At the risk of sounding a little “loose” in my attitude toward prayer, I will admit that some of my most intimate times of prayer occur when I imagine that my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is sitting beside me, ready to truly talk with me.
This is the premise of Susie Shellenberger’s Girl Talk with God. The book is a collection of twenty-three conversations between God and a teenage girl. The topics range vary widely from sexual purity to music choices, from dealing with the pain of life’s circumstances to the reality of worldly influences.
The basic premise is a good one. Reading through conversations such as these can be helpful when contemplating how God does interact with us through the Holy Spirit, guiding our thoughts and directing us to Scripture. The conversations seem well-grounded, with nothing in Shellenberger’s portrayal of God’s side of the conversations appearing to be contrary to Scripture.
Having said that, however, I would not freely hand this book to a teenage girl for several foundational reasons.
- While Shellenberger does offer some commentary on the content of the conversations, there is very little teaching on prayer itself. The idea is simply that a girl will read these prayers and see that God wants to talk to her. I think teaching and training are required.
- Much is left to imagination. While I do believe that the Holy Spirit can and does guide our thoughts, I also know that our thoughts are fickle. It is critical that we not attribute our thoughts to the Almighty God, and that is a danger in this form of “conversation” prayer. This concept, however, is not at all addressed in the book.
- Shellenberger peppers some, but not all, of the conversations with Scripture and Scripture references. Even though technically the responses are foundationally Biblical, there is not always clear and specific indication as to where in Scripture God’s “perspective” can be found. God communicates with us through His Word. We have the Holy Spirit, yes, but He directs us back to and illuminates the written Word of God. We tread dangerous ground when we ascribe thoughts and statements to God without directing them specifically back to the written Word He has already given us.
- Frequently in the conversations, there is transition from one Bible translation or paraphrase to another. While I agree that reading verses and passages from a variety of translations is helpful, this needs to be done carefully, especially when paraphrases are involved.
Girl Talk with God is, in my opinion, a useful book. But, I think it is one that works best when placed in the hands of a teacher well-grounded in Scripture who utilizes it as an instructional tool. Passed from teen to teen without solid, Biblical instruction on prayer, I think this book could actually do more to hamper the growth of a real, Scripturally grounded prayer life than to create one. So, while it will remain on my shelf, it will do so as a tool, not as a loaner.
This book was sent to me in exchange for my honest review by Thomas Nelson’s BookSneeze program.