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Answering God: The Psalms as Tools for Prayer

4.22  ·  Rating Details  ·  400 Ratings  ·  46 Reviews
Eugene H. Peterson speaks to Christians who realize the necessity for prayer and yearn for it but who find their prayer unconvincing and unsatisfying. Addressing the causes of this dissatisfaction, Answering God offers guidelines for using the Psalms as dynamic tools for prayer.
Paperback, 160 pages
Published April 26th 1991 by HarperOne (first published 1989)
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Bill Martin
Jan 11, 2014 Bill Martin rated it it was amazing
Shelves: theology
This little book is not only one of the best books I have read on the subject of prayer, it is also one of the finest books on Christian spirituality.

Though I have read other books by Peterson, this may be Peterson at his authorial best. With laser-focus, he etches into each chapter the contour of his thesis: that prayer is initiated by God's acting, speaking, revealing and that our prayers are responses, answers in a dialogue that lifts us to the realization of His purpose. The vocabulary of b
Tony Villatoro
May 23, 2016 Tony Villatoro rated it it was amazing
Shelves: christianity
Get it. Spend time in the psalms, especially in Psalm 1, 2, 4, 5, 18, 137, since they are subjects of some of the chapters. Eugene Peterson helps us see the Text (ch. 1) of the psalms, the Way (ch. 2), Language (ch. 3) and Story (ch. 4) of the psalms, their Rhythm (ch. 5), the way the psalms use Metaphor (ch. 6), the Liturgy (ch. 7), how to view our Enemies (ch. 8), how Memory (ch. 9) plays in them and what the true End (ch. 10) result is for us in the psalms. Get this book and let Peterson teac ...more
Ron Oltmanns
Sep 15, 2014 Ron Oltmanns rated it really liked it
I like all of Eugene's stuff. A Long Obedience in the Same Direction first came out in 1980 and showed how the Songs of Ascent (Psalms 120-134) were relevant for people of faith today. That first edition was really written out of his pastorate in Maryland. Answering God was written on sabbatical in Montana and takes a more elemental approach to how the psalms can be tools for prayer. He gives special attention to Psalms 1-6, 13, 18, 137, 145, and 150. After 130 pages you are sent out to work wit ...more
Thing Two
Mar 22, 2012 Thing Two rated it liked it
Recommended to Thing Two by: Sunday School
This book was chosen as a Lenten study book for a small group. Peterson, who also compiled The Message defines prayer as a tool not to enable us to do something or get something, but to become something, and like writing a short story where every noun and verb are crucial, Peterson teaches that there should never be an abstract word in our prayers. The nouns should be specific; the verbs should be direct. Everything should be personal, the experience immediate.

Although I was expecting a "lesso
Jul 20, 2016 Chad rated it really liked it
I came across "Answering God" when I was preparing to teach a class on the Psalms. Although I finished the book only a few months ago, I can recall almost nothing about the actual content, yet I have a profound feeling of affection and appreciation for the book.

Peterson's argument is simple: Christians should use the Psalms as a guide for their prayers. He states this bluntly in the introduction:

"My work, like Isaac digging again the wells that the Philistines had filled, is to clear the ground
Jan 18, 2015 Wade rated it really liked it
Shelves: prayer
Peterson’s main point is that the Psalms do not tell us who God is, but rather teach us how to respond to God. His chapter on liturgy is particularly helpful. He shows how prayer is foundationally a communal activity. His explanation of the Psalms frees people from allowing their feelings to be the guide of prayer… prayer is much larger than that. His focus on the community aspect of the Psalms is the theologically correct way to approach and understand the Psalter… the Psalms were meant to be r ...more
Blake Chenoweth
Feb 13, 2014 Blake Chenoweth rated it really liked it
A wonderful book about prayer, the Psalms, and spiritual growth. If you know me, you probably know I love the Psalms and this book shares all the reasons why. So much honesty and passion wrapped up in the Psalms and their prayers and Eugene shares that in this brief but challenging book. It was a great follow-up book to Hearing God by Dallas Willard because after God speaks this should be our answer to him.

