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Prayer: Who Changes What?

Ever heard:

"Jesus got up early to pray, so how much more do we need to?"

I have been reading an excellent book on prayer recently; "Prayer and the knowledge of God: What the whole bible teaches" by Graeme Goldsworthy (quickly becoming a favorite author of mine). I have struggled for the past few years with basic questions of the purpose and efficacy of prayer in the midst of unreconciled conflict between my understanding of human 'free will' and God's 'sovereignty'. Questions such as;

  • Why ask God for things that he knows we need anyway?

  • What's the point of praying if everything has been determined beforehand?

  • Can I really change God's mind?

I'm not sure if you have ever wrestled with these types of questions, but in spite of my efforts, I had not come to any good conclusions … and so unfortunately my prayer life continues to suffer. Stuck somewhere between; 'I ought to pray', 'I'm not sure the point of this' and 'what do I believe this is really doing?'.

However I believe Goldsworthy's book is helping to frame some very important things for me now concerning prayer. Have you ever heard something like this before?"

Then again, if the sole motive to pray is, as I have heard it put in sermons, 'Jesus got up early to pray, so how much more do we need to get up early to pray', it is missing the grace of God in the gospel. 'He did it, therefore we ought to' is not the perspective of the gospel unless it linked with, 'He did it for us because we are unable to do it as we ought.'" (pg. 14)

This clarified something for me, my prayer should never be motivated out of guilt; that I 'should' be praying; more, better, deeper, earlier, longer, etc. This left me will still another question though, what exactly should I be praying about?"

Christians at prayer have only one option: to pray towards the fulfillment of God's revealed purposes for the whole universe. Anything else would be an act of idolatry or of total rebellion against God. All Christian prayer, then, will be oriented towards the gospel and its God-ordained outcome. We might wonder at times about praying for some of the smaller details of our lives, but we shouldn't be put off. Every detail of our lives is caught up in the purpose of God for us. It is not the matters we pray about that are the problem, but what we pray concerning them. We aim to pray in a way that is consistent with God's revelation in the Scripture." (pg. 60-61)

This was also extremely helpful as it brought my mind under the influence and sway of God's revealed will in Scripture. If I am praying about something or someone, and I know it is consistent with what God has revealed his will and desire is in the scriptures, then I can have faith and confidence that God will act!

  • Prayer is an aspect of how we, as responsible humans, relate to God, as sovereign Lord.

  • In prayer we respond to the reality of God who acted to his own will to redeem us.

  • In saving us God also reveals himself as Father, and his will, his plan and his purpose for the whole of creation.

  • In prayer, God allows us to be identified with the outworking of his will for all creation. Thus, to the extent that we know him, we 'think his thoughts after him' and our prayer is par of the means by which God achieves his revealed purpose. (pg. 66)

What moves you to prayer the most:

  • the idea of the power of prayer to move God to act, or

  • the idea of the power of God who allows his dear children to share in his revealed purposes? (pg. 67)


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