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King David’s Enemies

People regard David as the ideal king. Thus they easily forget the tumult he faced in securing the throne, uniting the tribes, and subduing the surrounding forces. Many of his prayers recorded in the Bible deal with his enemies (internal and external).

Lifeway’s Biblical Illustrator magazine asked me to write an article about all the enemies David had to deal with–enemies he often prayed against in the Psalms. You can find it here:

(Click the little box with an arrow and you’ll get a large enough image to read the print)




“Petitionary prayer is the hope that life can be otherwise”

David Wells:

What then, is the nature of petitionary prayer? It is, in essence, rebellion— rebellion against the world in its fallenness, the absolute and undying refusal to accept as normal what is pervasively abnormal. It is…the refusal of every agenda, every scheme, every interpretation that is at odds with the norm as originally established by God….Or, to put it the other way around, to come to an acceptance of life “as it is,” to accept it on its own terms—which means acknowledging the inevitability of the way it is—is to surrender a Christian view of God. This resignation to what is abnormal has within it the hidden and unrecognized assumption that the power of God to change the world, to overcome Evil by Good, will not be actualized….Petitionary prayer, therefore, is the expression of the hope that life as we meet it, on the one hand, can be otherwise and, on the other hand, that it ought to be otherwise. It is therefore impossible to seek to live in God’s world on His terms, doing His work in a way that is consistent with who He is, without engaging in regular prayer.




Trusting God’s Abundance

check

I guess it’s not easy to cash a check from God.

Maybe you missed the story of the 21-year-old who was arrested at an Indiana bank after he tried to cash a check for $50,000 that was signed “King Savior, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Servant.”

Upon his arrest for bank fraud, a felony, authorities found several other checks that were signed the same way but made out in different dollar amounts, including one for $100,000.

Last I heard, he was being held on a $1,000 bond.

And, no, the court wouldn’t take a check.

Now, this isn’t really a devotional about curious bank transactions.  This is a devotional about prayer.  And on that subject, our God really does offer some sizeable checks to his people.  Jesus said, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Luke 11:5-13).

Our prayers don’t always reflect that confidence.  Instead, we assess the data and calculate the odds and then bring a request to God that we think is within reason.  That’s why I can identify with the story in Acts 12.  Herod had arrested Simon Peter with plans to execute him, “but the church was earnestly praying to God for him” (verse 5).  When an angel miraculously rescued the church leader, Peter arrived at a home “where many people had gathered and were praying.”  He knocked, and when the servant girl heard his voice, she exclaimed to the prayer circle, “Peter is at the door!”

Their reply?  “You’re out of your mind.”

Yep.  The church that had witnessed so many miracles couldn’t believe it when God answered their prayers for Peter.

We can be a lot like the folks in Acts 12.  We’re often more prepared for God to say “no” than for God to say “yes” when we pray to him.

Don’t get me wrong.  God doesn’t say “yes” to our every prayer, and we need to learn to trust him when our requests are turned down.  But I think we disappoint God when we decide ahead of time what kind of requests match his ability and willingness.  Ephesians 3:20 says that God is “able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.”

And you can take that to the bank.




Review of Tim Keller’s Book on Prayer

prayer

A series of crises led Presbyterian pastor Tim Keller to deeper experiences of prayer. First came 9/11, especially disorienting for a New Yorker. Then his wife’s struggle with the effects of Crohn’s disease. Then his own diagnosis of thyroid cancer. Though he had taught on prayer and practiced prayer, these events make him realize he wanted “a far better personal prayer life.” He began to read widely and experiment in prayer.

And he began to notice that he was not alone in his desire to have a better understanding and better experience of prayer. This led to his newest book, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God, set to release November 4.

On the one hand, he wants “to move beyond traditional twentieth-century evangelical devotional practices.” He believes we focus so much on in-depth Bible study and working through lists of prayer needs that the we never actually emotionally enjoy our experience with God. On the other hand, he wants to guard against “the current restoration of medieval prayer forms.” He believes these practices tend to unmoor people from the word of God.

“Prayer turns theology into experience,” he says, and thus it requires both truth as well as delight in truth. Instead of pitting biblical engagement against mystical experience, he advocates for a “radically biblical mysticism.” 

To this end, Keller re-introduces contemporary readers to the prayer practices of Protestant (and mostly Puritan) theologians of the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries. The book is filled with a fresh restatement of advice from men like Jonathan Edwards, John Owen, Martin Luther, John Calvin, and George Mueller.

It would have been helpful to supplement this list with other voices, particularly those of Asian Christian leaders, especially since their prayer practices are so robust. Keller often reminds me of John Stott, but Stott would have included these voices. Still, It was helpful to review the practices of Anglo Christian forbears and remember what great resources we have in our evangelical tradition. Anyone with a prejudice that Puritan churchmen were stern, doctrinaire, and spiritually-stale will be surprised to find how affecting and practical they were on this matter of prayer. Keller’s book, like these old resources he recaps, is also both emotionally-affecting and practical.

If you’re looking for guidance to found your prayers securely on biblical truth and also raise your prayers into experiential moments with God, pick up this book.

 




About Tom

ANCHOR COURSE LOGO Tom Goodman is a graduate of Baylor University and Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth, and he holds a doctorate from New Orleans Seminary. He has served as pastor in Louisiana, north Texas, and overseas in Grand Cayman before becoming the pastor of Hillcrest Church in Austin, Texas. Diane and Tom have been married since their days at Baylor University, and they have two sons, Michael and Stephen. Tom enjoys scuba diving, watching the latest Netflix DVD with Diane, and chasing mis-hit golf balls.
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