I recommend this book to anybody who wants a renewal of prayer in their life. A wonderful
The first part of this book was a little hard going for me, not because of the content, but just because I was having a hard time getting into it. But once I got to the middle of the book, about the the Psalms being metaphorical and rooting our prayers in reality, and especially the chapter about praying through your anger against your enemies, I couldn't put it down. One of the points he makes in the book is that prayer is to present us to God as we are now, not as we want to be. When we fail t ...more
Jan 23, 2016 Jeff rated it it was amazing
I was excited to read this book, and even more excited when I got it for Christmas, along with several others that I have been wanting to read. I have loved Eugene Peterson's writing for years, especially when it comes to the Psalms. He is a master of the Psalms.

I have long said that it is no accident that the Psalms are in the exact middle of our Bible. Peterson explains how the Psalms were the "prayer book" of the ancient Hebrews, as well as the early Church. In modern-day churches, that pract
Demetrius Rogers
Jun 21, 2014 Demetrius Rogers rated it really liked it
I cannot say enough good things about this book or author for that matter. Deeply insightful and elegantly stated.
Joshua Casey
Sep 07, 2013 Joshua Casey rated it really liked it
This short book is a fantastic look at the Psalms as they were used in their original context: as communal prayer.
In his signature hybrid style, Peterson combines immense learning, piercing pastoral insight, and charming wit to help bring these songs of faith to new light. The paradoxical balance of prayer's primarily communal nature and the Psalms' ability to speak into our individual experiences is held in perfect tension throughout. Just when the reader might think Peterson is swaying too far
Kelly Belvis
Nov 11, 2014 Kelly Belvis rated it really liked it
Many good reviews of this book already appear in this forum. I will just share one of my favorite passages from the book:

Nevertheless, when prayed, (emotions) they are steps, first steps into the presence of God where we learn that he has ways of dealing with what we bring him that are both other and better than what we had in mind. But until we are in prayer, we are not teachable. It is better to pray badly than not to pray at all. A ship that is dead in the water can't be steered.
Peterson is a very gifted writer, and this book does not disappoint in that department. It had some very helpful thoughts on how the psalms function in our prayer life. My only critique would be that it seemed to occupy a middle ground between a theology of the psalms on the one hand and a guide to actually learning to pray the psalms on the other. A little more in one direction or the other would have been helpful.
Feb 01, 2014 Brandon rated it really liked it
This is classic Peterson. Reflective and dynamic with his brush. He has a way of walking you through the gallery of scripture so that you leave having seen the Psalms in fresh light. Simply what makes it so engaging is that he puts the Psalms on the bottom shelf. He reminds us time and time again, at times a bit too repetitive, that this is the stuff of earthy and difficulty not lofty and laudatory. I will reference this book a lot.
Apr 01, 2014 papasteve rated it it was amazing
I really resonate with all of Eugene's books, and especially his translation of the Bible, The Message. This was a great book about using the Psalms as "prayer masters." The Psalms have been used by faithful people for centuries as a guide to prayer. If you are wanted to go deeper in your experience with God through prayer, Eugene's book will be instrumental for you.
Jul 21, 2016 Margie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: spirituality
I was mentored, enlivened, and taught more about prayer in this little book than anything I've ever read on the topic. This reached down into my life and reshaped what I understood about the Psalms.
Jon Anderson
Extended meditations on how to read and engage the Psalms, particularly as examples of prayer. Not top-notch Peterson but some worthwhile treasures.
Jun 22, 2015 Derek rated it really liked it
Good reading for our Psalms series for Lent. Peterson is a wise and comforting sage. Always blessed by his words.
Cheryl Nyquist
Dec 28, 2008 Cheryl Nyquist rated it did not like it
I am just beginning to read and am spellbound by Eugene Peterson's words....explaining prayer.

