May 19, 2014
A few months ago I was at a ladies training day at Dundonald Church with a number of talks and seminars on prayer. Paul Miller’s book A Praying Life was of course highly recommended! But on the back of this another book was mentioned: A Call to Spiritual Reformation, by Don Carson.
This book sets forward the need for a real change to our Christian prayer life and explores the essential things we need to consider as individuals and as a church in order to experience a true spiritual reformation.
Carson begins by pointing out what he feels is the main problem with churches in the Western world today. Our thoughts might first go to topical issues such as a lean towards materialism and status in the Church; a need for effective Evangelism; more Bible colleges; and even a better grasp of Scripture. These are all valid concerns, but Carson digs deeper and explains that the greatest need is a deeper knowledge of God Himself. He says, “Yes, we seek these things above like materialism, evangelism etc…. without passionately desiring a deeper knowledge of God. We then are selfishly running after God’s blessings without running after him.”
With this consideration embedded in our minds from the outset of the book, we look first very practically at ways of praying. Prayer journals, prayer lists and prayer partners or triangles, for example, are all helpfully discussed.
But the main body of the book concentrates on a number of Paul’s letters. Carson looks closely at these prayers throughout, examining what Paul prayed for and why. He carefully uncovers what was behind Paul’s words and touches on the tension between God’s sovereignty and our human responsibility.
If our thoughts are heaven-bound, Carson explains, it will help us relate to Scripture in a way that glorifies God. But we must also seek to live a holy and blameless life NOW in light of the coming of the Lord Jesus. This theme is interwoven through all the chapters and Carson draws us back to this point time and time again. He returns to the Bible for all his arguments and looks at topics such as thankfulness, praying for others and a true desire for God’s people.
This book is a real challenge for the Christian in the Western world, but also for the church as a whole. Do our prayers sometimes drift into a long list that we tick of as we go? A Call to Spiritual Reformation challenges us to think of the last time our prayers consisted of praying such things as that our Christian brothers and sisters would be worthy of their calling; that they would bear fruit for the Lord; that they might reflect the glory of God in their lives; and they would seek a deeper knowledge of God.
As the book progresses we see how the latter, so clearly evident in Paul’s letters, is reflected in his thankfulness to God, a desire to pray for others, and a deep longing for God.
The last part of this book looks at the excuses made by all of us for why we don’t pray and at the characteristics we should expect to see in a Christian who is seeking to live a life that pleases God. This is a particularly useful section as by now you have reflected on much Scripture and, although parts of these last chapters might be painful to read, it only seeks to sanctify us and bring us closer to God.
Each of Paul’s letters which Carson examines are fully included within the pages of the book, making it easy to refer back to Scripture.
It is a great book and I would seriously recommend taking the time to read it, using the questions at the end of each chapter to meditate upon what you have learnt. It is a challenging read which will make you think about the very core of your prayer life. It certainly has widened my narrow scope of what my prayers consists of. I continue to reflect on what I have learnt from reading it and I hope others will learn much too!
By Venna R