Scott Aniol Teaches “How to Plan a Gospel-Shaped Worship Service”

In 2009, Baker Academic published Bryan Chapell’s widely acclaimed book, Christ-Centered Worship, Letting the Gospel Shape Our Practice. Central to the book is that although the bible doesn’t prescribe an order of worship, the patterns of worship in Scripture and as held by the major historic liturgies display the gospel message in their shape. Following this pattern allows churches to proclaim the gospel message each week no matter what other themes are present. Aligning with this perspective, Scott Aniol recently published an excellent video in which he clearly illustrates how pastors may plan “Gospel-Shaped Worship Service[s]” with variety each week. The video walks the viewer through the computer planning and organizational tools that Aniol uses. It gives you an open window to what Aniol sees on his computer as he plans. Although there are many ways to plan services, how we plan is important because as Aniol says, worship shapes us. Just follow this link to see the video:


Chapell, Bryan. Christ-Centered Worship: Letting the Gospel Shape Our Practice. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2009.

Aniol, Scott. “How to Plan a Gospel Shaped Worship Service.” Religious Affections Ministries. Accessed November 30, 2009. Available from; Internet.



Donald Whitney on “Prayer. . . for the Purpose of Godliness”

This is the third installment in my series on Donald Whitney’s book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian lIfe. You can see the other two installments by following this link and scrolling down. Again, this series may serve as a primer for Whitney’s excellent book. Whitney opens his chapter on prayer with a quote from Albert Edward Day:

We Protestants are an undisciplined people. Therein lies the reason for much of the dearth of spiritual insights and serious lack of moral power (79).

Whitney makes his point painfully clear by inciting critique on mankind’s misplaced priorities. Enormous effort has been made in the U.S. to find faint radio signals from space through the VLA, “. . . a series of twenty-seven huge satellite disks on thirty-eight miles of railways.” Whitney compares this with the equally astounding lack of effort that people make to hear from God through Scripture, his Word. We search avidly for alien intelligence that we guess might exist, when all the while, we ignore the pursuit of God, whom Scripture attests we know exists and have heard from ([Romans 1:18-21 and] 2 Peter 1:19) (79-80). Whitney argues, “But God has not only spoken clearly and powerfully through Christ and the Scriptures, He also has a Very Large Ear [VLE] continuously open to us. . . . [W]e must come to grips with the fact that to be like Jesus we must pray.” Indeed, “Prayer is Expected. . . Learned. . . [and] Answered,” as Whitney outlines in this chapter (80-99).

Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines


Whitney cites several verses from the gospels where Jesus demonstrates his expectations for us to pray, including Matthew 6:9, Luke 11:9, and Luke 18:1. As Whitney stresses, these instructions are “as much His will for you as if He spoke your name and said them to you face-to-face” (80-81). Colossians 4:2 and First Thessalonians 5:17 both command us to pray continually. In regard to this challenge Whitney admits that God certainly “expects many other things of us besides prayer, including times of rest. . . .” Albeit, he asserts:

. . . [I]f talking with and thinking of God can’t be in the forefront of your mind, it should always be just to the side and ready to take the place of what you are concentrating on. You might think of praying without ceasing as communicating with God on one line while also taking calls on another (81-82).

Whitney stresses that prayer is “. . . not only for godliness, but also for the spiritual warfare between His [God’s] kingdom and the kingdom of His enemy.” Prayer is expected because through the gospel, we as believers are now in an eternal relationship with our Heavenly Father. Prayer also is a measure of our general awareness of God: “When our awareness of the greatness of God and the gospel is dim, our prayer lives will be small. The less we think of the nature and character of God, and the less we are reminded of what Jesus Christ did for us on the cross, the less we want to pray” (83-84).


Just as we learn many things as a child, as God’s child we must learn to pray. The fact that we are not expected to be spiritually mature in our prayers as an infant is Christ is a great consolation. Though an infant’s cry for “basic needs” is all we can muster at first, we are expected to grow. Our growth then will lead us to pray for “the glory of God, in His will, in faith, in the name of Jesus, with persistence, and more.” But our learning is primarily accomplished by doing (85).

