Tuesday, 23 September 2008

A Call To Spiritual Reformation

I don't often read books that I can truthfully say have transformed the way I do things, but this is one of those books. Before, I thought I "got" prayer but after reading this I realise I didn't - it has transformed the way I think about and do prayer.

In eleven chapters, Don Carson takes us through Paul's prayers in his letters in the New Testament, showing us Paul's view of God, his view of prayer and how he prays before looking at lessons we can take and apply to our prayer lives.

One chapter I found particularly interesting and challenging was on how prayer relates to God's sovereignty and to our human responsibility.

If God is completely sovereign, do our prayers do anything? Put another way, if things are going to happen because God has decided they should, then surely they would happen without our prayers? How do we reconcile this with the fact that the Bible tells us we are to pray for things and that God answers these prayers?

I'm still thinking this through so don't hunt me down for any heresies below! But, I think the way that Carson explains it is as follows (this is from memory so it might not be accurate!)

  • If we pray for something, our prayers have already been ordained by God to happen at a certain time in order that they might bring about a certain result that he has already decided will happen.
  • If we don't pray for something, God has already decided that we wouldn't pray, and that result that might have been brought about had we prayed had already been ordained by God not to happen.
  • Therefore our prayer or lack of prayer from a human point of view brings about the result or lack of result - we are responsible for praying and to some extent whether or not something happens.
  • But, from God's point of view, as he is sovereign he has decided whether or not we should pray. He also decides whether or not to answer the prayer - he's not a machine! So the responsibility is 100% his for whether or not things happen in relation to prayers made or not made.
This is something that I have only just started thinking about in any depth, so I'd love to hear thoughts and I'm sure will come up again in a while when God's sovereignty is covered in my Relay study.

Either way, whether I've heresied above or not, please read this book. It's by Don Carson, and it's sound (but please don't take my word for it - always be Berean and check against the Bible!) and it will probably change the way you view prayer!

Call to Spiritual Reformation by Don Carson is available at IVP books, and has a much better cover than before. It will cost you about £10.

1 comment:

Craig said...

This definitely on my list of books to buy and read, thanks for that rundown of the book