Friday, March 6, 2009

Prayer 6: Carson on pettitionary prayer

If a boy asks his father for several things, all within the father’s power to give, the father may give him one of them right away, delay giving him another, decline to give him a third, set up a condition for a fourth. The child is not assured of receiving something because he has used the right incantation: that would be magic. The father may decline to give something because he knows it is not in the child’s best interests. He may delay giving something else because he know that so many requests from his young son are temporary and whimsical. He may also withhold something that he knows the child needs until the child asks for it in an appropriate way. But above all, the wise father is more interested in a relationship with his son than in merely giving him things. Giving him things constitutes part of that relationship but certainly not all of it. The father and son may enjoy simply going out for walks together. Often the son will talk with his father not to obtain something, or even to find out something, but simply because he likes to be with him.None of these analogies is perfect, of course. But it is exceedingly important to remember that prayer is not magic and that God is personal as well as sovereign. There is more to praying than asking, but any sustained prayer to the God of the Bible will certainly include asking. And because we slide so easily into sinful self-centeredness, we must approach this holy God with contrition and confession of our sins. On other occasions we will focus on his love and forbearance, on the sheer splendor of his being and approach him with joy and exuberant praise. The rich mixture of approaches to God mirrored in Scripture must be taken over into our lives. This rich mixture is, finally, nothing more than a reflection of the many different components of the kind of relationship we ought to have with the God of the Bible.

[D.A. Carson,
A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and his Prayers (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1993), pp. 31-32.]

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