Spiritual Reformation 1

Lessons from the School of Prayer 

Carson’s first chapter is about prayer lessons he has learned from “more mature Christians”, before he turns to the “more important and more authoritative” source – the Bible. Throughout he is keen to avoid legalism and to emphasise that we must all learn to pray, we can’t just follow a recipe, but he gives 8 lessons to help us (italics are my own thoughts, everything else is a quote – including the headings – or a paraphrase):

  1. Much praying is not done because we do not plan to pray: we need regular times when we know we are going to pray, or we will simply never get around to it.
  2. Adopt practical ways to avoid mental drift: it can be helpful to pray out loud (or at least move the lips), to allow your daily Bible reading to control your prayer topics, to use biblical prayers as models or to keep a journal.
  3.  At various periods in your life, develop, if possible, a prayer-partner relationship: (if this is going to be with someone of the opposite sex it must be your spouse!) we can learn much from more mature Christians, or from those with a similar level of maturity to us. Also, “Such clusters of prayer partners have been used by God again and again to spearhead powerful ministry and extravagant blessing.”
  4. Choose models – but choose them well: I couldn’t choose which parts of one paragraph in this section to cut!
    1. “Not every good model provides us with exactly the same prescription for good praying, exactly the same balance. All of them pray with great seriousness; all of them use arguments and seek goals that are already portrayed in Scripture. Some of them seem to carry you with them into the very throne room of the Almighty; others are particularly faithful in intercession, despite the most difficult circumstances in life and ministry; still others are noteworthy because of the breadth of their vision. All are characterised by a wonderful mixture of contrition and boldness in prayer.”
  5. Develop a system for your prayer lists: “Whatever the system, use prayer lists”. I want to come back to this in my next post.
  6. Mingle praise, confesion, and intercession; but when you intercede, try to tie as many requests as possible to Scripture: “we must remember that the Bible simultaneously pictures God as utterly sovereign, and as a prayer-hearing and prayer-answering God” (more on this in chapters 9 and 10). A good relationship to balance these two is that of a boy with his father. How do we know what God wants us to pray for? We look in the Bible and when we can’t work it out, the spirit “intercedes for all the saints in accordance with God’s will” (Romans 8:26-27)
  7. If you are in any form of spiritual leadership, work at your public prayers: public prayers are, of course, to God but others are overhearing. Jesus prayed for the benefit of those around him at the tomb of Lazarus (John 11:41-42). Charles Spurgeon would allow other men to deliver sermons in his church while he was there, but would always reserve the “pastoral prayer” for himself because he felt it was such an important was to “instruct and edify and encourage the saints”.
  8. Pray until you pray: “That is Puritan advice”, meaning that we should pray in one sitting for long enough that we get past the “feeling of formalism and unreality that attends not a little praying”.

Next up from D.A. Carson: “The Framework of Prayer” (2 Thessalonians 1:3-12)


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