Citing several historical quotations from pious saints, Whitney emphasizes that Scripture meditation in combination with prayer is the most effective means of teaching us to pray. Although we may often read Scripture and then pray, “[m]editation is the missing link between Bible intake and prayer.” Meditation upon Scripture instructs us in the truth, and we apply this truth with conviction in our prayers. Whitney stresses the example of Georg Müller, whose needs for the orphanages he founded in England were entirely met by prayer without mention of these needs to others. Müller “clothed, fed, and educated more than ten-thousand orphans, as many as two thousand at a time—and supported mission work throughout the world.” There are “tens of thousands of recorded answers” to his prayers. Müller found that by applying the following method, he would both nourish his own soul and avoid a drifting mind in prayer. Although this might seem selfish at first, the result was most wondrous (86-92):

The result I have found to be almost invariably this, that after a few minutes my soul has been led to confession, or to thanksgiving, or to intercession, or to supplication; so that, though I did not, as it were, give myself to prayer, but to meditation, yet it turned almost immediately more or less to prayer. When thus I have been for a while making confession or intercession or supplication, or have given thanks, I go on to the next words or verse, turning all, as I go on, into prayer for myself or others, as the Word may lead to it, but still continually keeping before me that food for my own soul is the object of my meditation. The result of this is that there is always a good deal of confession, thanksgiving, supplication, or intercession mingled with my meditation, and that my inner man almost invariably is even sensibly nourished and strengthened, and that by breakfast time, with rare exceptions, I am in a peaceful if not happy state of heart (90, 91).

Whitney also stresses “[p]raying with others” and “[r]eading about prayer” as means to learning how to pray. Just as the disciples were with Jesus when he prayed, so we can learn “principles of prayer” through other more mature believers (93).


Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8)

Whitney asks us to contemplate these verses afresh. Although our experiences may make us doubt, God most certainly answers prayer. If our prayers seem to not be answered, either we are not seeing the answer (God is answering differently than we expect), or we are not asking rightly (according to God’s will).  Also “[b]latant sin” can block our fellowship with the Spirit, so that our prayers are not answered (94-95).


Whitney concludes this chapter with action steps for the Christian. In order to find the time to learn how to pray and to pray consistently well, we likely will need to plan. This means that most of us will need to think ahead and schedule times for growth in this area, whether this be reading the prayers of saints who have gone before us or books on prayer, praying with others, or combining Scripture meditation and prayer (96-97).

Persistence in prayer is often key to receiving God’s answer. But most importantly, we need to realize that the spiritual discipline of prayer is to be practiced “for the purpose of godliness.” Whitney affirms that “where there is prayerfulness there is godliness” (97-99). As the converse of this is also true, we need Whitney’s exhortations and instruction regarding this oft neglected discipline and the other disciplines covered in his book. For this reason, I highly recommend Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian lIfe.

Source: Donald S. Whitney. Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life. Rev. Ed. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2014. For the quote from George Müller, Whitney cites Roger Steer, ed., Spiritual Secrets of George Müller (Wheaton, IL; Harold Shaw Publishers; and Robesonia, PA; OMF Books, 1985), 60-62.

Donald Whitney’s Instruction on “Bible Intake. . .for the Purpose of Godliness”

My last article began a new series which may serve as a primer for Donald Whitney’s classic book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. There is no replacement in the Christian life for learning and dwelling upon God’s Word. Each of the doctrines and theological applications of the Christian faith are either directly spelled out in Scripture or may be derived systematically from it. This means that all of the specifics pertaining to faith that orthodox Christians believe—including who God is and who we are in light of the gospel of Jesus Christ—come from the Bible, God’s inspired, inerrant Word (Whitney, 22). Whitney outlines several ways in which we are to receive God’s Word. The following is a sampling of the riches of his instruction on the subject.


Whitney highlights three verses as he instructs on the importance of hearing God’s Word. The first was stated by Jesus himself in Luke 11:28: “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” The second is Romans 10:17: “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”  Although many come to faith in Christ by reading the Bible, Whitney notes that, . . . “most who, like [Johnathan] Edwards, were converted while reading Scripture are also like him in that they often heard the proclamation of God’s Word prior to conversion. Faith and the ability to apply faith in every area of life is given to us as we are equipped by the hearing of the Word. Thirdly, Whitney uses I Timothy 4:13 to emphasize the necessity of corporate worship and the importance of the public reading of Scripture. In a society where faith is largely privatized, we should recognize that as a rule, corporate worship is the only public arena in which we will hear the Word of God spoken. Therefore, “We are to discipline ourselves to go and hear the Word of God.” Whitney concludes this section with excellent suggestions regarding worshipers’ prayerful preparation for this event (23-26).


Whitney asserts, “The most critical Discipline is the intake of God’s Word. No factor is more influential in making us more like the Son of God than the Spirit of God working through the Word of God.” Quoting British preacher John Blanchard, he stresses that we should read our Bibles daily. He encourages Christians to discipline themselves to make the time for this and to establish a “Bible-reading plan.” Although a variety of plans may be found on the internet, a one-year plan is to read “three chapters every day and five on Sundays.” If we doubt we have time for this, Whitney suggests that we replace the inordinate time that many spend watching TV time with Bible reading. Last, Whitney notes that meditation—“think[ing] deeply”—on the Word of God is the key to its transformative power (27-30).


