If there is one confession that I make more often on this blog than any other, it is that my prayer life is one of my greatest failures in my spiritual disciplines. I suspect that in that confession, I am not alone. Seeing this need, the book market is often flooded with books on the topic of prayer. Recently given to me for review was Kingdom Prayer by Tony Evans.
Admittedly, my acquaintance with Tony Evans does not go far beyond his name. According to his website, his commitment is to see lives transformed through the proclamation and application of God's Word. A worthy goal, Dr. Evans is committed to this not only his writings, but as a pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship and through his ministry foundation, The Urban Alternative. Perhaps the most surprising fact is that he graduated from Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS), an unanticipated point because reading his proclamation and application of God's word departs significantly from the reliable theology of DTS.
Evans lack of theological profundity is evidenced throughout Kingdom Prayer that reads as a book that feeds upon the sovereignty of man while being lightly salted with a truthful phrase here and there. As he begins he is correct to assert that the prayer life of the average Christian is faltering and thus we can appreciate his hope to correct that. His exact words for how to do that through this book are more telling though, when he writes his goal is:
. . . to comfort you afresh with the untapped power and authority that we have in prayer and to motivate you and me to utilize our backstage pass to access our heavenly father for our deepest needs (pg. 8-9).
As he embarks on this goal, I appreciate the author's emphasis on two key aspects: the first is that our lack of prayer is a spiritual problem (and he even reiterates that generally the issues we have are spiritual problems, something that we often avoid), and secondly that our pray must be centered on praying for God's will. Unfortunately, while his insistence upon these points is commendable, his application lacks are indicative of the overall issues with the book.
Through the book, readers will find themselves confronted with three major aspects that take away from the book's credibility. The first is that many of his terms are misdefined. Periodically Evans offers up several definitions such as the following:
* Kingdom Prayer: ". . . the divinely authorized methodology to access heavenly authority for earthly intervention" (pg. 18).
* Faith: "Faith is acting like something is so even when it is not so in order that it might be so simply because God said so" (pg. 84).
Both these definitions lack any depth in their meaning and convey nothing about what both prayer and faith really are within the Christian life according Scripture. Even the author's use of the word kingdom is wrongly acquired from Scripture. None of his interpretations convey man's dependence upon God or a deep, intimate trust of God.
The book's issues are furthered because the Biblical texts, the examples given, and the definitions provided are all misapplied. The first chapters rely heavily upon on Ephesians chapter 3, but through the exegesis of the text, Evans comes up with wrong conclusions about how that text applies because he fails to take into account the context of the verses cited. His examples include many of his own life experiences, but he uses those experiences to interpret Scripture rather than using Scripture to interpret his experiences. In reality, his misapplications come from a lack of depth in study and interpretation. As an example, he often comes to conclusions that when someone is having issues, they must hand it over to God so that it will be given to the person. For example, financially struggling, then give all that you have (pg. 86), a point furthered in his misinterpretation of the peasant widow who gave all she had in Luke 21 (pg. 164).
However, both the wrong definitions and the wrong applications are indicative of a greater problem. It comes down to the fact that his teaching through this book is misrefined. I don't mean simply that his points are unrefined and thus not clear, but that he has not rightly refined them at all. For Evans, prayer is not about God at all, but about the sovereignty of man. Repeatedly throughout the book he explains that prayer is us giving "God permission for earthly intervention" (pg. 9) and keeping God accountable for his promises (pg. 43). Even the previous definition of what prayer is reveals man's control.
After reading the book, there is but one conclusion we can come to. If this is truly what prayer is, then we should not be surprised that people do not pray more. Why can I say this? Because Evans promotes prayer as man directing God on what to do and when to do it. If man has control over God, there is no need to pray to God because man has become greater than God. In other words, there is no need for God anymore. We might as well just follow the worldy mantra to "think positive" and expect it will happen. Evans preaches the same message in this book, but has tried to clothe in a disguise to make it seem more 'religious.'
If Kingdom Prayer is indicative of all the other books on prayer out there, it makes sense why we have so many. Because they accomplish nothing and leave readers searching for more . . . for the next book on prayer. If you want help in reading through Scripture to learn about prayer, avoid this book and pick up another (a good alternative is Working with God through Prayer by D. Edmond Hiebert, which I previously reviewed here).
If you want to purchase any of the books mentioned in this review, please click the following links:
1) Kingdom Prayer by Tony Evans
2) Working with God through Prayer by D. Edmond Hiebert
Disclaimer: I received a copy of Kingdom Prayer free of charge from the publisher for the purposes of review. However, that had no bearing upon the review I gave, which is the response of my own reading of the book.