A Better Way to Live: 52 Studies in Proverbs and Psalms, Graham Hooper (Acorn Press, 2016)

There is a plethora of devotions on the Psalms, and some on Proverbs, but what is unique about Graham Hooper’s approach is that his reflections are rooted in the stuff of everyday life. Wisdom literature is applied theology, but language and historical distance—and even over-familiarity—may stop us seeing the relevance of these texts to our daily living.

Hooper brings together years of deep reading, research and business experience to illuminate the meaning of selected Proverbs and Psalms in fresh ways. It is an outline of a better way to live, revealing the power of a godly life.

Each study has readings, a highlighted text, analysis and stories, and concludes with a series of questions for reflection. This format makes it ideal for small group use, as well as individual devotional reading.

Starting with Proverbs, which Hooper describes as wisdom for everyday life, he examines:

·       The path of wisdom, including the value of wisdom and how to recognise wisdom

·       Right choices, including integrity, humility and trust in God

·       Communication, including wise words and listening

·       Wisdom and relationships, including faithfulness and resolving conflict.

There are 30 studies from the Book of Psalms, which Hooper calls songs from the heart. He covers:

·       A blessed life, of forgiveness and knowing God

·       Understanding of ourselves, and through the word of God

·       Worship of God including praise, blessing and gratitude

·       Relationship with God as the Shepherd, Light, Rock and the Faithful One

·       Prayer as longing for God and a search for wholeness

·       The life of faith, which is about establishing priorities, recovering from failure, and finishing well.

Hooper hopes that following the Proverbs and Psalms, and living a better way, would reveal Christians as so distinctively different and good that we will challenge and change the contexts we live in: our workplaces, neighbourhoods and communities.

This theme emerges in his discussion of what is conventionally seen as the religious topic of ‘worship’ in the Psalms:

Worship of God means much more than giving him an hour or two each week. It involves our whole lives (Romans 12:1–2, Colossians 3:17, 23). It is not about ‘tacking on’ some religious activity to our secular lives, but about embracing a better way to live – God’s way.

This book has been commended by theologians, media professionals, entrepreneurs, the Chair of World Vision and Mark Greene, Executive Director of the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity. While devotional books by those not deeply theologically trained may sometimes lack credibility, Hooper has been careful in his commentary selection, and had his manuscript reviewed by former Ridley College Principal Peter Adam.

A Better Way to Live is rich in wisdom and practical insight. Hooper demonstrates how our faith relates to the whole of our lives. He shows that the proverbs can school our minds, the psalms can strengthen our hearts, and both can lead us to wise action.