Book Recommendation: Providence & Prayer

We’ll be back after these messages…

Part 3 of “Why the Sacrifice of the Son of God” is next up, but I felt the need to pause and recommend a book that may be helpful to many of you. I’ve just finished reading Terrance Tiessen’s Providence & Prayer, which is an exceptional and extra-ordinary book in terms of depth of theological discussion combined with practical usefulness. Tiessen’s aim, of course, is to help the reader think through the way God governs, nurtures, and orders the world (i.e. providence), but this grows out of a pet peeve of his. Namely, he frequently hears people praying prayers that don’t fit with their avowed understanding of the way God works in the world. So, not only has this book been helpful in helping me continue to think through God’s providence, it has given me a unique opportunity to think about the way I pray as a Calvinist (believing that God exercises meticulous control over everything that happens).

The structure of the book is rather ingenious. Tiessen presents eleven views of God’s providence in terms of the amount of influence God exerts over his creation and its inhabitants, from least (deism) to most (fatalism). He includes an easy-to-understand chart that allows the reader to see, at a glance, how the models differ from one another, and a glossary that clearly explains all of the theological jargon he uses. In addition, the individual chapters are written in a way that (in my humble opinion) every chapter of every theological book should be written: A brief summary of each view is given at the beginning of its chapter. This is followed by the body of the chapter, where he uses very descriptive section headings (aiding navigation and retention of information). Tiessen concludes each chapter with the development of a case study. He gives a senario at the beginning of the book in which Christians are praying together for a group of missionaries. Then, at the end of each chapter, he narrates as the members of the prayer group, each of whom have a different view of providence (one member representing each of the eleven views), think through how they will pray for the missionaries in light of their own view of providence. Then, Tiessen has each member pray a prayer that is consistent with their view.

So, if you could use some help in thinking through how to ask God to work in the world; if you wonder why God would have us pray if he already knows what he’s going to do; if you wonder how God could be the “ultimate cause” behind everything that happens and yet not be responsible for sin, or even if you are fortunate enough that you just need to burn some pastoral book budget dollars, this is the book for you. Feel free to comment here, or e-mail me with any questions: Here is the link to Prayer & Providence on


6 thoughts on “Book Recommendation: Providence & Prayer”

  1. “if you are fortunate enough that you just need to burn some pastoral book budget dollars, this is the book for you.”

    i think that comment must be directed at me…and so, i take the recommendation seriously and will purchase the book today – not JUST because the church is gracious enough to supply me with a book budget but because this is a topic that i am truly interested in and baffled by at the same time (i am sure there must be some grammatical wrong-doing above because that was a horrible run-on sentence). thanks for the recommendation.

  2. Well, you were definitely included in the group to whom it was directed. If I remeber correctly, there are at least four people who read this blog that have pastoral book budgets, and I’m insanely jealous of all of you. Not to mention the fact that it’s frustrating to have friends who have these budgets, because I like to buy and send books to people, but it’s no fun to do when you guys have book budgets. What a jip.

  3. you could just send me the money that was going to go toward the books. i could use the money to buy coffee. i would, of course put at least 10% of the money toward the church but some of that money ends up coming back to me so really – let’s skip the middle man and i will just buy coffee.

  4. That might be a good idea, but don’t you have a budget for taking people out to coffee too? Geeeez, you pastors have it good. What an easy job – never any difficult issues or difficult circumstances to deal with. You never have to work with difficult people, or worry about anything…

    Wait… No, nevermind. I was thinking of forest rangers.

  5. I feel as if I am interrupting something personal between you and Wince (and maybe I am), but I wanted to add that I loved this book. I thought Tiessen did an excellent job summarizing the various positions and showing how they affect our prayer life. This book is currently in the “reading again” queue.

    And Wince I am sorry that I have mispronounced your name the times we met at Matthew and Ginger’s – gosh, I think got your last name wrong too. 😀

  6. No way, Todd, I love that you jumped in. Wince just comments all the time out of pity for the derth of comments on my blog, so don’t worry about it.

    I’m certain I’ll come back this book again, although I must say that I probably won’t read the entire thing again. The second time I read it, I’ll think I’ll only read the chapter summaries at the beginning of each chapter, with the exception of the “redemptive intervention model,” which I take to be the most coherent arminian position (although, for the life of me I can’t figure out how anyone holds to arminianism. Open theism, while horribly biblically incorrect, seems more logically coherent than classic arminianism), the “openness model,” just because I want to understand thoroughly what they’re saying, and the compatibalist models (Thomism through Middle Knowledge Calvinism). Reading through the compatibalist models really helped me fine-tune my understanding of God’s sovereignty.

    Anyway, thanks again, Todd. Nice photo, by the way.

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