Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Book Review - The Heart of Praise: Worship After God’s Own Heart

The Heart of Praise: Worship After God’s Own Heart is a new daily devotional written by Jack Hayford, president of the International Foursquare Church.

The book is divided into 31 chapters of near equal length. Each chapter begins by quoting one or two verses from a Psalm, followed by a few pages of Hayford’s comments, and then a suggested prayer. Ron Durham adds several practical questions at the end of each chapter for either individual or group discussion.

According to the introduction, Hayford’s purpose is to take us to the Psalms in order that God might bless us. This is, in his words, “the inherent by-product in the practice of praise.” Thus, he chooses a wide variety of Psalms.

The comments the author makes after each Psalm quote are often pleasant, but somewhat unrelated to the text he has quoted. Thus, they are less an explaining of the Psalm and more a series of vaguely related thoughts and ideas. He writes in a very simple, almost conversational tone that many Christians who either don’t like to read or find the activity laborious would appreciate.

It is hard to believe Hayford didn’t have a subtle agenda behind the book as he spends the best part of two early chapters explaining why all Christians should lift their hands up in worship! He moves from there to discuss why we need to sing more and only then begins to define how we use the mind in worship. In his chapter on singing, he makes the point that “our singing is not the preliminary warm-up to the ‘main event’ called the sermon” (96). This is an excellent point and one that many North American Christians need reminding of today. It ties in well with his definition of worship as “totally giving over our human will to the will of God” (14).

This book might be helpful to a new or young Christian seeking a help to establish a daily quiet time. Once that becomes a habit, they could be directed on to more substantive and Bible-centered books like C.H. Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening. The follow up questions at the end of each chapter are decent, but the real benefit of the book would be in reading and contemplating the Psalms.

Overall, this is not the first book I would buy to refresh or challenge my mind concerning worship of our Triune God. The truly interested reader would be better served by reading something like Carson’s opening chapter in “Worship by the Book” or Tozer’s small work, “Whatever Happened to Worship.”