Wednesday, July 29, 2009

We Cannot Know What Prayer Is For...

...until we know that life is war.
--John Piper
Yesterday, I said that John Piper has been my most influential living model in prayer. Long before I had ever read a John Piper book or heard him preach or pray, during a summer inner-city missions trip in Los Angeles after my junior year in college, I read an article by him about prayer. There was no question in my mind and heart that it was prophetic. That article challenged me and it was only the first of many challenges that would come my way by the voice of God speaking to me through Piper. The following quote taken from one of Piper's books contains the essence of that article. I'm still challenged by it today.
Life is war. That's not all it is. But it is always that. Our weakness in prayer is owing largely to our neglect of this truth. Prayer is primarily a wartime walkie-talkie for the mission of the church as it advances against the power of darkness and unbelief. It is not surprising that prayer malfunctions when we try to make it a domestic intercom to call upstairs for more comforts in the den. God has given us prayer as a wartime walkie-talkie so that we can call headquarters for everything we need as the kingdom of Christ advances in the world. Prayer gives us the significance of frontline forces and gives God the glory of a limitless Provider. The one who gives the power gets the glory. Thus, prayer safeguards the supremacy of God in missions while linking us with endless grace for every need.


Probably the number one reason prayer malfunctions in the hands of believers is that we try to turn a wartime walkie-talkie into a domestic intercom. Until you know that life is war, you cannot know what prayer is for. Prayer is for the accomplishment of a wartime mission. It is as though the field commander (Jesus) called in the troops, gave them a crucial mission (go and bear fruit), handed each of them a personal transmitter coded to the frequency of the General's headquarters, and said, "Comrades, the General has a mission for you. He aims to see it accomplished. And to that end he has authorized me to give each of you personal access to him through these transmitters. If you stay true to his mission and seek his victory first, he will always be as close as your transmitter, to give tactical advice and to send air cover when you need it."

But what have millions of Christians done? We have stopped believing that we are in a war. No urgency, no watching, no vigilance. No strategic planning. Just easy peace and prosperity. And what did we do with the walkie-talkie? We tried to rig it up as an intercom in our houses and cabins and boats and cars--not to call in firepower for conflict with a mortal enemy but to ask for more comforts in the den.

--John Piper, Let The Nations Be Glad: The Supremacy of God in Missions, p.45, 49
If we really believe this--that prayer is primarily a wartime walkie-talkie--then the implications for how we pray are countless, are they not?


Chris Kiagiri said...

What a help in time of need! Thank you for this. For the better part of the past week, I have been meditating on the critical importance of prayer in my life. This is an awakening and liberating truth you have just shared.

pilgriminconflict said...

Amen! You must have been the reason that God prompted me to pull "Let The Nations Be Glad" off of my shelf two nights ago even though I only thought to do so because of what I had been reading in Carson's book about prayer =) (surely there are millions of other reasons in God's fathomless wisdom).

Looks like this has turned out to be a prayer week of sorts. Lord willing, I'll do one more post on prayer to cap the week tomorrow.

There's no doubt that God's calling us to more concentrated and focused prayer in these days, brother. Let us not waver. May the Holy Spirit fan into flame the fires of our prayer lives like never before for Jesus' sake in the strengthening of His church and the recovering of His lost sheep among the nations.

Glad to be on the front lines in this battle with you,