My booklet on prayer as part of P&R’s Basics of the Faith series was released earlier this month. My prayer is that it would be used of God not only to inform but to incite His church to the delight and work of prayer.
Below are six questions and answers I prepared for P&R to explain the booklet’s purpose and value.
Why Do We Pray? (Basics of the Faith series)
Q: Prayer seems like such a familiar topic. Why is it part of Basics of the Faith series?
A: Certainly, prayer is something familiar to everyone, but it’s important to understand God’s purpose and design for it. That’s why I think it’s important to be included in the Basics of the Faith series. For example, where does prayer fit in with the decree of God? Wouldn’t what we prayed for have come about anyway since God has ordained all that comes to pass? God’s decree would seem to make prayer less essential. However, I am convinced a Reformed understanding of prayer actually makes our prayer more significant, more necessary and more robust, not less.
Q: What other areas do you address in your booklet?
A: I deal with prayer in general, but I also try to address a variety of areas where debate can arise, such as: the relationship of prayer and faith, praying in the Spirit, where prayer finds its power, and God’s intention for corporate prayer. I believe it’s important that we not only maintain biblical balance here, but biblical fullness as well. We don’t want to shortchange God’s design for prayer but neither do we want to step out of God’s revelation into fanciful speculation or manipulation.
Q: I understand you propose a new definition of prayer in the booklet.
A: Yes, I do propose a new definition of prayer in the booklet. There are many helpful definitions of prayer out there. Prayer can be defined as simply as talking to God. I’m not sure any definition captures it fully. However, I see the Bible giving prayer a two-pronged emphasis, for relationship with God and for the work of His kingdom. My definition looks to embrace both of these emphases.
Q: Is the booklet primarily a theology of prayer?
A: It certainly deals with the theology of prayer, looking to bring the whole counsel of God to bear. But, by its nature, prayer is practical. So about one third of the booklet is concerned with the practice of prayer, with an eye to enliven and engage God’s people in prayer.
Q: What is your goal for the booklet?
A: I want people to marvel at the majesty and wonder of God in giving us prayer. I want to stretch their understanding of prayer and so enlarge their view of God. I also want to cultivate a greater respect and urgency for prayer in God’s design.
Q: Did you learn anything in writing the booklet?
A: As any teacher is the first beneficiary of his study, my own understanding of prayer was sharpened. What struck me most, though, as I was renewed in God’s wisdom in prayer, was how much I need to grow in my own prayer life. Also, as I look how immature and ineffective Christ’s church today is, it became apparent that is due in large part to our anemic prayer lives as God’s people.