Thursday, November 20, 2008

Believers praying like un-believers

I've been slowly working my way through John Piper's When I Don't Desire God, How to fight for Joy with another young adult in my church. We've both really been blessed and challenged by the book. Here is an excerpt from a section we just read.

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.

Wow. Pretty convicting. How often do prayer requests go like this, "I ask for traveling mercies, a job, a spouse, kids doing well in school, etc...?" Again these things aren't bad to ask for when they trouble us. But when we pray alone, or with our spouses and friends, are our prayers much different?

I heard in a Sunday school class (not at my present church) something to the effect of, "Just ask, and talk, like a child to your daddy." I wasn't there for the whole series so I may have missed the part of prayer which involves Praise, Kingdom vision, Thanksgiving, Confession (you know, the way Jesus taught us to pray). But if you tell my heart simply to ask for things, and not ask for God to receive glory from those things, guess which route I'm going to take?

Again, asking for a job, a car, for your house to sell isn't bad. But we need to be asking these things motivated by Christ to receive glory and His Kingdom going forward. For instance, I would pray for a job that I may honor Christ in my workplace and have money to not only support myself but to support the church and its mission. Wordy yes, but our prayer requests are often quite shallow, and I would imagine, so are our prayers. So with that realization, we ought to think more clearly on how such petitions fit in with His Kingdom and His Glory covering the Earth. When we do that, we'll be more likely to trust God with the specific details of how He answers.


Anonymous said...

Funny, Geoff. I JUST read the referenced paragraph from Piper's book to the High School Sunday School class this past Sunday! Good, good stuff. I started out by asking them if they pray like unbelievers. It is an excellent question for all of us to ponder.


Geoffsnook said...


Wow, that's pretty cool. Great minds think alike. Of course bad ones do too...But I'll assume we're both great!

Seriously though, I've begun to think more about this in my prayers. I've been phrasing them differently when I pray with Amy and with others.