Whitney explains that “[i]f reading the Bible can be compared to cruising the width of a clear, sparkling lake in a motorboat, studying the Bible is like slowly crossing that same lake in a glass-bottomed boat” (31). In order to truly understand the fullness of meaning of any written work, in-depth study must be done. Related to this, Whitney explains that “in-depth word studies, character studies, topical studies, and book studies” as well as “grammar, history, culture, and geography” are essential for their value in plumbing the depths of Scripture’s meaning (33). I would add that developing an understanding of the way that literature and poetry function is also essential, as the form itself carries part of the Bible’s message. For references regarding this aspect, please see the sources by Ken Myers and Scott Aniol at the end of this article.



As Whitney explains, “Scripture memory is like reinforcing steel to sagging faith.” Although this may seem the least attractive of the spiritual disciplines to many, it is a mighty weapon that the Holy Spirit seeks to use in our arsenal for spiritual warfare (40). We need this weapon in our fight against our crafty enemy. Whitney states, “It’s one thing, for instance, to be watching or thinking about something when you know you shouldn’t, but there’s added power against the temptation when a specific verse can be brought to your mind, like Colossians 3:2: ‘Set your minds on things that are above, not things that are on earth.’” He emphasizes, “A pertinent scriptural truth, brought to your awareness by the Holy Spirit at just the right moment, can be the weapon that makes the difference in a spiritual battle” (39).  As we understand Scripture to be God’s Word we understand that it is a “[m]eans of God’s [g]uidance” (41). Whitney gives several excellent suggestions regarding methods for memorization (43-45). My personal favorite is writing verses in repetition, verbatim. This locks words in my memory like no other method. However, finding the method that works best for you is key.


In a day when most modern-day Christians are averse to memorizing Scripture, the practice of meditating on God’s Word doesn’t fair much better. As Whitney states, while Christians pursue Eastern or other forms of meditation in our day, Scriptural meditation suffers. This is not all. While Eastern forms of meditation call for us to clear our minds, the Scriptures call us to fill them with the words of the Bible (46). For a proof text, see Psalm 1:1-3. Also, as Whitney scrutinizes,

Worldly meditation employs visualization techniques intended to “create your own realilty.” And while Christian history has always had a place for the sanctified use of our God-given imagination in meditation, imagination is our servant to help us meditate on things that are true (see Philippians 4:8). Furthermore, instead of “creating our own reality” through visualization, we [Christians] link meditation with prayer to God and responsible, Spirit-filled human action to affect changes (46).

“In addition to these distinctives,” Whitney instructs, “let’s define meditation as deep thinking on the truths and spiritual realities revealed in Scripture, or upon life from a Scriptural perspective, for the purposes of understanding, application, and prayer” (46-47). Taken together, passages like Psalm 1, Joshua 1:8, and Romans 8:28-30 promise us success in conformity to Christ and his purposes for our lives when we meditate in this manner (46-50). Whitney offers a myriad of methods to encourage God’s work through Biblical meditation in our lives (56-68).


Regarding application, Whitney quotes the often cited passage James 1:22-25, “. . . [T]he one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing” (70). Therefore when studying the Bible, Whitney encourages us to search for applications in the text. He asserts that it is important to “. . . believe that what you are reading was meant for you—at least in some Christ-related way—as well as for the first recipients of the message.” Clarifying this statement he explains that we must understand the original application of a passage first, and then the appropriate application for today. This implies that we seek the theological principle(s) taught in each passage. For example he states, “If you take every word of God’s call to Abram in Genesis 12:1-7 as spoken to yourself, you’ll soon be moving to Israel. But if you understand that particular call as unique to Abram, you can still discover the timeless truths within it and apply every word to yourself” (71-72).

Whitney asserts that it is meditation that yields appropriate application. Meditation requires us to consider various questions regarding the text. These questions relate to personal application with respect to our beliefs, prayers, attitudes (including thanksgiving), and decision making. Finding “specific” points of application is the key (74-75).


As Christians apply Whitney’s admonitions regarding the digestion of Scripture we can be assured that we will be different. Brief and shallow encounters with God’s Word simply are not enough if we are to be disciples of Jesus Christ. Rather, as Whitney teaches, hearing, reading, studying, memorizing, meditating upon, and applying the Bible under the leadership of the Holy Spirit are what we need to be more like Him. Whitney’s book provides wonderful resources regarding these disciplines to help us unleash the power of the Scripture—God’s Holy Word—in order that we would excel in godliness.


Scott Aniol. “Verbal, Plenary Inspiration and the Aesthetics of Scripture.” Religious Affections Ministries. Accessed November 9, 2016. Available from; Internet.

Ken Meyers. “Accounting for the Form Knowledge Takes: or What Do We Mean by ‘Meaning?’” SCL Journal 8 (Winter 2015): 7-11. Following the above link, you will arrive at the “Books and Articles” page of Then, scroll down to the bottom for a link to the journal containing this article.

Donald S. Whitney. Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life. Rev. Ed. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2014.