It is an uncontested given of Christianity that Christians pray, and it is not uncommon to hear a fellow Christian say how they, and by extension we, should be praying more. The exhortation has probably been tossed at us enough that it must often elicit our conditioned affirmative response. “Yes,” we go, “I should pray” or, if we feel lacking, “I should pray more.” Often this is where our minds gravitate towards when we think of prayer. Yet, when we evaluate our prayer lives, it is so much more than just increasing it in frequency and fervor.
In Graeme Goldsworthy’s Prayer and the Knowledge of God, Goldsworthy starts by addressing what prayer is and what it is not in order to “get a handle on prayer by asking why it is there in the first place; what its role is in our fellowship with God; and what is involved in praying as a Christian,” (17). Prayer is a reflection of our deepening relationship with the Father. With so many ways we can deviate from God’s intended purpose for prayer, Goldsworthy spends the majority of the book answering these questions before walking the reader through a biblical-theological reading of Scripture to show how God is fulfilling his promises to his people, what our prayers are founded upon. Goldsworthy’s study is wide-ranging, working through the history of Israel as well as tackling prayer as it concerns the eschatology of Scripture all of which points back to the Creator and how he has, in his infinite wisdom, orchestrated the course of history to His glory and, in His abounding love, has delivered us from ourselves and continues to provide for all our needs.
This book ends up being more than just a scholar’s romp through the Word, but an encouragement to us in praying faithfully as Goldsworthy shows us how our God is a faithful and loving God that has given us his Word so we can know Him, and has given us the gift of prayer to commune with Him no matter what season we find ourselves as we pray for God to fulfill His promises in His time. “We can say that how we know God will greatly affect the way we approach him in prayer,” (18). Where others may insist on understanding prayer through personal and/or comparative experiences, Goldsworthy’s methodology is aligned with what we know to be true, that wisdom comes from the Holy Spirit enlightening our eyes as we read and meditate on Scripture. Because this book is a survey of the Bible in its execution, it lends itself to pointing any industrious student of the Word towards passages in Scripture for further study.
I appreciated the scholarly bent of this book, because I knew the stirrings in my heart were from the Holy Spirit and not just some plucking of my heartstrings that can happen with a well-told story. While some authors stir one’s emotions, Goldsworthy makes no such attempt with dramatic anecdotes. His analogies and snippets from his time are utilized to help us better understand prayer, not to get us to pray. Goldsworthy is focused in his goal. If after reading a chapter you find yourself desiring to go to the Lord in prayer, that’s the Holy Spirit’s work. I found the conclusion of every chapter, where Goldsworthy recaps the main points of it and posits questions that turn our attention to our hearts, to be apt in stirring my heart towards growth and change.
If you are looking to grow in both understanding and action of prayer, Prayer and the Knowledge of God will be of use in your endeavor. We can keep telling each other that we need to pray, pray more, pray ceaselessly, but if we pray for the sake of praying without knowing who it is we pray to we have missed the wonderful truth of prayer. “The teaching that Jesus gave about prayer should always be seen as one aspect of being caught up in the saving work of God. The act of praying, and the content of the prayer, is part of being saved” (29).
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4-7 ESV)