Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Using Arguments in Prayer

“God loves to be overcome with strength of argument. 
Thus, when we come to God in prayer for grace,
let us be argumentative.”
-Thomas Watson (1620-1686)

Prayer, as it is modeled in the Bible, includes arguments which give force to its requests. We should be argumentative with God, not by being quarrelsome, but by earnestly presenting our case before God, appealing to his character and promises. God calls us not only to list our requests, but also to give him reasons to grant our requests.

For example, when Jacob prayed to be delivered from his brother Esau in Genesis 32:9-12, he gave several arguments to support his request. First, he appealed to God proven faithfulness to his father and grandfather. Second, he appealed to God's word to him, how God had told him to return to his kindred that he might do him good (not harm). Third, he appealed to God's grace, noting that God had shown him undeserved steadfast love and blessing up to this point. Fourth, he appealed to God's promise to do him good and to multiply his offspring, which would not happen if he and his family were killed by Esau. Interestingly, this wrestling with God in prayer was followed by a literal wrestling match where Jacob refused to let go until he received a blessing (Gen. 32:22-32). In the end, God granted his request and gave him favor and peace with his brother.

This pattern can be seen in many of the prayers recorded in the Bible, as well as in many of the Psalms. In fact, a useful exercise in studying the Psalms of supplication is to follow the song's argument - what is being asked for and how does the singer seek to move God to act? For example, in Psalm 6, the singer asks that God would spare him and deliver his life, appealing first to God's compassion by presenting his own languishing condition, troubled and weak with grief (6:2-3, 6-7), second to God's steadfast love (6:4), and third to God's zeal for his glory by noting that God will be remembered and praised by those whom he saves (6:5).

Sometimes our case for our requests may be very strong, based on clear and specific promises of God. Other times our case is weak. We should realize that God might have better arguments, better reasons for not granting our requests. This was the case when Paul asked for the removal of his "thorn in the flesh," likely some type of physical weakness. Though Paul pleaded for its removal three times, God had good arguments for not removing it: it taught Paul humility, contentment, and a reliance on the grace and power of God (2 Cor. 12:7-10).

But even though we should be humble before God and submissive to his will, we should nevertheless present our best case for our requests. If we have no arguments, then why are we making the request? If God has no reason to grant it, then why make it? Giving arguments draws out your desires and fleshes out your requests. It also gives you a practical knowledge of God's attributes and promises. As you appeal to them, you apply them to your own situation and better see how they are relevant to you. This also helps you to see God's attributes and promises at work when your requests are fulfilled.

No comments: