Friday, May 17, 2013

Book Review: "Breakthrough Prayer" by Jim Cymbala

[I read old books because they are there.]

Cymbala, Jim. "Breakthrough Prayer: The Secret of Receiving What You Need From God.” Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003.

This twelve chapter book is an excellent follow-up to Cymbala’s book, “Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire.” Cymbala begins by establishing God’s blessing as a reflection of his love for all creation, mankind especially. God’s blessing is to be pursued, requested fervently and is apprehended in direct connection with diligent study of the Bible. Once we understand what God’s Word says, then we can be practice obedient faith. Since God is present and at work, His answer to prayer involves our participation with God to accomplish His purposes and this often means we must come to the end of ourselves. There is an attitude of desperation that drives us to call on Him but the subsequent blessing of His answer.

Fear or danger drives us to pray, so the principle is that God shows mercy in answer to any prayer. The battles we face should cause us to carefully consider our motive to pray, even when the battle is over. Does danger cause us to pray in order to “get off the hook”, or to pursue our relationship with Him deeper? The answer is seen once danger is passed.

We understand the way God operates based on His promises and the past fulfillment of them. Prayers is possible only because Christ opened the way, so we must believe God will keep His promises from a clear conscience and a pure heart that He acts according to His will for His glory by the power of the Holy Spirit.

What if the difficulties are too great? Cymbala helps us understand nothing is beyond the scope of prayer. Isaiah 40 reveals that the God who answers prayer considers the whole universe a small thing, so what is accomplished when we give up other than the admission that our conception of God is too small?

Having received God’s gift of grace through Christ Jesus, we must grow. “Sadly, much of the church today has lost its emphasis on spiritual growth and has instead become preoccupied with mere churchgoing and mental affirmations of doctrinal truths . . . How sad it is that when asked about their spiritual life, many have nothing more to say than, I’m a Baptist’ or ‘I’m a Catholic’ or ‘I’m Charismatic.’ How unrelated this all is to God’s description of what is truly vital: ‘the righteous flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; . . . they will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green.’ (Psalm 92:12, 14).” (p. 112-113). Cymbala correctly states, “A lack of spiritual fruit, therefore, is a serious matter to the Lord.”

Prayer is powerful when connected to the source, God and His unchanging Word. Answers to prayer comes as the result of faith responding to the Word of God (Romans 10:17). Cymbala teaches are there three “words”: first, there is the “truth of Holy Scripture” (the Bible); second, “the message of Christ or the gospel”; finally, “a ‘word’ from God through the Holy Spirit.” (p. 128-129). Cymbala explains this last point with much clarity.

Cymbala summarizes that “serious prayer is born out of a sense of need, out of the knowledge that we must ask God to intervene. The Spirit of God moves us toward prayer by using scripture to show us two things: our human need and the Lord’s promise of provision. Breakthrough prayer isn’t born out of an ‘I should pray today’ attitude but, instead, out of an ‘I must have God’s help’ frame of mind.”  (p. 143) The example of Hannah underscores that prayer is answered not merely for the blessings we receive, but to God’s glory.

Crying out to God means that things are messy and require cleaning--this leads to holiness. That “all is not well” gives hope to what God will be seen doing when we call on Him, starting with ourselves. Walking in fantasy is not walking in faith so we must be spiritually renewed--our spiritual immune system is weak. This why we require the fellowship of believers: to be spiritually strengthened and encouraged through corporate prayer and worship. The spiritual blessing that follows is correct perspective to understand His timing in answering prayer (never, always, at certain times, not now) and the joy of spiritual health.

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