Our small group had wanted to do a study on prayer for some time, so after some research we settled on John Eldredge’s Moving Mountains DVD and study guide, while reading the book along with it.
First, the good. Eldredge has no shortage of faith or enthusiasm in the “power of prayer.” His description of spiritual warfare and the clash of spiritual kingdoms, with the believer “seated in Christ” and walking in Christ’s power and authority is appropriately invigorating. In some of my previous Christian circles, these ideas were hardly discussed. I feel that a lot of people could have been set free from addictions or shaken out of lukewarm Christianity if these concepts from Scripture had been taught. (Exhibit A is me).
As a foundational idea of the study, Eldredge talks a lot about “the ways things work” with prayer. He challenges head-on the mindset that says: God’s will is going to happen anyway, so why pray? Or even the one that says: We know we should pray, but in practice it’s just praying once and then moving on. Eldredge’s thoughts around this spurred some good discussions in our group about praying with expectancy and not giving up, all while staying attuned to the Spirit’s leading. I think of the disciples in Matthew 17 who were unable to deliver the boy, and are subsequently rebuked by Jesus. Clearly, there was a way things worked there, and the disciples didn’t yet know how they worked. If you’re uncomfortable with the language, “worked“, let’s say it another way. God has made promises in Scripture that are often keyed by an instruction that we have been given. Submit to God, Resist the devil, and he will flee. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. (emphasis mine)
I think some of our group’s concerns about the book can be addressed by setting the expectation that this is probably not a good book on prayer for a new believer. Eldredge doesn’t spend a lot of time exploring the idea that our declarations and desires could possibly not be good for us, nor does he discuss repentance as a key factor in prayer and Christian life. Yet a two second Google Search reveals that Eldredge feels that these topics are deeply important. They just didn’t make it into a book named Moving Mountains.
Further, a new believer reading this book would probably get the impression that prayer is mostly about action and making things happen, rather than also being a way to build up our relationship with Our God and Savior. Anyone who has ever read anything by Eldredge knows that he understands this. It’s not an all encompassing book about prayer, but rather a book about Moving Mountains. Which is the title, after all.
Still, there were several sections that we collectively felt were not so great. Several times Eldredge shares an idea not specifically detailed in Scripture as if it is the “recommended way” to pray, but it’s probably better understood as something that he finds helpful. I feel that this happens with gifted individuals in certain areas. Sometimes the gifted individual tries to share with other people how they have had success in a certain aspect of their spiritual life, but then they explain their experience as if that is the way it is. For example, Eldredge shares how he sometimes repeats certain phrases or adjectives to bring his mind to focus during his prayer. These sections would be more helpful if they were shared as something that “he does” rather than something that “we should do.” These types of ideas tended to turn our group off, (and rightly so, I think).
Several of Eldredge’s questions in the study guide assume that the reader agrees with his premise, which is often a premise that has just been introduced. And sometimes the premise isn’t always something that can be easily agreed to. (i.e. Here’s brand new concept X. So how does this change your life?) It’s a naivete of a modern audience who is trained to be skeptical about…everything.
Several sections in the videos made people in our group uncomfortable (not necessarily a bad thing). At one point, Eldredge “consecrates” his hotel room with prayers–and recommends it as a routine practice when traveling. Most of our group had not ever seen anything like that before.
Many of the chapter topics in this study are very good: particularly those on the idea of spiritual authority. It’s a good way to introduce the idea that it just might be possible–or probable–that WE need to declare, confess, rebuke, fight (pick your verb) in order to see freedom or victory. Not just necessarily to “pray and wait for God to move,” which if taken too far can ignore God’s own commands to resist and fight.
Overall, a good study for grounded believers which will push on important areas. Requires some discernment, but worth the time to go through it.