Monday, February 22, 2010

"No Easy Answers" by William Lane Craig

I only read one chapter from this short book. Someone photocopied a chapter for a retreat teaching - but, man! I loved it. I'm really looking forward to getting the book and reading the whole thing.
For those who don't know William Lane Craig - he a great scholar and known for public debate skills. He had a pretty awesome debate here in Columbus with an atheist thinker. I've only ever seen his writings in textbooks, but this book "No Easy Answers" is a devotional-style book about prayer.
In the chapter I read "Unanswered Prayer", he explores Jesus' promise to answer our prayers and the seemingly different experience that many people have had. It's easy to understand why some prayers go unanswered, but it's a harder pill to swallow in other areas.

He gives 5 suggestions for having an unfettered spiritually powerful prayer life:
1. Confess and repent from sin in your lives. Psalm 66:18 says, "If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened." Also, 1 Peter 3:7 gives biblical precedence to the idea that prayers can be hindered because of sin.
2. Ask for things that will glorify God rather than just asking for things "with wrong motives that you may spend what you get on your pleasures." - James 4:3
3. Have faith the size of a mustard seed. James 1:6-8 says that the double-minded man needs to ask and "believe, and do not doubt" because the one who doubts "should not think he will receive anything from the Lord." Now, I think I should point out - as a sidenote, that it doesn't say God won't answer that sort of prayer - it just says that we shouldn't expect Him to if we are just words without faith.
4. Develop earnestness about the things we pray about. If we're having a hard time with earnestness, if we just pray for something at a prayer meeting and then never think about it again, we can ask God to help us develop a burden or a passion for the things we are praying for. He talked about when he and his wife raised missionary support and certain people would say, "we're not going to support you financially - but we'll pray for you." and how they didn't expect that those people would actually be earnest to pray for them. "Unfortunately, Christians have the idea that prayer support is a lesser commitment than financial support, when in reality precisely the opposite is the case. It doesn't take much effort to write a check every month or so and never think of it again, but it's a tough thing to pray earnestly and regularly for a Christian worker or missionary." (p.49)
5. Persevere in prayer. "Some Christians will tell you that all you have to do is pray once about something, commit it to the Lord, and then relax and trust Him to take care of it. But I think I can say confidently that this is not the teaching of Jesus." (p.50)

In the last half of the chapter, Wright talks about Paul's prayers for the churches as an example to us, and wonders if any of us pray that way for others and for churches. His conclusion is as follows:
"Are you just muddling along in the Christian life, never seeing God really work in response to your prayers? When was the last time you moved the hands of God through prayer? If you're not satisfied with your prayer life, maybe it's time to take inventory of the obstacles to answered prayer in your life...prayer is hard work. But the promises of prayer are great. Let us strive to lay hold of those promises." (p.57)

I think as a whole, there are some really good thoughts here. Although, I find myself qualifying some of his points because I think that there are plenty of messed up people who have their prayers answered; and plenty of good people who have their prayers unanswered. And, this can't be about law or formula. However, if you (like me) know that there is no formula and simply want some advice on how to become a better prayer warrior - this is a great book and a great chapter for stirring up the prayer warrior inside.


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