A Call to Spiritual Reformation by D.A. Carson is not the same book as A Praying Life by Paul Miller. While both books focus on prayer, Miller deals mainly on the extremely central place that prayer should have in a believers life and the reality that we should focus much prayer on every aspect/event/situation/relationship in our life. Carson takes a different route.
If you and I are honest, most of us will admit that our prayer lives are in a sad state. When we remember to pray it is usually for food or for the aunt having surgery. While it is absolutely right and good to thank God for the food that He has provided and it is true that God cares about our aunt’s surgery and is glorified when we come to Him with our needs, these are only shadows of what our prayers could be. Carson addresses this possibility in Spiritual Reformation.
The book starts out with the well-founded claim that, as a whole, the overall body of Christians in the world today is in a bad place. We are complacent and our spiritual lives lack urgency, joy, and fervor. Carson calls all believers to a radical transformation – a spiritual reformation. He goes on to say that this reformation must begin and end in prayer. We are weak and sinful creatures and must, as the writers of Hebrews said, continually “draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (4:16).
Carson points out that the practice of prayer is taught and modeled in scripture and that the Bible is full of amazing illustrations of prayer. Unfortunately, we generally pay very little attention to these inspired examples. Most of Spiritual Reformation is devoted to examining prayers of Paul.
The breakthrough of this concept for me came when I realized that I have no idea what the will of God is about my aunt’s biopsy or the neighbor’s car accident or my school payments. Scripture does not address these issues. It does, however, address in great detail the fruits of the Spirit, the ‘sign-posts’ of a Christian life, the perils of sin and Satan, and the importance of perseverance in the faith. I know that the will of God is for my aunt to grow in her love for the Lord. I know that it is the will of God that my neighbor pursue a greater knowledge of God. I know that the will of God in my life is to have patience. Carson encourages us to pray within the known will of God.
Another breakthrough came when I realized the eternal value of these prayers as opposed to those regarding the more material aspects of our lives. Again, these material aspects are all good things to pray about. As I mentioned in an earlier post this month, we should be in continual prayer for these areas. However, the vast majority of our prayer life should not be consumed with that which shall pass away but with that which is eternal. These prayers have eternal power!
Many of you know that my mother is staying with her family in Maryland for the remainder of the month. As such, she is very much on my mind and in my prayers. Below, I have quoted my favorite prayer of Paul’s, found in the first chapter of Philippians. I have recorded a prayer for my mama as she is far from me that I have taken from the principles in this prayer. Join with me in reforming our prayer lives in such a way that we have massive and powerful influence on the eternal souls of those we know!
Philippians 1:9-11 “And this I pray, that your love may about still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”
Father, I come before you for my mama. I love her and miss her and know that she is in a difficult situation. Her family does not know you and so I first ask that you would change this. I know that you delight to save sinners and so I ask that you would save my grandparents, my aunts, uncles, and cousins. Soften their hearts father, show them your love.
I ask that you would grow my mother’s love for you to such a great extent that her family cannot help but take notice and become enviable of the obvious joy she has in You. I thank you for all of the knowledge that she has of You but ask that You would keep her from becoming content in where she is now, but rather that You would give her the strength to push on ever father in her pursuit of You. I ask that as her knowledge of you grows, her love for you would grow with it. Keep her strong in her faith Lord. Help her to run the race, to run it well and not to stop running until she is face to face with You. Keep her eyes on the goal, Lord, on eternity with You. Grow her in righteousness, Father. Cause her to overflow with the fruits of the Spirit. Keep her mind fixed on the gospel, for without the gospel everything is in vain.
As always, Father, I ask these things for my mama’s good, and for YOUR GLORY! Amen.