Several times in the past few weeks I have shared the things the Lord is challenging me on in my prayer life (here, here, and here). Now He is using the books I read.
I just finished Carson’s book on Jesus’ final discourse and prayer, and picked up his work on Philippians. In the first he spends a great deal of time on John 17, Christ’s high priestly prayer, it is great stuff. In the second book he unwraps Philippians 1:9 – 11. He then recommends that we all do what I did, look at Paul’s prayers and use them as a guide. What he says is worth repeating:
…It takes only a moment’s reflection to see that all these petitions are gospel-centered. These are gospel prayers. That is, they are prayers offered to advance the work of the gospel in the lives of the Philippian believers. And, by asking for gospel fruit in their lives, the ultimate purpose of these petitions is to bring glory to the God who redeemed them.
How much do such petitions feature in our praying? When was the last time you prayed that the brothers and sisters in Christ in your congregation would abound in love more and more in knowledge and depth of insight so that they might discern the best things and prove them out in their own experience, being filled with the fruit of righteousness, to the glory and praise of God?
What do you pray for? Thank God that some do pray along these lines. But many of us devote most of our praying, in private and in public, to personal matters largely removed from gospel interests…But where is our gospel focus? Read through the letters of Paul and copy out his prayers. Ask yourself what it is he asks for. Observe how consistently most of his petitions are gospel-related. Are we being faithful to Scripture if most of our petitions are not?
Put the gospel first. And that means you must put the priorities of the gospel at the center of your prayer life.
(D. A. Carson, Basics for Believers: An Exposition of Philippians (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1996), 22.)
It is great when someone you admire validates what you have seen, but it is also true that the Lord is using several different means to challenge me on how I pray. I best pay attention.