Scripture-Shaped Praying

Picking up on another Let the Nations Be Glad post, I wanted to include some of Piper's writings regarding prayer.

Interestingly I read as Piper explained how prayer can often be too elevated above its intended role. Now, if you're like me and thinking, you may say, huh? Let me further explain. He continued to explain that prayer is often elevated in our emphasis on it over the Word of God. His basic point was that the Scriptures clearly elevate the Word as the supreme active agent in missions, with prayer as a necessary supportive tool. His point was simply that we can often emphasize prayer in a misinforming way that misdirects our prayers. The end result is a prayer focus that centers on peripheral things, and misses what is really to be at the core of our passion for God.

Let me give you a few examples in Piper's own words:

Speaking of the Ephesians 6 life is war context, John Piper writes, "Until you believe that life is war, you cannot know what prayer is for. Prayer is for the accomplishment of a wartime mission. It is as though the field commander (Jesus) called in the troops, gave them a crucial mission ('Go and bear fruit'), handed each of them a personal transmitter coded to the frequency of the general's headquarters, and said, 'Comrades, the general has a mission for you. He aims to see it accomplished. And to that end he has authorized me to give each of you personal access to him through these transmitters. If you stay true to his mission and seek his victory first, he will always be as close as your transmitter, to give tactical advice and to send in air cover when you or your comrades need it.' But what have millions of Christians done? They have stopped believing that we are in a war. No urgency, no watching, no vigilance, no strategic planning. Just easy peacetime and prosperity. And what did they do with the walkie-talkie? They tried to rig it up as an intercom in their cushy houses and cabins and boats and cars--not to call in firepower for conflict with a mortal enemy, but to ask the maid to bring another pillow to the den." (John Piper, "Prayer," an online sermon at www.DesiringGod.org.)

Much of Piper's point centers on our misguided use of prayer. Do we approach prayer in a way that elevates our own selfish desires? Or, do we recognize the greater heart and mission of God (and therefore our mission), and then allow that to shape the way we pray?

Furthermore, the Scriptures are packed with references upholding Scripture as the active agent, the sword of the Spirit in the offensive effort to live for God's purposes on this sin-racked earth (Acts 19:20; Romans 1:16, 10:17; Ephesians 6:17-18; James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23).
The Word of God and prayer go together; one exalted as the means to do God's work and the other upheld as a way of supporting the work of the Word. In John 17 and Acts 4:29 we read of the precedence of calling on God for boldness to speak His Word boldly. In 2 Thessalonians 3:1 we read of the prayer for God to amplify the working of the Word. In Colossians 4:3 Paul's prayer is for a door of open opportunity for the Word to work. In 1 Timothy 6:12 and 2 Timothy 4:7 we see life depicted as a fight or a war. Finally, in Ephesians 6 Paul speaks of this life-wartime context. He writes that we wrestle not against mere flesh and blood, but against cosmic powers of darkness. The offensive weapon Paul then lists in verse 17 for this war is the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. Then in the very next verse (18) we read the participle translated "so," directly connecting verse 18 on prayer to verse 17 regarding the Word's offensive work. Thus, prayers are seen as a supportive catalyst to the offensive weapon of the Word.

Do we pray in this way? Do we even view life in this New Testament depicted way? We do truly have so much to be thankful for, and a life lived with Jesus is indeed joyful. However, while we are promised God's faithful presence and joy lived in Him, we also see the Scriptures depict a life lived in Him as a struggle against the cosmic powers of darkness. No, I'm not getting all Star Wars on us. Seriously, the powers of Satan, sin, and our own flesh are a very real thing. It is these struggles that we wage war against while walking through life. Do we view Scripture as paramount in this life-battle? Do we view prayer as necessary to commune with our Commander for strength and victory from His Word in the battle?

Here's my last thought… Are our prayers then shaped by this mentality? Think about it. How many times do I catch myself praying in a misguided way? How many times do I pray for someone to get better from some sickness or bad thing in their lives rather than pray for Jesus to do His work of refining in their lives. Regarding missions, how often do we pray just for safety and vague concerns for well-being? Oh, we can and should pray for healing and safety, but do we pray for spiritual growth as well? How often do we pray for God's Word to do it's intended offensive work in people's lives?

These truths are surely convicting. It is my prayer to simply offer them here for you to likewise consider.

For the Spread of His Fame,
Derek