Here a two more items on prayer that I thought might be helpful. First, a quote from R.C. Sproul-
“If I can summarize Calvin’s teaching on prayer succinctly, I would say this:
The chief rule of prayer is to remember who God is and to remember who you are.
If we remember those two things, our prayers will always and ever be marked by adoration and confession.”
Second, I found the article linked below by David Powlison to be very helpful on the subject of intercession and requests in prayer. Here are some highlights Justin Taylor posted.
In this article David Powlison identifies three emphases of biblical prayer:
- circumstantial prayers
- wisdom prayers
- kingdom prayers
- Sometimes we ask God to change our circumstances—heal the sick, give us daily bread, protect us from suffering and evildoers, make our political leaders just, convert our friends and family, make our work and ministries prosper, provide us with a spouse, quiet this dangerous storm, send us rain, give us a child.
- Sometimes we ask God to change us—deepen our faith, teach us to love each other, forgive our sins, make us wise where we tend to be foolish, help us know You better, give us understanding of Scripture, teach us how to encourage others.
- Sometimes we ask God to change everything by revealing Himself more fully on the stage of real life, magnifying the degree to which His glory and rule are obvious—Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven, be exalted above the heavens, let Your glory be over all of the earth, let Your glory fill the earth as the waters cover the sea, come Lord Jesus.
The Lord’s Prayer, he points out, contains all three, tightly interwoven.
The Lord’s kingdom (#3) involves the destruction of our sins (#2) and our sufferings (#1). His reign causes a flourishing of love’s perfect wisdom and a wealth of situational blessing. Prayers for God to change my circumstances and to change me are, in their inner logic, requests that He reveal His glory and mercy on the stage of this world.
I especially appreciate his emphasis that these strands are mutually reinforcing, so that if one gets neglected it hurts the other two as well.
When any of these three strands of prayer gets detached from the other two, prayer tends to go sour.
If you just pray for better circumstances, then God becomes the errand boy (usually somewhat disappointing) who exists to give you your shopping list of desires and pleasures—no sanctifying purposes, no higher glory. Prayer becomes gimme, gimme, gimme.
If you only pray for personal change, then it tends to reveal an obsession with moral self improvement, a self-absorbed spirituality detached from engaging with other people and the tasks of life. Where is the longing for Christ’s kingdom to right all wrongs, not just to alleviate my sins so I don’t feel bad about myself? Prayer pursues self-centered, morally-strenuous asceticism, with little evidence of real love, trust, or joy.
If we only pray for the sweeping invasion of the kingdom, then prayers tend towards irrelevance and overgeneralization, failing to work out how the actual kingdom rights real wrongs, wipes away real tears, and removes real sins. Such prayers pursue a God who never touches ground until the last day.
(HT: Justin Taylor)