A Call to Spiritual Reformation, D. A. Carson
This is one of those books on prayer that everyone recommends; in fact it has been spoken about and suggested as crucial reading for the last 20 years. It takes me a while to catch up sometimes, but I tend to get there in the end!
I have read through this book over the last few months. It is like mining for treasure. You have to work a bit, it is a bit dense theologically at times and it takes some serious thinking, but the treasures abound. D. A. Carson is a skilled theologian who can explain many a passage. Yet at the same time, he is pastorally sensitive, astute and aware of the struggles many Christians face with prayer.
Combining these two gifts he has written this book which looks at a number of the prayers found in Paul’s letters in the New Testament. Each is filled with detailed explanation of what Paul is praying and why, and how then we as believers should think about prayer. Interspersed are chapters on practical issues such as why we do not pray, how we think about God’s sovereignty related to personal prayer, and how we make sure our prayers are focused on others. I found the first chapter, which was 8 lessons to learn about prayer incredibly helpful and I adopted some immediately into my own prayer life.
Some of the things I was challenged by are included in Carson’s own words below:
Pray until you pray: “Christians should pray long enough and honestly enough, at a single session, to get past the feeling of formalism and unreality that attend not a little praying … To enter the spirit of prayer, we must stick at it for a little while…eventually we will come to delight in God’s presence, to rest in his love, to cherish his will”“We must look for signs of grace in the lives of Christians, and give God thanks for them” (p44)Paul’s prayers are primarily about others not himself, they are “outstanding for the large part intercession for others and thanksgiving for others play in them” (p66)“What we need, then, is a prayer life that thanks God for the people of God, and then tells the people of God what we thank God for” (p88)
If you are like I was and have not read A Call to Spiritual Reformation yet, even though you have heard about it for years – do yourself a favour - get a copy, put aside time to read a bit of it each day, and go looking for treasure.
I plan to return to it regularly, digest it in small chunks and keep being challenged about how to pray.