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Argumentative Prayer

In response to my post on Monday, Chuck sent these thoughts:

“Unable to sleep, I got up to do some more reading on prayer.  I was disappointed with what was at hand after the help and challenge I received from Paul Miller’s A Praying Life

I finally found a book with a chapter on “Prayer Habits of the Puritans.”  I was taken aback by Richard Sibbes’ use of “argumentative prayer” which he described as “an excellent thing.”  Caution signals were flashing in my mind.  But Sibbes argued on: “Study the Scriptures, and . . . study all the arguments whereby holy men have prevailed with God . . . to see in what cases those arguments were used.  They are of use and force to prevail with God.”

The writer said that the “interrelationship of this to the promises of God and praying in accordance with his will is reflected in Sibbes’ statement: ‘It is a pitiful thing . . . for Christians . . . to come to God only with bare, naked petitions . . . and have not reasons to press God out of his own word.  They cannot bind God with his own promise, nor with arguments that he hath been bound with before.’”  He compared this to ‘to a parent answering a little child because he cries, but when he is of grown years, the father looks for arguments that are moving to press him with.’

Thomas Hall also ‘argues’ for argumentative prayer.  He says that “We must stir up ourselves that we may lay hold on God, and use argumentative prayer, as Moses did, Exod. xxxii.11-13.  God loves to see us fervent, when it is for his own glory and his church’s good. Tell him the cause is his.  And the people that are oppressed are his, and the enemies are his; . . . therefore beseech him to rise.”

I paused to think of other possible examples in Daniel 9 and Genesis 18.  And how about the audacity of Jacob, wrestling with God?  My defenses began to come down.  I don’t normally approach God so boldly.  Why not?  Is it irreverent, disrespectful, overly assertive?  Or is my view of prayer limited by my own timidity, lack of boldness and more deeply, unbelief?  Is it presumptuous to claim God’s promises, if we are not demanding that God knuckle down to our way of seeing things?  Could it be that I need a new level of boldness that takes God more seriously, recognizing in my utter helplessness that I desperately need him to do what he promises?  I need to process this more.  Could this also be the spirit of the Disciple’s Prayer, based on who our Father in heaven is?  And how about the prayer, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus”?  Hmmm.”

2 Responses

  1. Think back. The important answers; the ones you remember; the ones you point to when you try to explain the real presence of God in your life; the defining moments that you cannot relive and you can’t get beyond; “argumentative” prayer describes those for me.

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