I have not met D.A. Carson, but I just found out what it feels like to have D.A. Carson (rightfully) take me to task. I don’t mean that in a shame-inducing, motivation-by-guilt kind of way, but in the best sense: that of the conviction that comes from God’s word. While over the past year or so, I have read and heard many things on prayer, and they were all challenging, and thankfully the Lord has shown me some ways in which to improve my prayer life. But the following quotes from my current Sunday reading, A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and His Prayers, are very challenging.
I highly recommend getting the book. It is simply soaked in Scripture, as it is primarily a look at Paul’s prayers in his epistles. It comes with study questions at the end of each chapter, and so it would be a great book to use in a Sunday school class or Bible study.
Sadly, Christian leaders may be among the worst offenders. Faced with constant and urgent demands, they find it easy to neglect their calling to the ministry of the Word and prayer because they are so busy. Indeed, they are tempted to invest all of their activity with transcendental significance, so that although their relative prayerlessness quietly gnaws away at the back of their awareness, the noise and pain can be swamped by the sheer importance of all the things they are busily doing. (Kindle Locations 1727-1730)
That gnawing that he references is huge. I’m sure we have all felt it, but we focused instead on other things to be working on.
It matters little whether you are the mother of active children who drain away your energy, an important executive in a major multinational corporation, a graduate student cramming for impending comprehensives, a plumber working overtime to put your children through college, or a pastor of a large church putting in ninety-hour weeks: at the end of the day, if you are too busy to pray, you are too busy. Cut something out. (Kindle Locations 1754-1757)
I suspect that for most of us, we are able to find time for plenty of other things–movies, music, hobbies, blog posts, etc. But his point stands: if we’re not praying a lot, then we need to find something to take out of our schedule or routine, whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing.
Few of us are so crass that we self-consciously reason, “I am too important to pray. I am too self-confident to pray. I am too independent to pray.” Instead, what happens is this: Although abstractly I may affirm the importance of prayer, in reality I may treat prayer as important only in the lives of other people, especially those whom I judge to be weaker in character, more needy, less competent, less productive. Thus, while affirming the importance of prayer, I may not feel deep need for prayer in my own life. I may be getting along so well without much praying that my self-confidence is constantly being reinforced. That breeds yet another round of prayerlessness. What is God’s response? If Christians who shelter beneath such self-assurance do not learn better ways by listening to the Scriptures, God may address them in the terrible language of tragedy. We serve a God who delights to disclose himself to the contrite, to the lowly of heart, to the meek. When God finds us so puffed up that we do not feel our need for him, it is an act of kindness on his part to take us down a peg or two; it would be an act of judgment to leave us in our vaulting self-esteem. (Kindle Locations 1808-1816)
If the first quote wasn’t enough of a smack in the face, this one is even more. Particularly for those of who are by default achievement-oriented multi-taskers, it is all too easy to simply feel–if not think explicitly–that we don’t need God’s help in the various tasks to which we have been called.
I don’t think he’s trying to guilt or scare people into more prayer either. It seems more likely that he’s just observing what he has seen in the experiences of God’s people over time. Of course, the danger with any book like this is to simply read about prayer but not actually pray more. As Paul would say, “May it never be!”Read More