Monday, October 22, 2007

What do you pray for?

From John Piper's When I Don't Desire God: How to Fight for Joy:

...prayer is the revealer of the heart. What a person prays for shows the spiritual condition of his heart. If we do not pray for spiritual things (like the glory of Christ, and the hallowing of God's name, and the salvation of sinners, and the holiness of our hearts, and the advance of the gospel, and contrition for sin, and the fullness of the Spirit, and the coming of the kingdom, and the joy of knowing Christ), then probably it is because we do not desire those things. Which is a devastating indictment of our hearts...How we pray reveals the desires of our hearts. And the desires of our hearts reveal what our treasure is.

More...

Most people, before their prayers are soaked in Scripture, simply bring their natural desires to God. In other words, they pray the way an unbeliever would pray who is convinced that God might give him what he wants: health, a better job, safe journeys, a prosperous portfolio, successful children, plenty of food, a happy marriage, a car that works, a comfortable retirement, etc. None of these is evil. They're just natural. You don't have to be born again to want any of these. Desiring them--even from God--is no evidence of saving faith. So if these are all you pray for, there is a deep problem. Your desires have not yet been changed to put the glory of Christ at the center.

But when you saturate your mind with the Christ-exalting Word of God and turn it into prayer, your desires and your prayers...are shaped by the Holy Spirit into God-centered, Christ-exalting prayers. The glory of Christ, and the name of God, and the spiritual well-being of people, and the delight you have in knowing Jesus--these become your dominant concerns and your constant requests. You still pray for health and marriage and job and journeys, but now what you want to happen is that, in all these, Christ will be exalted.

12 comments:

  1. Are you in my brain? Because I've been pondering these exact thoughts lately. (And not for the first time, I might add.)

    Growing up in the jungle of the American Evangelical sub-culture, my days started and ended with prayer requests. And for decades, a call for prayer requests translated into "let's rack our brains and think of anyone we know who might be sick or experiencing a tragedy."

    Thus, we got: "Pray for my great-great-aunt Suzy's goiter." "Pray for my neighbor's cousin's daughter-in-law who just had a miscarriage. Or maybe she had an abortion. I can't remember." "I'm going on vacation this weekend; pray that we'll have a safe trip."

    No wonder prayer is boring.

    I'll end it there before I take over your blog. :-)

    But I can say a hearty virtual AMEN! And maybe I'll piggy-back you next week with a post of my own.

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  2. Kelly just stated what's been on my own mind for quite some time as well. I love Piper's words: "prayers soaked in Scripture." He's so right about how this will change the very desires of our hearts and therefore completely change what prayer is.

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  3. We're studying "What Every Christian Ought to Know" by Adrian Rodgers. This week was on prayer. One thing that really stuck with me was that prayer isn't about bending God's will to conform to ours, but about getting God's will done on earth. Much the same thought, here.

    At the end of the week, we had to journal what was most revealing/challenging to us about prayer, and I realized just how self-centered my prayers are.

    Seems the Lord has prayer on the hearts of several of His children.

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  4. I grieve at how true Kelly's words are.

    John Piper has another great quote on prayer that comes from Let the Nations Be Glad. It burned into my brain the first time I read it around seven years ago:

    "Prayer is primarily a wartime walkie-talkie for the mission of the church as it advances against the powers of darkness and unbelief. It is not surprising that prayer malfunctions when we try to make it a domestic intercom to call upstairs for more comforts in the den."

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  5. Wow - I use my 45 minute drive to work to pray most days...just this morning as I was praying I was convicted about the redundancy and self-centered nature of my prayers...there are no coincidences...thank you for this post today...

    Love you,

    MdA

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  6. Wow...fantastic stuff. I love how he doesn't leave us with the problem (our selfish prayers), but offers a solution -- saturation in Scripture. So true, yet something I have to constantly be mindful of.

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  7. I agree... wonderful post.

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  8. I've been convicted recently about how shallow my prayers are and how self-centered, too. These are good words to share with us, thank you.

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  9. This is so true. And I can attest to the fact when I haven't been in the Word my prayers run very selfish, but when I spend time with the Lord and in His Word, then He is foremost in my prayers.

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  10. i think that we have to be mindful of spiritual gifts. I understand that we should pray for others, and please hear me when I say that I believe that's very important. But i believe that we need to understand that although we all have a certain responsibility being apart of the body we can't expect the arm to do what the leg is called to do. Intercessors have a very special gift that calls them to pray for these things (this is not an excuse for those who are just not praying). now you were saying it is a heart issue we need to remember that God knows our heart; so if those things being; house, food, safe journey, health a better job, children family etc...are on our heart why should we not lift those things up in prayer to our father and know that He can give us the strength to walk the road that he has us on at that time? By the way lets recall here in the bible the way that it teaches us to pray "The Lords Prayer" It says that we should pray this way....It gives us a map of how we should pray. The entire prayer is based on us personally. Our walk our sins, us forgiving others, supplying us with our needs;food and clothing.

    I believe that we need to caustious and not fall into a spirit of religion here. I know that I have a phenominal relationship with my Father and I believe that others have read this do as well. But now they have walked away feeling condemned. We also need to remember that Gods grace is amazing and when he corrects us it's in love and he does not bring condemnation through his word.
    I thank God for people like you that truly feel called to pray for many different things that God has laid on your heart. Although I can honestly say that is not my strength. However I am stronger in many other areas and I believe that our body functions well when we do the gifts that God has called us to do not the gifts our neighbors tell us we should do.

    blessings

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  11. Hi Kat,

    How I hope no one has left here feeling condemned! By no means would I want to foster a spirit of religious condemnation. If so, then I fear my words and my intentions have been badly misunderstood.

    I understand what you are saying about each of us exercising our gift as given by the Spirit. However, we are each called (and commanded) to pray (Eph. 6:18, 1 Thess. 5:17). Piper is not suggesting we do not pray for food, homes, children or jobs, but rather it is the focus of those prayers he is emphasizing. Note the last line of the excerpt on my post: you still pray for all those things, but now what you want to happen is in all these Christ will be exalted. Am I praying selfishly only for me, me, me (no differently than a non believer would), or am I praying for those exact same situations in an attitude of surrender and desire for God's glory to be preeminent?

    Lisa

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  12. We're studying "What Every Christian Ought to Know" by Adrian Rodgers. This week was on prayer. One thing that really stuck with me was that prayer isn't about bending God's will to conform to ours, but about getting God's will done on earth. Much the same thought, here.

    At the end of the week, we had to journal what was most revealing/challenging to us about prayer, and I realized just how self-centered my prayers are.

    Seems the Lord has prayer on the hearts of several of His children.

    ReplyDelete