Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Encouraging Word on Prayer

I love seminary. Those who don't need to get a life. The fact is that seminary is a place where you are forced to read excellent things about the most glorious Being in all of existence. Some call it "cemetery," thinking it is a place that drys the soul like a sponge in a microwave. Well, maybe that is the way it was back in the 90's, but, let me fill you in as one who lives the seminary life, seminary (if approached correctly) is invaluable. I thank the Lord for it.

Anyway, let me give you a taste of why I like it so much. A few weeks ago I was reading in one of the text books for my "World Missions" class entitled Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. This text is a compilation of over 140 different articles written on the topic of Christian Missions by a variety of authors. I was reading an article entitled "Prayer: Rebelling Against the Status Quo" by David Wells. I wish I had time to comment on the quotes I am going to put up, but unfortunately I don't--you will have to fill the blanks in yourself.

Check out what Wells had to say about prayer. I have two (rather lengthy) quotes.


"What, then, is the nature of petitionary prayer? It is, in essence, rebellion--rebellion against the world in its falleness, the absolute and undying refusal to accept as normal what is pervasively abnormal. It is, in this its negative aspect, the refusal of every agenda, every scheme, every interpretation that is at odds with the norm as originally established by God. As such, it is itself an expression of the unbridgeable chasm that separates Good from Evil, the declaration that Evil is not a variation on Good but its antithesis.

Or, to put it the other way around, to come to an acceptance of life 'as it is,' to accept it on its own terms--which means acknowledging the inevitability of the way it works--is to surrender a Christian view of God. This resignation to what is abnormal has within it the hidden and unrecognized assumption that the power of God to change the world, to overcome Evil by Good, will not be actualized.

Nothing destroys petitionary prayer (and with it, a Christian view of God) as quickly as resignation. 'At all times,' Jesus declared, 'we should pray' and not 'lose heart,' thereby acquiescing to what is (Luke 18:1)."
Wells continues:
"Secularism is that attitude that sees life as an end in itself. Life, it is thought, is severed from any relationship to God. Consequently the only norm or 'given' in life, whether for meaning or for morals, is the world as it is. With this, it is argued, we must come to terms; to seek some other referrent around which to structure our lives is futile and 'escapist.' It is not only that God, the object of peitionary prayer, has often become indistinct, but that his relationship to the world is seen in a new way. And it is a way that does not violate secular assumption. God may be 'present' and 'active' in the world, but it is not a presence and an activity that changes anything.

Against all of this, it must be asserted that petitionary prayer only flourishes where there is a twofold belief: first, that God's name is hallowed too irregularly, his kingdom has come too little, and his will is done too infrequently; second, that God himself can change this situation. Petitionary prayer, therefore, is the expression of the hope that life as we meet it, on the one hand, can be otherwise and, on the other hand, that it ought to be otherwise. it is therefore impossible to seek to live in God's world on his terms, doing his work in a way that is consistent with who he is, without engaging in regular prayer." *
I will not add too much to what Wells has said. It will suffice just to say that what Wells says here in no way contradicts the fact that God knows better than we do and thus does not always answer our prayers the way we "think" He should. Wells is not suggesting that God does not have a unique and transcendent way of fulfilling his purposes in a fallen world.

The fact is that many things "ought" to be different, and whether we think we know why they are not the way they should be or not, we ought to be on our faces before God asking Him to make it right. This doesn't mean that we ask as if we knew exactly how to make it right. It also does not mean that we know what the exact right thing would be (people who think they have the mind of God down to a science scare the hee-bee-gee-bee's out of me). It does mean that we know that things are not right, and that we want God to do whatever He deems best, trusting completely that He will do what is best.

I hope this was as much of encouragement to you as it was to me.

*David Wells, "Prayer: Rebelling Against the Status Quo" in Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, editors: Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne (Carlisle, United Kingdom: Paternoster Press, 1999), 143.

1 comment:

Ben & Angie said...

Jimmy,

My husband and I are currently taking the Perspectives Course and have been greatly encouraged/challenged by it. Though we've only had a few classes, the thing I am learning that I think the typical church doesn't talk about or explain much is this: Yes I should grieve for the people's souls who've not yet heard the Gospel BUT moreso, I should be grieving that God is not getting the glory He deserves...wow!

Enjoy your class!