A Call to Spiritual Reformation is a deep thought-provoking, practical-but-theological study of some of Paul's prayers. In its zeal, it reminded me of Tozer at his best. Carson is urging the church to wake up and PRAY. He's not alone in his appeal, by the way. There are men of every generation with the same urgent appeal to the church. (Charles Spurgeon and J.C. Ryle come to mind, for example). His introduction is excellent: convicting and encouraging at the same time.
His goal: "to work through several of Paul’s prayers in such a way that we hear God speak to us today, and to find strength and direction to improve our praying, both for God’s glory and for our good."
Introduction: The Urgent Need of the Church
1. Lessons from the School of Prayer
2. The Framework of Prayer (2 Thessalonians 1:3-12)
3. Worthy Petitions (2 Thessalonians 1:1-12
4. Praying for Others
5. A Passion for People (1 Thessalonians 3:9-13)
6. The Content of a Challenging Prayer (Colossians 1:9-14)
7. Excuses for Not Praying
8. Overcoming the Hurdles (Philippians 1:9-11)
9. A Sovereign and Personal God
10. Praying to the Sovereign God (Ephesians 1:15-23)
11. Praying for Power (Ephesians 3:14-21)
12. Prayer for Ministry (Romans 15:14-33)
Afterword: A Prayer for Spiritual Reformation
I absolutely loved this one. It was substantive. It was deep. It challenges you to think and reflect. Perhaps, ultimately challenging you to act. It is a book that almost demands to be reread and studied, perhaps at a slower pace. It is quite practical.
The one thing we most urgently need in Western Christendom is a deeper knowledge of God. We need to know God better. When it comes to knowing God, we are a culture of the spiritually stunted. So much of our religion is packaged to address our felt needs—and these are almost uniformly anchored in our pursuit of our own happiness and fulfillment.
One of the foundational steps in knowing God, and one of the basic demonstrations that we do know God, is prayer—spiritual, persistent, biblically minded prayer. Writing a century and a half ago, Robert Murray M’Cheyne declared, “What a man is alone on his knees before God, that he is, and no more.” But we have ignored this truism. We have learned to organize, build institutions, publish books, insert ourselves into the media, develop evangelistic strategies, and administer discipleship programs, but we have forgotten how to pray.
Much praying is not done because we do not plan to pray. We do not drift into spiritual life; we do not drift into disciplined prayer. We will not grow in prayer unless we plan to pray. That means we must self-consciously set aside time to do nothing but pray.
If we are grateful for the most important things, and determined to live with our eternal destiny uppermost in mind, what kinds of things will we pray for? From eternity’s perspective, what should be the primary things for which we should pray for our children, for ourselves, for our fellow believers?
We need to know who we are, as God sees us. Paul wants us to appreciate the value that God places on us, not because we are intrinsically worthy but because we have been identified with Christ. We have been chosen in Christ; his righteousness has been reckoned ours; our destiny is to be joint-heirs with him. If we maintain this vision before our eyes of who we are—nothing less than God’s inheritance!—we will be concerned to live in line with this unimaginably high calling. This does not mean that we focus on ourselves, as if we were to strut around and commend ourselves for being part of God’s inheritance. Rather, Paul wants us to grasp “the riches of the glory” of God’s inheritance, that is, the ineffably great privileges that belong to God’s inheritance, simply because we are God’s inheritance. Can there be any greater and higher incentive to live in the light of the glory of God and of heaven?
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible