Monday, April 14, 2008

Priorities in Prayer

One of the most helpful books on prayer that I have ever read is called "A Call to Spiritual Reformation" by D.A. Carson. Carson's main point in writing the book is to do a survey of Paul's praying as recorded in the New Teastament in order to know what he prayed about. In other words, Carson wants to show what took priority in Paul's praying. His main concern is that if what we ask for in our prayers is too far removed from what the New Testament writers ask for then our praying may be a bit off-we may need to change our prayer life. Furthermore, if what we praise God for is too far removed from what the New Testament authors praise God for then our praying may be in need of some help. Carson's main concern is that the prayers of present day Christians have not been shaped by the Scriptures enough.

Well, I have decided to implement some of what I have learned from Carson into the Bible study I currently facilitate at our house. Every week Bible study starts with a time of sharing and praying. I recently noticed that the majority of the prayer requests have centered on sick people, people looking for jobs, stress in people's lives, and things like this. Don't get me wrong, these are all things that we need to pray about. However, these are not the sort of things that largely characterized the praying of the writers of the New Testament. What I decided to do (only two weeks ago) to remedy the situation was to, rather than just sharing any-ol' prayer prayer request, limit the prayer requests to a certain topic. For instance, last night the prayer requests had to deal specifically with spiritual deficiencies we all have in our lives.

One of the amazing things about our sharing time was that one of the members of the study raised their hand and said, "Jimmy, I know that we are not supposed to be praying for the sick tonight, but I know someone who is going through surgery this week--can we please pray for this person?" I was not annoyed with this prayer request at all. In fact, I was glad that this person brought the prayer request up. We need to pray for the sick (and the situation was worthy of urgent prayer). Also, this prayer request gave me an opportunity to reinforce my purpose for praying only for spiritual deficiencies. I responded to the group by saying this:

"Do you see the urgency with which this person offered up this prayer request? Why is it that we are only urgent about praying for the sick? It is not as if it is a bad thing that this person couldn't help but bring this up tonight--it's an urgent matter. The point of me wanting to only pray for our spiritual deficiencies tonight was not to create a wooden, legalistic rule. My purpose is that we might become as urgent in our praying about spiritual matters as we are in our praying about physical matters. It would thrill my heart if on the night that we pray for the sick if someone were to raise their hand and say, 'Jimmy, I know that we aren't supposed to pray for our spiritual deficiencies tonight, but the Lord has just convicted me in such a deep way about the pride in my heart--Can we please pray for me in this way tonight?'"
Another thing that D.A. Carson alludes to in "A Call to Spiritual Reformation" is the fact that our prayers reflect our desires. In other words, whatever consumes our prayers consumes our hearts. This is a terrifying thing. If your prayers are completely devoid of requests for God to cleanse you and make you more like his Son, it is a good indication that Christ-likeness really is not as big of a deal to you as it should be. If your prayers are completely devoid of requests that God might reveal himself to you more and more, it might be an indication that you do not desire him enough.

I strongly recommend everyone reading this blog to buy this book. If you want to buy it, click here.

I have one suggestion for those of you who are thinking about buying and reading this book: Make sure that you do not just read what Carson has to say. Make sure that you thoroughly read each chunk of text that Carson deals with at least 5 times before reading Carson's commentary on it. I didn't do this my first time reading through it. Because I just flew through the verses, Carson's commentary wasn't half as useful as it could have been. On top of that, Carson is lame compared to the Scriptures. No offense to Carson, but honestly, he is only good in so far as he is merely reiterating and applying what the Scriptures are already saying--and Carson would be happy to hear me say this.

1 comment:

Katie said...

Josh benefited so much from this book as well. Thanks for sharing this review.