positive impression.
Layout: Easy to read and follow; very simple. Reinders has done a good job making this an accessible prayer guide for most adults, rather than for just religious professionals. By trimming the traditional divine office down to just one daily sitting, SGF balances between a shallow devotional and the sometimes-complex, Byzantine prayer guides put out by liturgical publishers.
Distractions: For me, the most useful measure of evaluating a prayer book is the level of distraction for the pray-er. That is, does the resource promote or inhibit an attitude of prayer? For instance, I have occasionally used the so-called “Jordanville” Orthodox prayer book as a pattern for daily prayer. While the Marian prayers are distracting (yet manageable), it insists on using archaic addresses for God (Thee, Thy, Thou, Thine, etc.). Very unnecessarily distracting for a person who speaks contemporary American English! I have also occasionally consulted the Book of Common Worship (1993, a Presbyterian Church [USA] resource) for daily prayer and psalms. However, in the interest of political correctness, the BOCW goes through great contortions to make sure that all prayers and psalms avoid using masculine pronouns for God–a mammoth undertaking that is very distracting to me as one who wants to pray to the God of the Scriptures. So is there another alternative between PC and KJV? Yes: SGF. This prayer resource takes a common sense approach, using contemporary English and making use of the Today’s New International Version (TNIV) of the Bible (which, despite its controversy, is a good, solid, Christian translation of Scripture).
A Caveat: Some low-church evangelicals may criticize the very idea of having a prayer book, insisting instead on spontaneous prayer only. And while the spontaneous-only approach may work for many, that rigid attitude is simply hogwash. This prayer book is made up of bits of Scripture blended together to lead a believer or a seeker into an encounter with the living God.
Evaluation: I would buy just about anything from the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. They put out thoughtful (neither mushy nor dogmatic), evangelical (neither revisionist nor fundamentalist), Reformed (but not angry) materials that have enhanced my Christian walk and ministry. Exhibit A is The Worship Sourcebook. And SGF is no exception. It is a useful tool for non-liturgical Protestants to pray with the Bible and the church in a meaningful way. It is, in many ways, a via media for those who thirst for a connection to the ancient practices of the church, but yet who want to remain squarely in the Protestant stream of Christianity. This is a gift to the church, and I pray that it enhances the prayer life of many.