Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Gleanings from the Pastor's Perspective: Praying in Celebration of God’s Decree

The Pastor’s Perspective
Vol. 30 Num. 14
“Praying in Celebration of God’s Decree”
First Published: April 17, 1997

Three weeks ago we began a study of seven special qualities of Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 1:3-14. We proposed there that if we are to become mighty in prayer, then God must be at the center of our prayers. And that, God will not be at the center of our prayers if they lack adoration and thanksgiving. Rehearsing these seven characteristics found in Ephesians 1 supplies us with rich biblical content and thankful thought with which we may supplement and improve our own praise of God in prayer.

Today, I want to draw your attention to the second of those seven qualities: Paul’s emphasis on God’s sovereignty. We might put it this way - Paul’s prayer is decretal (that is, it celebrates the eternal, sovereign decree of Almighty God). Sometimes we are reticent to stress this aspect of our doctrine of God in public prayer, for fear we might offend those who do not embrace a Reformed view of God’s heavenly rule. More often, however, we simply overlook the enormous potential of this truth as a matter for Christian comfort and adoration. Not so for Paul.
We see that in Ephesians 1, God’s Sovereignty is unashamedly and emphatically asserted and rejoiced in by the Apostle Paul. This aspect of the prayer is seen in three ways. First, Paul openly praises God for His work of predestination. Notice verses 4, 5, and 9, where it is stressed that God “chose” (4), “predestined” (5), and “purposed” (9) our salvation. For Paul, predestination is not a matter simply to be argued about, but one which moves us to adore God.
Second, the accent on God’s sovereignty is seen in Paul’s stress on the central role of the will of God in our redemption. Whereas some only want to think of “our choice” in salvation, Paul wholly concentrates on God’s choice - speaking of God’s “will” in verses 5, 9, and 11, and mentioning God’s “kind intention” (9) and “purpose” (11) elsewhere.
Third and finally, God’s sovereignty is stressed in Paul’s description of the comprehensiveness of God’s will. It is not that God is sovereign over some things or even most things, but rather (says Paul) God “works all things after the counsel of his will” (11). Such a view of the sovereign and gracious God stirs Paul to praise, and so it should us.
Do our prayers reflect much adoration of God’s eternal predestination? Do we strive to be consciously aware of God’s sovereignty in the plan of salvation? Do we ever concentrate on that work as a subject for adoration in our prayers? If not, let us use Paul’s prayer as a model to enrich our expression of thankfulness to the sovereign God who loves and saves us.

Your friend,

Ligon Duncan

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