Finding God in the Verbs: Crafting a Fresh Language of Prayer, By Jennie Isbell and J. Brent Bill

Finding God in the Verbs

Crafting a Fresh Language of Prayer

by Jennie Isbell and J. Brent Bill

Finding God in the Verbs
  • Length: 192 pages
  • Published: February 10, 2015
  • Imprint: IVP Formatio
  • Item Code: 3596
  • ISBN: 9780830835966

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Do you long for deeper communion with God? Spiritual director Jennie Isbell and Quaker minister Brent Bill know how easy it is to lapse into repetitious refrains of prayer:

"Our hearts told us that we had lapsed into easy God speak. We weren't reaching deep into our spirits and drawing out living words of praise, confession, concern, intercession and longing. We were tired of speaking in clipped shorthand to God. We wanted to pray in such a way that we showed up with our whole selves."

If you have experienced a similar longing, come join the authors on this prayer journey into the deep waters of the Spirit. This book offers companionship and guidance as you begin to notice, consider and deepen your prayer experiences, with refreshing exercises sprinkled through every chapter to offer you a fresh language for prayer. Find God here—in the nouns and the verbs of your conversation.

"Early in my reading of Finding God in the Verbs, I came to the line that said, 'Both of us find that when we pray we enter into mystery.' That's when I knew the book was true—that it was written by those who understand the power of prayer and the divine portal that it presents to our human hearts. One that, if we dare, offers entry into the Holy of Holies and conversation with the Creator. In that, there be deep magic."

River Jordan, author of Praying for Strangers

"In this practical yet profound guide to prayer, two lovers of language suggest rethinking habitual ways of communicating with God. Highly recommended for all who long to articulate the silent yearnings, hidden fears, private sorrows and burning joys of the soul—and particularly for those pastors, spiritual directors and soul friends who accompany them along the path."

Paula Huston, author of The Holy Way

"Brent Bill and Jennie Isbell have collaborated to create a compelling, life-changing book on prayer. They will engage you, with gracious and penetrating questions, to explore the heart of your relationship with God, while also guiding your adventure in growing that very relationship—and thus your life of prayer. This is a book for individuals wanting to deepen a life of prayer, as well being as an engaging guide to small groups considering what a 'real' life of prayer could mean for them. I plan to use this book again and again in small groups, retreats, sermons and in spiritual direction."

Stephanie Ford, author of Kindred Souls

"Finding God in the Verbs . . . is especially for those whose prayer life is not very meaningful anymore. It is a new way to pray. The book exercises begin with you where you are now and lead you into a new way to pray that is authentic, real and life-giving."

Bob Haden, director, Haden Institute

"Many of us live with a severely disordered view of God. Finding God in the Verbs is a genuinely practical and fun help. With an inviting conversational tone, Jennie and Brent reveal how language shapes and guides our prayers and ultimately unlocks our hearts into a deeper, more intimate relationship of joy and ease with God."

Nathan Foster, Spring Arbor University, author of Wisdom Chaser and The Making of an Ordinary Saint

"Finding God in the Verbs came along just in time. I am sick unto death of my own prayers, and suspect God too is tired of rolling his eyes at my words. Why am I so careful in my writing and so careless in my prayers? Bill and Isbell are renewing not only my prayers but my heart."

Leslie Leyland Fields, author of Forgiving Our Fathers and Mothers

"This exciting book, full of fresh ideas, is an invitation to discovery of self and to theological growth through prayer. It is tinged with humor and filled with stories, summoning the reader to dance, to see with new eyes and to experience the fullness of embodiment. Jennie Isbell and Brent Bill remind us that prayer is about desire and cultivating awareness."

Michael Birkel, professor of religion, Earlham College

"In this thoughtful, discerning book, Jennie Isbell and Brent Bill invite readers into a closer engagement with prayer by means of a closer engagement with language itself. Using humor, personal experience and deep understanding, the authors lead us into an exploration of prayer that is courageous and profound. This book merits a place on every bookshelf devoted to the life of prayer."

