Candyce D. Magee
Prayers of the Bible: 366 Devotionals to Encourage Your Prayer Life, by Gordon J. Keddie. Pittsburgh: Crown & Covenant, 2017, xi + 764 pages, $18.00, paper.
The Christian worshiper seeking a guide for daily prayer and study does not lack options. Excellent works are available everywhere, including historic classics and more modern alternatives. However, it is unusual to find one that combines great theological depth with true accessibility for the contemporary reader. Gordon Keddie has achieved this excellent mix in his new book, Prayers of the Bible: 366 Devotionals to Encourage Your Prayer Life.
Keddie lists three practical goals that he hopes to achieve in each of his daily entries. The first is that “they are designed to be an encouragement to commit to the consistent exercise and enjoyment of prayer as a ‘means of grace’” (x). The second is to present the actual prayers of God’s people throughout the entirety of Scripture, as well as “many of the passages that teach us about prayer” (xi). The final objective is the one which really caught this reader’s eye:
The third goal is to connect personal devotion and the prayers of the Bible with the Bible’s own manual of praise, the five books of what we call the Psalms. Each day includes, for prayer and praise, a portion of a psalm from the Book of Psalms for Worship, also published by Crown and Covenant. Not every psalm is included, but most are represented, so that, in parallel with the prayers expounded here, you will find a fairly comprehensive presentation of the scope of biblical praise. (xi)
From the beginning pages of Prayers of the Bible until the final meditation for the year, Keddie brilliantly achieves his goals.
Each day begins with the scriptural prayer that is in focus (NKJV), ordered from Genesis to Revelation. Because context is so often crucial, there are always additional, and often substantial, numbers of verses to read before starting the actual reflections by Keddie. In addition to being theologically astute, the author weaves Scripture after Scripture within the body of his thoughts on each daily passage. Lastly, the reader is encouraged to read the Psalm that most exemplifies the essence of the actual prayer uttered by someone in the Bible. This framework is very effective in bringing the entirety of the biblical message to the reader. It should not surprise us that Scripture interprets Scripture, but when done well, it is lovely to behold.
Keddie also uses extensive references from other spheres of life: poetry (Robert Burns), fiction (Dickens, Sir Walter Scott), theology (Rutherford, Owen), and even politics and philosophy (Churchill, Bacon). This is just a very small sampling of the breadth of applied knowledge that Keddie shares with his audience. (There are 725 endnotes listed on the final pages of the book.)
Because Keddie expounds nearly all the prayers of the Bible, there is no shrinking back in terms of topics covered. The range is varied and even surprising at times. Trivia aficionados will also appreciate some of the details that are noted. There are the obvious facts (such as the shortest and longest prayers offered up to God), as well as the more unusual observations (for instance, the first prayer meeting and the only recorded prayer of the Holy Spirit).
Keddie’s thoughts on the importance of each prayer are succinct, yet thorough; simple, yet profound. After having pastored churches in Scotland, Pennsylvania, and Indiana, he has carefully studied the prayers of the Bible and listened to the heartfelt entreaties of his congregants. Trained at Westminster Theological Seminary, Keddie has the academic background and experience to bring the Reformed faith to bear on this essential Christian discipline. We would do well to reflect upon the inspired words of God’s servants within Holy Scripture as we also cry out to the Almighty. Keddie aids us in this endeavor by showing us the incomparable benefit of contemplating the whole counsel of God as we do so.
Candyce D. Magee is a member of Exeter Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Exeter, New Hampshire. Ordained Servant Online, August–September 2018.