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Answering God: The Psalms as Tools for Prayer

4.28  ·  Rating details ·  722 ratings  ·  92 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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Mary I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I am currently enrolled in a major Bible study (4 year program) and this is required reading for our next semester. I …moreI thoroughly enjoyed this book. I am currently enrolled in a major Bible study (4 year program) and this is required reading for our next semester. I had no idea that the Psalms were put together in this order for a reason. Very eye-opening. It is a book I would read again. More slowly this time. Lots of underlined passages to study later. (less)

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Bill Martin
Jan 11, 2014 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 10, 2016 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
May 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: psalms
This is the best book I have ever read on the Psalms. Get it and read it, whoever you are. It will expand your understanding of the psalms with scriptural expertise, but above all it will show you how the psalms are inescapably crucial for becoming a person of prayer.

Peterson's poetic prose may not agree with everyone, but I would recommend this book freely to anyone who asked me about the psalms. I've reread it numerous times in the last year, and will keep doing so.

No other book more helped m
Aug 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: psalms, jesus
I am one of Eugene Peterson's biggest champions - obviously he's known more for writing The Message, but his theology books are, I think, his greatest contribution.

A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society is one of my favorite books because in the forward Peterson talks about how there are no gimmicks to growing in Christlikeness. Prayer, community, scripture. That's it. This book expounds on the first of those, prayer.

Deftly going through themes in the Psalms,
David J. Harris
Nov 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Peterson's short volume on the Psalms somehow manages to be as practically helpful as it is awe-inspiring. The book drives you to the Psalms - not back onto itself - it points away at the higher, better thing that drove the author to write in the first place.
Tanner Hawk
Aug 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book was not what I was expecting. I was expecting (and kinda hoping) that it would be a very practical book that would grow my prayer life and deepen my experience of God (I blame the word "tools" in the subtitle for these expectations). The book was much more conceptual, with Euge P. explaining a theology of prayer and using the Psalms to support that theology. But now that I think about it, it is probably a good thing that it wasn't as practical as I was wanting, because I most likely wo ...more
Jose Vieitez
Jan 27, 2018 rated it liked it
This book started out rocking my view on the Psalms and leading me to reconsider how I pray. I really enjoyed the first half of it.
About half way through, it seemed like the analyses on the psalms ceased. He began to repeatedly dive into deep philosophical monologues where he would present colorful metaphors as he attempted to drive home points that could have been simply stated as-is in a few sentences.

I had to slog through the last few chapters. Maybe I was in the wrong place mentally when I
Blake Chenoweth
Feb 10, 2014 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
Nov 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
I've always struggled when it comes to the book of Psalms. I've heard many speak of the Psalms as beloved friends and as a place where they go again and again to connect with the Father but they have always seemed distant and difficult to me. I'm determined to change this. This book is a good first step. I've gained insight into the Psalms that is new to me and I'm looking forward to the discipline of praying the Psalms.
Seth Norris
Mar 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
When I read Eugene Peterson, I can tell that I am reading someone who has prayed over the Psalms, and has grown after doing so. Passion stains the pages of this book. His writing style feels like someone woke in the middle of the night and started writing about a joyful dream. Sometimes it almost feels too philosophical, but it never feels distant from the gritty, sloppy world in which we live.
Nov 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
this book is one of the most forming I’ve read. It almost feels vital. I highly recommend this book and the practice which is so patiently and honestly encourages us towards.
Sep 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The best book I have read on the place of the Psalms in the life of the Christian. Highly recommend.
Nov 17, 2019 rated it liked it
This was truly just okay. Very difficult to follow, little practical help, and nowhere near as pastoral as I usually expect from him.
Jim Cooper
Oct 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bible
Good stuff in here, but quite a bit of it (probably most of it) is stuff he covered in other books I've already read (and more in depth than he does here).
Jan 18, 2015 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
Ron Oltmanns
Sep 12, 2014 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
Jul 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
More than information, this book aims at inspiration – to inspire the reader to take up the schooling of the Psalms for growing in the experience of prayer. Peterson lays out the structures and functions of the Psalter as a whole and in its various parts, helping the reader see what they may expect as they take up the practice of praying the Psalms. He even offers field notes at the end to help illustrate some of what happens when we answer our speaking God, responding to him through the prayer ...more
Thing Two
Feb 20, 2012 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
Jennifer Asp
Jan 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Eugene Peterson taught me what prayer is in Answering God: The Psalms as Tools for Prayer. He says, "Prayers are tools, but with this clarification: prayers are not tools for doing or getting, but for being and becoming." This books lays a beautiful foundation to think about the Psalms, and in doing so to think about prayer and the God who has already reached out to us. Language, community, and enemies all take on new meaning now. And praise! "But prayer, a praying life, finally becomes praise. ...more
Michael Goldstein
Jun 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"We are not launched into the life of prayer by making ourselves more heavenly, but by immersing ourselves in the earthly: not by formulating abstractions such as goodness, beauty, or even God, but by attending to trees and tree toads, mountains and mosquitoes" (27).

