Book Review: God on Mute by Pete Greig

This is a book review of God on Mute by Pete Greig. Pete is an author, pastor, and cofounder of the 24-7 Prayer Movement. This newly revised book with a 40-day devotional was released on Zondervan, in 2007 and 2020, looks at how we can engage the silence of unanswered prayer.

Through God on Mute, Pete addresses the tensions, disappointments, and challenges that we face through moments in which our prayers are, seem and feel unanswered. Drawing on the influences from many previous generations of spiritual thinkers, the church fathers and personal stories, Pete explores both the scriptures, experiences and stories to explore the theology, problem and paradigms of unanswered prayers. He paints, and even explores, God's silence during our difficult times. Pete offers and explores various reasons why God may seem silent and Pete offers encouragement, and new disciplines and postures for these moments of struggle. These new disciplines and postures are important so that we know how to navigate the uneasy and unanswered moments. When we do not know how to navigate these moments it may not be that we “abandon the community of faith altogether…[we] may still believe in God, but [we] doubt his intentions.”[1] Through this read, we are offered a new way of seeing and understanding.

There are many moments in life where it will feel like our sense of contentment and happiness is robbed from us. In God on Mute, Pete illustrates how tragic it is to experience that lonely crying out into “the night and to emptiness.”[2]  There is something brutal about the tears shed in the night, a gut-wrenching sense of abandonment and emptiness, that accompanies our moments of unanswered prayer. In those gut-wrenching moments of abandonment and emptiness, “when we are hurting and the pain seems senseless, we may find it hard to think clearly or to pray diligently.”[3] Ultimately, as the void grows, we find ourselves driven even further away from a sense of God’s presence and Spirit. Over a lifetime, these many moments combine and compound in the deepest parts of our psyche, heart, and soul. As Pete points out, there are “thousands of us [who] carry the heartbreak of unanswered prayer in our hearts. Occasionally, we continue to wonder why God does not respond to our requests, but mostly we just get on with life, brushing our disappointments and questions under the rug, trying to trust in Him regardless.”[4] However, this book arrives into those dark moments and reminds us that “it truly doesn’t have to be like this.”[5]

In these dark nights of the soul moments, we often accept this “misconception out there that when it comes to unanswered prayer, there are no answers, and we just have to walk blindly through the veils of mystery and hope we don’t trip up.”[6]  Yet, Greig points out that while “it’s true that there can be no easy explanation when it comes to the ultimate problems of suffering,” the truth is also that “to the vast majority of questions, there are, in fact, answers – good ones – that have helped millions of people for thousands of years to navigate disappointment without losing their way.”[7] Pete brings those answers to the surface, as navigational tools to keep us from losing our way, and he explores in great detail, 15 reasons our prayers may seem unanswered.

  1. “Some prayers aren’t answered because they’re just plain stupid.”[8]
  2. “Some prayers aren’t answered because they contradict other prayers.”[9]
  3. “Some prayers aren’t answered because they would be detrimental to the world and to the lives of others.”[10]
  4. “Some prayers aren’t answered because creation is “subjected to frustration” and hast not yet been fully “liberated from its bondage to decay” (Rom. 8:20-21). Tragically, life in such an environment is inevitably going to be acutely difficult at times.”[11]
  5. “Some prayers aren’t answered the way we think they should be because our understanding and expectations of God are misguided.”[12]
  6. “Some prayers aren’t answered because Go has got something even better for us.”[13]
  7. “Some prayers (even spiritual sounding ones) aren’t answered because they are, in fact, selfishly motivated.”[14]
  8. Some prayers aren’t answered because God Himself is a greater answer than the thing we are asking for, and He wants to use our sense of need to draw us into a deeper relationship with Him.”[15]
  9. “Some prayers aren’t answered because God will not force a person to do something that he or she does not want to do.”[16]
  10. Some of our prayers aren’t yet answered because they are working gradually and not as an impersonal mechanism of forced control.”[17]
  11. Some prayers aren’t answered because God’s will is being directly contested by “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:12). Perseverance, faith, and authoritative use of the Word of God become vital in winning.”[18]
  12. Some prayers aren’t answered because we just don’t believe they will be. However, faith grows as we get to know God.”[19]
  13. “Some prayers just haven’t been answered – yet! Whether your prayers are being resisted by mysterious spiritual forces, by stubborn people, or even by God Himself, just don’t give up! Keep stacking dominoes.”[20]
  14. Some prayers aren’t answered because of areas of disobedience in our lives. Are there hidden sins we need to confess or actions we need to take in order to lend power to our prayers.”[21]
  15. “Some prayers aren’t answered because of our disregard for the needs of others in our communities and in other nations too.”[22]

