Finding God in the Verbs -Jennie Isbell / Brent Bill [Feature Review]

March 20, 2015

 

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A Feature Review of

Finding God in the Verbs: Crafting a Fresh Language of Prayer  
Jennie Isbell and J. Brent Bill

Paperback: IVP Books, 2015
Buy now: [ [easyazon_link asin=”0830835962″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”douloschristo-20″ add_to_cart=”default” cloaking=”default” localization=”default” popups=”default”]Amazon[/easyazon_link] ] [ [easyazon_link asin=”B00UNSU734″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”douloschristo-20″ add_to_cart=”default” cloaking=”default” localization=”default” popups=”default”]Kindle[/easyazon_link] ]

 
Reviewed By Trish Edwards-Konic
 
 
Do you want to dig deeper into your already flourishing prayer life? Or has your prayer life gotten boring? Do you long to have the prayer intimacy of the saints, or even the Psalmists? If you answered yes to any of these queries, this is the book for you.
 
Finding God in the Verbs: Crafting a Fresh Language of Prayer by Jennie Isbell and J. Brent Bill tackles these concerns and more. The 2 authors spent several years of conversation as they crafted this tome. Jennie Isbell is an experienced spiritual director and author of [easyazon_link asin=”1879117207″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”douloschristo-20″ add_to_cart=”default” cloaking=”default” localization=”default” popups=”default”]Leading Quakers[/easyazon_link]. J. Brent Bill is a Friends minister and author of several books and articles such as [easyazon_link asin=”B00853XTLQ” locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”douloschristo-20″ add_to_cart=”default” cloaking=”default” localization=”default” popups=”default”]Mind the Light: Learning to See With Spiritual Eyes[/easyazon_link] and [easyazon_link asin=”0944350615″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”douloschristo-20″ add_to_cart=”default” cloaking=”default” localization=”default” popups=”default”]Imagination & Spirit[/easyazon_link].

 
            This book is chock full of journal exercises, 35 in the body of the book and then 3 appendixes with further exercises.  The exercises build on one another so it is best to start at the beginning and work your way through the book. They write, “This book is a process. It’s staged in chapters with guided exercises to move you through the process of inventorying and clarifying what is tucked away in your ‘prayer drawer’ and how it got there.” (6-17)
 
The inspiration for the project was the realization it is easy to lapse into repetitious refrains of prayer. “Our hearts told us that we have lapsed into easy God speak. We weren’t reaching deep into our spirits and drawing out living words of praise, confessions, concern, intercession and longing. We were tired of speaking in clipped shorthand to God. We wanted to pray in such a way that we showed up with our whole selves.” (13)
 
Chapter 2, “What Lies Beneath the Words,” looks at our underlying theology.  “Our faith doesn’t seek evidence to prove God’s existence. Rather, we seek evidence so that we can step closer to the intimacy we desire in our relationship with God.” (20) Exercises begin with the words we use to address God and the verbs we use in conjunction with them.
 
“God in Action: Finding the Verbs” is Chapter 3. The authors help us look at the places our verbs come from – childhood, scripture, saints, prayers of others. “We need to grow our vocabulary to match our vision and experience of God.” (43)
 
Switching from verbs to nouns is the focus of Chapter 4, “Images of an Active-Tense God: Nouns That Fit the Verbs.”  Several exercises and examples from the authors’ past help to shape this next section. They write, “Once we have salutations for God, the verbs that go with them will flow out of our daily lives and needs in the present moment.” (59)
 
Adding adjectives and adverbs is the next step in English formation. Chapter 5 is “Hope, Beauty and Depth: Adjectives and Adverbs.” Sometimes we are tempted to add too many. In “Subtraction” they write, “For us, prayer is not something we’re doing. Instead, prayer is a way of being fully present to ourselves and to God….We are fully being ourselves.” (page 76) tackling our metaphors ends the chapter. Which ones are still meaningful? Which ones do we need to discard and/or add?
 
“We wanted to be better pray-ers,” write the authors. “That’s one reason this book came into being – to help us move deeply into a life of soul-filling, spirit-renewing prayer. “ (page 89) Thus begins Chapter 6, “Unpacking Meaning: Shared Language and Authentic Prayer.” Unpacking how Jesus taught us to pray using the Lord’s Prayer, they focus on Scripture, Music, Visual Arts and Literary Arts.  Then we are challenged to craft our own version.
 
Rather than answering the age old question, “Are you more of a crucifixion person or a resurrection person?” the authors move us to consider being an incarnational person. Chapter 7 is titled, “Jesus, the Word of God, and Our Words.”  Incarnation is relational: God is relational and we are relational to God. The concept of “Life Prayer” is introduced. “What we call life prayer is a way of letting your life speak with prayer….Life prayer takes prayer out of the closet, the church, the privacy of your mind, and into visible witness—testimony—spoken by your life.” (113)
 

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2 responses to Finding God in the Verbs -Jennie Isbell / Brent Bill [Feature Review]

  1. FYI the link for Part 2 is mistaken. It links to http://englewoodreview.org/finding-god-in-the-verbs-jennie-isbell-brent-bill-feature-review/2/ , which yields a 404. Thanks for the helpful review either way 🙂