Peterson grounds Psalmic prayer in reality. He gives us a language by which to understand and communicate with God through the Psalms. Moreover, he provides an instruction book for how to use the Psalms as a tool for intimacy with G
Demetrius Rogers
I cannot say enough good things about this book or author for that matter. Deeply insightful and elegantly stated.
Carole Sparks
Sep 11, 2018 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: students (any age) of the Old Testament, esp. Psalms
"If we wish to develop in the life of faith, to mature in our humanity, and to glorify God with our entire heart, mind, soul, and strength, the Psalms are necessary."

"No matter how much we suffer, no matter our doubts, no matter how angry we get, no matter how many times we have asked in desperation or doubt, "How long?", prayer develops finally into praise. Everything finds its way to the doorstep of praise."

More than anything, Answering God moves prayer from the sacred realm to the ordinary. T
Daniel Attaway
Jul 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is the best book I’ve read on the subject of prayer because there is no better guide to prayer than the Psalter. I’ve long struggled in prayer, not knowing what I’m supposed to be hearing, saying, or doing. But Peterson takes it back to simply being. At the core of my being I was made for communion with God, so how better can I answer God than with His own words?

I find the Psalms meet me in my anxiety, fears, and unrest but always pull me to praise. Maybe not immediately, be eventually. An
May 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
Peterson knows the Psalter. His many insights focus on the Psalms as a communal prayer, ancient liturgy, a conversation with God by a people particularly His own. It is rhythmic poetry that runs the gamut of human experience, that talks to God without inhibition or ceremony, that expresses itself in metaphors and reflects an uncorrupted understanding of Israel's relationship to the Creator. And it always ends in praise. There is much Peterson writes that I did not quite comprehend. His prayer li ...more
Kate Meyrick
Jul 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Convicting, lyrical, beautiful read. So glad I was required to read it before entering this new season of life. Prayer is primal. Psalms begin with prayer: anger, sorrow, hate, joy. Psalms end in praise: amen, hallelujah. The most convicting part? Reading how dangerous it is to be “alone with God” bc it’s in community that the sin surfaces. It’s easy to hide when you’re alone with him. It’s not when you come face to face with another human while you worship him together.
Tiffany Alley
Sep 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
“Torah is God’s words that hit the target of the human condition. The noun “torah” comes from the verb “yarah” which means to throw something, like a javelin, so that it hits its mark. The word that hits the mark is torah. God’s word has this aimed, intentional, personal nature. When we are spoken to in this way, piercingly and penetratingly, we are not the same. These words get inside us and work their meaning in us.”
Dillon Burns
Feb 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
While not naturally inclined to write reviews, I can hardly resist shouting this little book's praises. It's thoughtful, inspiring, and rich with wisdom. Rather than simply providing bite-size tidbits of traditional commentary, Peterson truly teaches how to read and pray. And as the saying goes, it fills the reader not just for a day but with for a lifetime of communion with God in prayer. Thank you, Eugene Peterson.
Tatiana Faria
Aug 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Prayer is not a second language; it’s the language at the core of who we already are and are becoming. This book helped me to breathe intimacy into my own prayer life. Filling my spirit with hope that the Lord is so present in the every day and desires for us to communicate with Him in the rawest ways possible; not hiding our thoughts and feelings but trusting Him with it all. This gave me a fresh look at the Psalms.
Sue Zelie
Jul 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
So insightful and helpful to me that this is my second time through it. I feel as if I'm seeing the psalms for the first time, and am appreciating letting their content and timeless words inform my prayers. The older I get, the more frustrated I am by my limited vocabulary of prayer. Learning here from the prayers Jesus himself knew and prayed.
Erik Harris
Apr 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Peterson is a helpful guide to the psalms as prayer book.
The organization of the book is interesting and helpful, and Peterson’s writing is always engaging and often beautiful. His depth of thought regarding the scriptures and love of the psalter is a treasure for the church that endures beyond his life.
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Eugene H. Peterson was a pastor, scholar, author, and poet. For many years he was James M. Houston Professor of Spiritual Theology at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia. He also served as founding pastor of Christ Our King Presbyterian Church in Bel Air, Maryland. He had written over thirty books, including Gold Medallion Book Award winner The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language ...more

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