Significantly, and perhaps most helpfully, Pete Greig also challenges and equips us to re-posture our approach to prayer and our understanding of prayer. Our theological and convictional understanding and practice of prayer must recognize that “Jesus taught consistently that the power of prayer is relational and not transactional.”[23] Far too often, we merely approach prayer in the wrong mindset and with our ears turned off, or at least with our ears taking a backseat to our expectations, wants and desires. We must also be challenged to remember that “Jesus never actually promised to answer our prayers unconditionally. It is God’s prayers in our mouths that are guaranteed to work.”[24] Our prayers are conversation, but they are also warfare and are affected by warfare. The book highlights that “the battle between God’s kingdom and Satan’s tyranny rages all around us, but the Bible insists we are watching a battle being won, not lost.”[25] Despite this, and “tragically, there are many “victorious victims” as we endure the death throes of Satan and anticipate the renewal of all things. We all experience battles with temptation, sickness, injustice, and every mutation of selfishness. But the Bible assures us that God’s will and God’s world will eventually harmonize, because Jesus has secured the eventual outcome of God’s war and will return to vanquish Satan and his demons forever (see Rev. 12:12-17).”[26] Our prayers are caught in-between the harmonization of God’s will and the redemption of God’s world.

Overall, God on Mute is a recommended read for individuals who are dealing with disappointment, unanswered prayers, and seeking to understand (or discern) God's leading. I highly recommend this easy read for anyone wanting to grow their prayer capacity and capability, but also their faith. I echo the remarks of Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, that this read is surely becoming “a Christian classic.”[27] From Pete Greig and the 24-7 Prayer Movement, there is also an accompanying video series – Unanswered Prayer – that is complete with discussion guides. I have found this additional resource and series helpful in facilitating conversation and utilizing to intentionally disciple on the disciplines. Several times a year, I facilitate this course for residents suffering from homelessness at Water Street Mission. Each time through has been deeply impactful to me, and to those in the room.

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Highlights & Quotes


[1] Pete Greig, God on Mute (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2020), 50.

[2] Pete Greig, God on Mute (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2020), 34.

[3] Pete Greig, God on Mute (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2020), 37.

[4] Pete Greig, God on Mute (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2020), 11.

[5] Pete Greig, God on Mute (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2020), 11.

[6] Pete Greig, God on Mute(Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2020), 11.

[7] Pete Greig, God on Mute (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2020), 11.

[8] Pete Greig, God on Mute (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2020), 91.

[9] Pete Greig, God on Mute (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2020), 95.

[10] Pete Greig, God on Mute (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2020), 97.

[11] Pete Greig, God on Mute (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2020), 102.

[12] Pete Greig, God on Mute (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2020), 105

[13] Pete Greig, God on Mute (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2020), 115.

[14] Pete Greig, God on Mute (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2020), 117.

[15] Pete Greig, God on Mute (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2020), 119.

[16] Pete Greig, God on Mute (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2020), 127.

[17] Pete Greig, God on Mute (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2020), 129.

[18] Pete Greig, God on Mute (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2020), 145.

[19] Pete Greig, God on Mute (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2020), 152.

[20] Pete Greig, God on Mute (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2020), 156.

[21] Pete Greig, God on Mute (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2020), 158.

[22] Pete Greig, God on Mute (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2020), 159.

[23] Pete Greig, God on Mute(Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2020), 30.

[24] Pete Greig, God on Mute (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2020), 116.

[25] Pete Greig, God on Mute (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2020), 143.

[26] Pete Greig, God on Mute (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2020), 144.

[27] Pete Greig, God on Mute (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2020), Front Cover.


 

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