Vol. 30 Num. 9
First Published: March 13, 1997
Just prior to the Missions Conference, we had been reflecting on prayer and, in particular, prayer for those in ministry. I would like to return to that subject again and focus on some of the problems and potentials in our practice of prayer.
Few of us, probably, are satisfied with our private, family, and corporate prayer habits. And surely we all recognize that the Church of our day, at least in our land, is weak in the way of prayer. We do not pray often. We do not pray with Scriptural proportion, nor does our prayer much reflect the language and thought of the Bible. We do not pray fervently. Some, perhaps, lack confidence in the efficacy of prayer. There are many roots to this problem, and hence many aspects to its solution, but I can think of no more significant component to changing our prayer habits for the better than learning to pray according to Scripture.
Resorting to a more Scriptural pattern of prayer may be a simple (but profound) answer to many problems in our practice of prayer. Praying Scripturally will teach us what prayer is, even while we do it. It will correct "shopping list" views of prayer which abound in the Christian community. It will begin to solve in our own minds the question of "unanswered prayer." It will remind us of just how much there is to pray about day by day. It will teach us of the extreme urgency of prayer. It will return proportion to prayers long on petition, but short on adoration, confession, and thanksgiving. It will instruct us how best to pray for ministers, missionaries, and one another. It will show us the proper way to approach God in prayer. It will remind us of the good things that God does for us (which we, more often than not, take for granted). It will remind us to always give thanks to God (which, paradoxically, is so important for our own assurance of His faithfulness in answering prayer). It will begin to engrave in our minds Biblical patterns of thought which can help immunize us from the enticing folly of the world's view of life. It will force us to rehearse the solemn warnings and precious promises of God (which will do eternal good to our souls). And it will move us from our inherent man-centeredness in prayer to a Biblical, God-centered way of praying.
Over the next few weeks we will look at biblical patterns for prayer, but for now there is a book which I heartily recommend as an aid to your renewal of Scriptural prayer in daily life. D.A. Carson’s A Call to Spiritual Reformation (Baker Book House), a study of Paul’s prayers. It is perhaps the best book recently written on Scriptural prayer. A dear friend of mine, Dr. Mark Dever (Minister of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC), reported to me that when Professor Carson gave the lectures on prayer that eventually became this book to the Christian Union at Cambridge University, it made a profound and lasting effect on the students’ Christian walk.
May the Lord revive our hearts and make us a people of prayer.