Prayer Lesson 4: Our Perspective on Prayer

Lesson 4: Our Perspective on Prayer

Our prayer lives largely depend on our understanding of the character and nature of God. That is, what we think of God and of his interaction in the world will greatly influence our practice of prayer. A low view of God will naturally result in a weak and ineffective prayer life. A biblical view of God will (or should) result in a vibrant and meaningful prayer life. Nothing affects our perspective on prayer more than our perspective on God.[1]


How do people perceive of God’s character and nature? Note several options.

 

  1. God does not exist; prayer has no effect.
    1. Some atheists see the existence of God as a harmless philosophical question to which they answer “no.” Beyond that, they have little or no interest.
    2. Some atheists not only do not believe themselves, but also demand that others do not believe in God. The concept of God’s existence is morally repulsive to them; God must not exist. People should not and must not pray. Only fools pray.
  2. God does exists but is not personally responsive to prayer.
    1. Some suggest that God created all things, wound up the universe, and set it to run on its own without any divine intervention (Deism). God observes the universe, but does not interact with it. God does not tinker with the system.
    2. Prayer in this case is again futile. Nature is going to run its course and no amount of prayer is going to change things. Man should praise God and thank him, but God is not moved by human requests. God may sympathize with us, but does nothing to help us.
  3. God exists and occasionally steps in to rescue his people.
    1. Many so-called religious people hold this viewpoint. They believe that God created the universe, watches over it, occasionally interacts with it when necessary, but leaves most mundane matters to nature or to human choice. When the Red Sea needs to be parted or the Egyptians need some persuasion (the plagues), then God does something remarkable. Otherwise, events happen naturally, spontaneously, and/or randomly. God certainly may intervene, but usually is not directly involved in earthly events.
    2. Prayer from this perspective may be effective, depending on the nature of the crises and who is doing the praying. If the crisis is genuine and people pray sincerely and fervently, then perhaps God will pay attention and send some relief. Small, everyday matters are of little consequence to God; no need to pray for them on this view.
  4. God exists and responds to those who know the “secrets” of answered prayer.
    1. God has many good things in store for those who know the secret combination to opening the storehouse of heaven. One must say the right words, assume the right posture, and/or ask with enough fervency to convince God to open his hand.
    2. God is dependent upon man in this scenario. God wants to do certain things in the world, but man thwarts God’s plans. God is limited by man’s sinfulness, lack of prayer, weakness, and failures. God will not violate human freedom by acting without being asked. Prayer influences God and may even get him to change his mind.
  5. God exists and actively upholds, directs, governs, and disposes of all things according to his own purpose and will.
    1. Few today, it seems, uphold the biblical idea that “God the good Creator of all things, in his infinite power and wisdom doth uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures and things, from the greatest even to the least, by his most wise and holy providence, to the end for the which they were created.”[2] On this perspective, God is not some passive observer of the passing scene, but an active participant in all events.
    2. God is absolutely sovereign over nature. Briefly skim through Psalm 104 and note the various aspects of nature that the psalmist attributes to God’s control. Also see Matt 10:29-30.
    3. God is absolutely sovereign over human affairs. Consider the following texts:
      1. Gen 20:6 – God controls human hearts (affections, intentions, purposes).
      2. Dan 2:21 – God controls human leadership (cf. Rom 13:1f).
      3. Isa 10:5-6 – God controls political and military movements.
      4. Acts 4:27-28 – God controls the wicked activity of evil men.
  6. Our understanding of God influences our prayer life.
    1. If God does not exist, then don’t pray.
    2. If God is merely a spectator, then petition/supplication is futile.
    3. If God only occasionally interacts in human affairs, then we should pray only when necessary (crises, danger, opportunities, etc.).
    4. If God responds only to those who know the secrets of prayer, then we must find those secrets and employ them to get what we want.
    5. If God is sovereign, we pray according to his will, expecting him to accomplish his purposes. Prayer is much more focused on God and his glory than on our wants and ourselves.

 



[1] Storms, 65.

[2] From the Second London Baptist Confession (1689), chapter 5, “Of Divine Providence.”

 

Lessons in this Course
Table of Contents
Prayer Lesson 1: The Importance of Prayer
Prayer Lesson 2: Overcoming the Difficulties of Prayer
Prayer Lesson 3: What is Prayer?
Prayer Lesson 4: Our Perspective on Prayer
Praying Lesson 5: Praying in Jesus’ Name
Praying Lesson 6: How Not to Pray
Praying Lesson 7: The Model Prayer Matt 6:9-15
Praying Lesson 8: Pray-ers that Pleases God
Praying Lesson 9: Persistence in Prayer
Praying Lesson 10: Learning from Paul’s Prayers
Praying Lesson 11: Learning from OT Prayers
Praying Lesson 12: Prayer as an Expression of Spirituality
Praying Lesson 13: The Five Different Kinds of Prayer in the Psalms
Praying Lesson 14: Prerequisites to Effective Prayer
Praying Lesson 15: Prayer and Fasting

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