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  • Grace B-P Contributor

Prayers That Work

By John Piper

Prayer is for granting us the joy of seeing God’s will executed through us as it becomes our will. The only joy in life that lasts is when our desires are drawn from his desires, and those desires are the ones that have the promise made to them: “Ask . . . and it will be done for you.” Here is the way John put it:

“Whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him” (1 John 3:22).

Prayer Is for Spiritual Desires

Prayer is not for gratifying natural desires. Prayer is given as a gift for the joy and the satisfaction of those people whose heart is so in tune with God that they keep his commandments and do what is pleasing to him. If you have no interest in obeying God, in bringing the whole of your life — your attitude from morning to night — into conformity to his values, and in getting your desires from his desires, prayer is not your business. James put it like this:

“You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions” (James 4:3).

And then he calls them adulteresses in the next verse (James 4:4). Do you know why? He’s picturing the church as the wife, God as the husband, and prayer as asking the husband for money to pay the paramour down the hall with whom she sleeps. That’s a pretty ugly view of prayer, isn’t it?

Prayer is to bring our lives into conformity with the desires of our husband, God, not to ask him for the wherewithal to consort with the world. Prayer is not for the satisfying and gratifying of natural desires — until those natural desires come into the service of the hallowing of God’s name, the seeking of God’s kingdom, and the doing of God’s will.

The words of Jesus abiding in us prepare us for fruit-bearing prayer. The words of Jesus abiding in us prepare us for fruit-bearing. If prayer is not for the gratifying of our natural desires, but for fruit-bearing for God then the major challenge before us at the beginning of 1993 in prayer is becoming the kind of people who are not dominated by natural desires. That is the major challenge in prayer: becoming the kind of people who are not dominated by natural desires, but who are dominated by spiritual desires.

This is what Paul calls ceasing to be a natural person and becoming a spiritual person, or growing beyond being carnal people to being spiritual people. Of course, we want to eat. Of course, we’d like to succeed. Of course, we want clothes on our back, and a roof over our head, and education for our children. But if those things are not subordinate in our lives to the big issues that make us tick, then we’re not going to pray with success. We’re not. Prayer is going to be so worldly, so earthly, so unspiritual, God will wonder what it has to do with him.

“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you,” you will become that kind of person: “Ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7).

Article excerpt taken from DesiringGod. Read the full resource here:

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