Monday, January 11, 2016

BookPastor >> "Anything" (Jennie Allen)

This review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint on August 12th, 2015.


TITLE: Anything: The Prayer That Unlocked My God and My Soul
AUTHOR: Jennie Allen
PUBLISHER: Nashville, TN: Thomas-Nelson, 2015, (240 pages).

We are all familiar with prayers and prayer requests. Church leaders often ask members what they can pray for. Members in various stations of need will share about their particular situations of how God can help them. As a Christian community, it is common to minister to one another regularly in care and in prayer for their particular needs in mind. We pray earnestly, faithfully, and in Jesus' Name. We pray and ask that God's will be done. What if we pray about something that is not specifically about what we or our loved ones want, but about "anything" that God wants? Scary isn't it? This is the key premise of this book, to learn to pray God's will be done above all of our needs. Putting it another way, we ask for God's will be done regardless of our specific needs. It is a holy surrender. This is the kind of prayer that the author seeks to teach.

Jennie Allen is author, speaker, retreat leader, and an inspirational teacher passionate about sharing God with believers especially women. She is convinced that the way to freedom in God is total surrender. She holds a Masters in Biblical Studies from Dallas Theological Seminary and lives with her husband and four children in Texas.

Readers who are not prepared to pray such a prayer will probably feel it's time to put down the book and read another one. Those who are not sure or are open about this are in for a treat as Jennie Allen shows us the standard three-phase way to change

1) Recognizing that "Everything" can Hold Us Back
2) Learning What It Means to Pray Everything
3) Praying and Living Anything

The first phase is significant as it is a commitment to abandon seven things. We need to abandon unbelief by casting out plastic gods. Abandon pretense by moving from doing the least good to the most good we are capable of doing. Abandon shame by letting God take charge of our missing buttons. Abandon our insatiable need for approval and recognition by knowing that God's approval and recognition is enough. Abandon the sense of entitlement which can easily enslaves us. Abandon fear by depending fully on God and not the fulfillment of personal scrapbooks accumulated over the years. Abandon our addiction to this world as we age and to long for for heaven.

As we work on these suggested abandonments, slowly but surely, our hearts are tilled and the soil ready to pray everything and anything. We wake up to the reality of understanding God for who He is, not who we think He is. We see with new eyes on how prayer changes us. For without total surrender, our eyes remain shortsighted. We see God as much bigger than we think. We learn not to be suffocated by the thousand and one problems we face but to be lifted up to see from God's perspective. As the dominoes of doubt falls, we grow in faith and trust. We learn to say Yes to God more and more, and hear echoes of Yes from him.

Finally, we are ready not just to pray anything but to live anything for Him. This is the power of surrender and complete dependence. Allen leads us through understanding our purpose on this earth. We learn about overcoming doubts. We realize profoundly that even when man thinks everything is out of control, God is sovereign and in control, regardless of whether we recognize it or not. Our faith grows in boldness. As we are liberated to be who we really are, we learn to see things differently as a life given completely over to God gets transformed. In the process, in some very strange way, we learn of how God turns everything over to us.

"Anything" is one of those books that tickles your curiosity, whets your literary appetite, and then after you have tasted it, you are hooked. It is a very beautiful way of expressing Jesus' call to discipleship. I think of Matthew 16:24 which says: "Then Jesus said to his disciples, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me."

There is some parallel in Jennie Allen's three phase approach to praying anything and everything. In the first phase, when we deny ourselves, we can use the seven abandonments to free ourselves from earthly entanglements, especially those that enslave us. In the second phase, as we take up our cross, we learn what it means to see from the perspective of the cross of Christ, that we must decrease while God must increase. We cannot remain at the earthly level of natural strength. We depend on God for heavenly hope and divine strength. Otherwise, we are easy targets for discouragement and depression. The third phase of truly liberated living for Christ comes when we follow after Jesus like a hound. As I think about it, there is a lot of sense in this form of prayer. Far too often we pray with our own ends in mind. What about praying with God's end, God's purpose, and God's will in mind? If we do not know how, start with Jennie Allen's book.

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Thomas-Nelson under their BookLook Bloggers Program in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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