Erin McGraw, author of The Good Life

"Prayer can be formulaic, inauthentic and boring in a thousand ways, but Isbell and Bill, both Quakers, take to heart a charge to refresh prayer as expressive language and as a means to speak with and about God. Accessible theology underlies their eminently practical approach, asking pray-ers—those who pray—to take stock of their own assumptions and preferences in developing a way to pray. Both authors give workshops, so the book is chock-full of practical, thought-provoking exercises that will help the reader develop not only facility with language but a deeper conception of the Divine and greater self-knowledge. The many examples the authors generate use everyday language, providing patterns and friendly encouragement for the task of prayer. The authors deliver on the subtitle's promise; this is a fresh, useful approach to a subject much written about. Readers will learn to pray not perfectly but personally."

Publishers Weekly, January 19, 2015

"This book offers a very practical approach to refreshing your words, hopefully facilitating greater honesty and depth in that conversation. The wealth of exercises also makes it a useful resource to draw on for workshops."

Katie Evans, Quaker Voices, Vol. 7, No. 3

"It is hard to underestimate the gift that this imperfect but powerful books offers. It gives Friends, and other people of faith, a short, poignant, down-to-earth, and often funny look at how we might best converse with the Divine and experience moments of profound grace while enhancing how we incarnate the ways and wisdom of God in our own personal, professional, and public lives. It is a 186-page 'Quaker school for prophets' held between two covers, and it helped me say yes, wow, please, and thank you to the divine source and ground of all our being. I look forward to going through the book and exercises again, even more slowly in the coming months."

Steve Chase, Friends Journal, November 2015

"Isbell and Bill set out to write a collaborative book on creating fresh language . . . for the individual prayer life. What Isbell and Bill present is far from some sort of cookie-cutter script for prayer. . . . Throughout, Finding God in the Verbs helps readers reflect critically on the prayers that they might have depended on as teenagers but that now seem inadequate in their adult lives. . . . This would be a useful book for a prayer group or formation class as this book, indeed, invites readers to create a new way to pray."

Ashley Goff, The Presbyterian Outlook, July 20, 2015

"By thinking of verbs that characterize God and the relationship we experience with the deity, Isbell and Bill encourage readers to ponder a God who is active in the universe and with whom we share a give-and-take relationship. . . . Although the exercises are generally prayer based, they may have other applications. They certainly made me ponder my own writing process since writing, like prayer, is above all a conversation."

Tinky Weisblat, The Recorder, April 16, 2015


1. A New Way to Pray
2. What Lies Beneath the Words
3. God in Action: Finding our Verbs
4. Images of an Active Tense God: Nouns that fit the Verbs
5. Hope, Beauty and Depth: Adjectives and Adverbs
6. Unpacking Meaning: Shared Language and Authentic Prayer
7. Jesus, the Word of God, and Our Words
8. Beyond Words: Other Ways of Communicating—Or Not
9. Gospel Means Good News: And News Is New, by Definition

Appendix 1: Exercises for Building Prayer as a Spiritual Practice
Appendix 2: Prayer Exercises
Appendix 3: Resources
Finding God in the Verbs—the Workshop
About Brent
About Jennie


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Jennie Isbell

Jennifer Leigh Isbell (MDiv, Earlham School of Religion) is an experienced spiritual director. In addition to her training in spiritual care, Jennifer cares deeply about the intersection of the spirit and the body, working extensively as a practitioner and teacher in yoga, Integrative Yoga Therapy, Reiki, Thai bodywork, and massage. She is the author of Leading Quakers, an eight-part curriculum for training worship communities and she lives in Greenfield, Massachusetts, with her husband.

J. Brent Bill

Brent Bill is a writer, retreat leader, and Quaker minister. He's the author and coauthor of many books, including Awaken Your Senses, Sacred Compass: The Way of Spiritual Discernment, Holy Silence: The Gift of Quaker Spirituality, Mind the Light: Learning to See with Spiritual Eyes, Holy Places: Matching Sacred Space with Mission and Message, and Imagination and Spirit: A Contemporary Quaker Reader. In addition, he is the author of more than one hundred short stories, nonfiction articles, and the popular blog Holy Ordinary. Bill is a graduate of Wilmington College and the Earlham School of Religion. He has been a local church pastor, denominational executive, seminary faculty member, and go-cart track operator. He lives with his wife on Ploughshares Farm, fifty acres of Indiana farmland that is being reclaimed for native hardwood forests and warm season prairie grasses.