Book Review: The Power of a Whisper

Book Review: The Power of a Whisper: Hearing God, Having the Guts to Respond

By Bill Hybels; Zondervan Publishing, ISBN 9780310320746

This book took a while to get started and seemed to struggle with the ability to keep my interest. That’s not to say there isn’t value in it, but I have read other books that have been more successful in sharing the information Bill Hybels attempts in The Power of a Whisper. The first three chapters, eighty plus pages, were spent on introduction and anecdotal experiences of people who wrote in about their notions and encounters with God’s “whispers.” A few of these testimonials would have been sufficient to make a point, but after more than a handful they seemed redundant and I was ready to move on to the next point.

I think chapter four, “How to Know When You’re Hearing from God,” offered the most practical wisdom and guidance in the book. In it, Hybels suggests several “filters” to assist the listener in discerning the voice (or whispers) of God in their life. I’m not sure if I personally agree with all five filters he provides, but they do offer some guidelines for discerning. In chapter five, Hybels writes about “God’s written whispers.” This is described in part by knowing God’s word in a literal sense and committing its truths to memory. I think we often take for granted our knowledge of Scripture with the idea that having the Bible in our physical possession or at our disposal, we can look up a particular “help” when we “need” it. It has been my experience that many people use the Bible as “emergency helps tool.” I think the gist of the author’s intent in this chapter is learning and committing God’s Word (written whispers) deeply in our heart provides the firm foundation of His counsel before we need to “look it up.” This embedded understanding of God’s Word helps us to avoid, on many occasions, confusion and misdirection before it has the chance to happen

The remaining chapters of the book give other examples for and guidance for “hearing” God during particular seasons of life; the Dark Night of the Soul, Parenting, “ministry and mission that extends beyond the immediate circle of our influence” (Whispers that Change the World), Hearing God Whispers through Others, and living obediently to God’s whispers (Say the Word).

Overall, I found the book moderately engaging. As I mentioned, I have found other books to be more informational, instructional, and practical in teaching  a similar theme as endeavored in The Power of a Whisper. I think the book might serve as a first introduction to the most foundational and fundamental steps to entering the spiritual disciplines as Hybels describes practicing discernment, meditating on Scripture, journaling, focusing on practicing the presence of God throughout the day, spiritual direction, and silence and solitude to name a few. He does not use the language of spiritual formation, but the tools are here. And, ultimately, I think that is the goal of the book… to help lead people into a deeper relationship with God, so they might hear and obey His Word and His guidance and become fully transformed into the image of Christ Jesus.

Since book reviews are subjective, I’ll complete my review with these final thoughts: I don’t think I’d say the book is suitable to every person, few books are. I did not find anything I took issue with or that the book might be lacking. Perhaps the thing that I find most striking about the book is the message it speaks about our current church culture. The Bible clearly indicates that God speaks to man…He always has, and the message of the cross of Christ is that God has always desired to live amongst His people in mutually satisfying relationships…and this includes communication; “speaking.” I believe this book is primarily directed to people that have some notion and understanding of  Biblical Christianity, so the mere fact this book is necessary is a somewhat sad commentary. People do not know how to hear God’s voice, they don’t believe we can hear God’s voice, or they don’t believe God speaks at all. None of these are healthy scenarios. Even so, I think The Power of a Whisper will fill a niche and for folks in “this place” of their journey, and for them it will be beneficial.

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