Wednesday, March 25, 2009

D. A. Carson Calls Christians To Biblical Prayers

D. A. Carson is one Conservative Evangelical scholar that I respect and admire, but his recent comments on prayer at Biltmore Baptist Church 's prayer conference are a little off. The Biblical Recorder reports:
Carson spoke about how the word of God should reform every area in a Christian’s life, especially prayer.

As Paul did in Ephesians 3, Christians should pray for the life-transforming power of Christ and a better understanding of the limitless dimensions of Christ’s love. In returning to a biblical standard of prayer, Christians must pray for Christ’s power to strengthen and transform. The Christian must cry out for “a demonstration of God’s power” to work in him, making him “the habitation of the almighty God,” Carson said.

Paul desired for the Ephesians to be established in the Savior’s transforming love and to know God’s love in such a way that “knowing it might surpass all that could be known.” Carson directed his audience to ask God “to show you the ugliness of sin and the spectacular love of Christ that deals with it.” Then “you will see how wide, long, high and deep is this love of Jesus that surpasses knowledge,” he said.

The church needs intercessors and Christians must beg God, as Moses did during the account of the golden calf, for mercy. Christians must beg God not to pour out upon His church the judgment it deserves. “Moses seeks the favor of God and asks Him to relent and not bring disaster,” Carson said. Moses pleads upon God’s mercy and God relents. God does not drift through interactions with His people but “He expects this unrelenting intercession, this dynamic experience,” Carson said.

Carson urged believers to acquire a vision of God’s holiness, the awfulness of sin and empathy for fellow believers that would “lead you to stand in the gap” as Moses did for the Israelites. He asked God to “blot out” his life if He would not forgive the Israelites. Moses stood in the gap, willing to take the punishment. Carson admitted, “It is rare I find myself thinking of things like that.” Yet, Christians must think and pray like that, he said.

In response to Moses’ plea, God unpacks His character, showing He is compassionate and gracious but cannot let the guilty go unpunished. Moses begs God to go with the Israelites, whether he shows compassion or justly punishes them. He knew the Israelites were nothing without God. Believers must recognize, as did Moses, that without God, “everything else is a disaster.” There is no one to whom Christians can go except God. Therefore, pray and beg for God’s presence, regardless of what it brings, Carson said.

Revival is God-given, but Christians must reform their prayers so that they seek God and not an event. Prayer for revival must not simply be prayer for an experience. Rather, it must be that God’s people be holy and delight in Him rather than self-made pursuits of “religiosity,” Carson said. Christians must return to a biblical standard of prayer and not any other man-made measure. This is why Carson urged believers to pray scripturally and “find life, purpose, and hope” in Christ through His word.

While I agree with Carson, "Christians must pray for Christ’s power to strengthen and transform." However, I don't agree that we should pray "biblically"---whatever praying "biblically" means. Who gets to decide what a biblical prayer is anyway---you, me, D. A. Carson, the Pope, John Calvin, etc.? Nowhere in the scriptures does it say that believers should pray biblically. However, Christians should always pray Christocentricly as Jesus gives us the standard of Christian prayer in The Lord's Prayer:

Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil. (Matthew 6:9-13 ESV).

Prayers should also be individualistic and subjective as prayers are believers' intimate connection to the Divine. Praying scriptures is sometimes helpful though such as in the lectio divina model, but there are some scriptures we shouldn't pray such as Psalm 137:9 and Psalm 143:12 for example as neither one of those scriptures are consistent with God's self-revealed character in the person and work of Christ. After all, Jesus should be at the center of all our prayers. In closing, I will leave you with two quotes from Karl Barth on prayer:
"To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world."
Karl Barth.
[P]rayer is the most intimate and effective form of Christian action. All other work comes far behind, and it is Christian work… only to the extent that it derives from prayer…

See also: Karl Barth: The Liberation of the Christian: From Anxiety to Prayer and:
Jesus Christ lived the perfect life as God intended for man here on earth by deriving all that He did from God the Father. "I do nothing of My own initiative" (John 5:30; 8:28; 12:49; 14:10), Jesus said, "but the Father abiding in Me does His works" (John 14:10). Jesus lived the life of the Perfect Man2 for every moment in time for thirty-three years by constantly living in the prayer of faith. He chose to be receptive to the activity of God the Father in all that He did and said. Karl Barth explains,
"He became the first One properly to take and receive the divine gift. He takes up towards God the position of One who has nothing, who has to receive everything from God. He trusts in God that He will in fact receive it from Him. He entrusts everything to Him. This is how He lives...a life controlled and upheld by the grace of God. In all His life as a man Jesus was only and altogether a Suppliant. As the Son of God He is Himself altogether the divine gift and answer. God triumphed in this man. He did it because this man actually asked, and asking took and received; because this man sought, and seeking found; because this man knocked, and as He knocked, it was opened to Him. In this way God triumphed in the asking. This man prayed. He prayed to God for His unspeakable gift."3

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