He says...We would rather pray by exploring our own deep spiritual capacities, with God as background music. We would rather pray by having God all to ourselves, insulated from the irritating presence of other people, and savor (but only a little) a smug sense of superiority to the comman herd. But the text that teaches us to pray comes with conditions, and the conditions won't permit us to isolate our
Matt Rose
Jun 03, 2016 Matt Rose rated it it was amazing
Absolutely amazing. I'm going to reread this regularly. Remarkably pastoral book.
Joel Burdine
Mar 01, 2015 Joel Burdine rated it it was amazing
Beautiful and concise. Wonderful book on praying through the Psalms, and revisiting the Psalms as a guide to teach the believing community how to pray together. Extremely helpful.
May 10, 2012 Maranatha rated it it was amazing
I highly recommend this book if you want a renewal in your prayer life. Life is messy and that's where prayer should start and address. Peterson will bring you through the Book of Psalms to show you what it is to pray, what is a biblical theology of prayer, and how to pray. After reading the book, you will also have a framework to understand the Book of Psalms that has sustained the spiritual life of the Church for centuries. The book ends with an appendix of testimonials from people who have em ...more
Rinda Smith
Jul 14, 2014 Rinda Smith rated it it was amazing
Found this to be an excellent book on prayer.
Nancy Brummett
Jan 14, 2014 Nancy Brummett rated it it was amazing
Everything Eugene Peterson writes is worth the time invested to read it-and then some. This study of prayer in the Psalms will deepen your faith and strengthen your prayer-life. Simply outstanding.
Aug 28, 2010 Tim rated it it was amazing
A wonderful brief look at the Psalms as the central tools of prayer. "They are not provided to teach us about God but to train us in responding to him. We don't learn the Psalms until we are praying them." His chapters focus on one topic and one or a few psalms, illustrating how they aid prayer and spilling wonderful theology (thought about God) throughout. To savor again and again (until my prayers match this understanding).
Adam Johns
Sep 16, 2013 Adam Johns rated it it was amazing
Shelves: prayer, read-in-2013
Many prayer meetings in churches across the globe all start or include a reading of a psalm or two, and I've always enjoyed being a part of those that do; but I've never understood the use of the psalms as Pastor Peterson describes in this short book. I recommend it to any and all who ever participated or desire to participate in corporate prayer as well as those who just want to go deeper in their prayer lives.
Jun 09, 2014 Jake rated it really liked it
A very tasty journey through the psalms in a classic Eugene Peterson style. I'd recommend this one as one of those books that's good to reread every couple years.
May 23, 2008 Joel rated it really liked it
Eugene Peterson always engages me. In this concise, rich look at the Psalms, he takes broad strokes at the themes, the regular features, the movements of the Psalms. I love the title "Answering God," for prayer is speaking to a God who has already spoken to us. The sections on metaphor, liturgy, enemies, and Memory are all exceptional thoughts. Now to actually pray the Psalms...
Bethel Library
May 02, 2012 Bethel Library rated it it was amazing
I love this bit from the introduction - captures a happily practical attitude toward praying the Psalms:

“People of faith take possession of the Psalms with the same attitude and for the same reason that gardeners hoe on their way to the vegetable patch... It is a simple matter of practicality - acquiring the tools for carrying out the human work at hand.”
Pat Gallegos
Aug 19, 2009 Pat Gallegos rated it really liked it
In my last 3 years of Biblical study, I've gotten a sense for the context of the Psalms. With that backdrop, this book really revealed to me how the Psalms are so much more than just the laments and praises of King David way back when, and how they are timeless and personal and useful in contemporary Jewish and Christian prayer.
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Eugene H. Peterson is a pastor, scholar, author, and poet. For many years he was James M. Houston Professor of Spiritual Theology at Regent College. He also served as founding pastor of Christ Our King Presbyterian Church in Bel Air, Maryland. He has written over thirty books, including Gold Medallion Book Award winner The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language a contemporary translation of t ...more
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