Praying God’s Attributes: a book review

The problem with reviewing devotionals is that a timely review demands that you turn around a review before you’ve had time to live in the book.  Such is the case for Anne Spangler’s Praying the Attributes of GodSpangler followed up her previous devotionals, Praying the Names of God and Praying the Names of Jesus by producing a devotional which focuses on the Divine attributes. She draws inspiration from A.W. Tozer’s books on the attributes of God,  to produce a 17 week long devotional which focuses on the attributes and the character of God.

What makes Spangler’s devotional good is that she doesn’t throw around ten-dollar-theology words.  She talks about God’s immutability, omnipresence, omnipotence, transcendence, and immanence, but her chapter titles are much more user-friendly than that.  Her first chapter is a week of devotions focused on God’s love entitled ‘God Cares For You.’ Other chapter titles include: God is Better Than You Think (God’s goodness); God is Bigger than You Think (God’s infinitude); God is Not Moody (God’s immutability); God is Not Weak (God’s Omnipotence); God is Never Surprised; (God’s Omniscience); God is Never Frustrated (God’s Patience); God Always Knows What to Do (God’s Wisdom); God Has No Limits (His eternal, self sufficiency);  God is a Lover (the Jealousy of God), God is Always Fair (God’s Justice); God Leans Towards Compassion ( God’s Mercy); God Never Gives Up (His Faithfulness); God is Better Than Anyone You Know (God’s Holiness); God is an Artist (God’s Creativity);  God is Above All (His Transcendence).

Each chapter has a week’s worth of devotions (Monday-Friday). Mondays have a key scripture passage and a brief Bible study which unpack that particular attribute. Tuesday-Thursday have brief devotions which help you pray through particularly scripture passages related to that attribute.  Friday’s reflections relate God’s attributes to a particular passage.

I have not lived in this devotion enough. I have only read through the first couple of weeks and skimmed other parts of the book. However I appreciate Spangler’s ability to root her reflections in scripture and get her readers to pray passages.  Praying and reflecting on God’s love and goodness were good for me. I need to spend more time reflecting on this and  This was helpful.  Tozer’s books are meatier, but the way that Spangler gets us to pray ‘God’s attributes,’ takes us from passive readers to active participants in the life of God. This is a very good thing.

I am unsure what I would think of later chapters. Briefly skimming through the book, I think that at places, Spangler’s account of God’s attributes seems overly simple.  This is probably unavoidable in a devotional. This is, after all, not a theological tome. But the passages from the Bible are carefully chosen to illustrate particular attributes.  Reading the Bible in this way means that you are not wrestling with apparent counter-testimonies.  To say, for example, that God is never frustrated and is a patient God is true. Scripture reveals a God who is slow to anger and abounding with love and faithfulness (Exodus 34:6). However, readers of the Pentateuch will also encounter passages where God’s anger burns against his obstinate people.  In Exodus 32, God wants to destroy his people and start over but stops because of Moses’ intercession).   This passage also challenges our understanding of immutability (God’s non-moodiness) because God apparently can change his mind.

Passages like this challenge the categories we place on God. If we want to understand who God is and how he relates to his people, than we discover it in our engagement with the Biblical story.  I agree with Spangler’s categories and like the scriptures she chose but I worry that dependence on devotionals like this rob people of encountering the God of the Bible who sometimes defies our expectations and acts in ways we do not fully understand.  The narrative of scripture is the story of God’s relationship to his people.  ‘The attributes of God’ is a framework borrowed from systematic theologies and imposed on the Bible to help us understand what sort of God we worship.  This is helpful and I really like Spangler’s use of it. I just want readers of her book (and other devotionals) to go beyond the pages of her devotional and read the Bible with it (all of it!).

That is a rather lengthy qualifier but I would recommend this book and I think it can be used fruitfully by those seeking to grow in their prayer life and in their relationship with God. Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”  What is  a more excellent and praise worthy thing for us to think about than God? I give this book 4 stars.

Thank you to Tyndale books for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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