Review: A Call to Spiritual Reformation

A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and His Prayers by D.A. Carson

This is one of the best books on prayer I have ever read. Carson starts with what he sees as “the one thing we most urgently need in Western Christendom: a deeper knowledge of God.” (p. 15) And then focuses his gaze more narrowly: “This is not a book that directly meets the challenge to know God better. Rather it addresses one small but vital part of that challenge. One of the foundational steps in knowing God, and one of the basic demonstrations that we do know God, is prayer – spiritual, persistent, biblically minded prayer.” (16) “Where is our delight in praying? Where is our sense that we are meeting with the living God, that we are doing business with God, that we are interceding with genuine unction before the throne of grace? When was the last time we came away from a period of intercession feeling that, like Jacob or Moses, we had prevailed with God?” (17) His final narrowing of focus comes to this, “on Paul, and especially on Paul’s petitions… We shall constantly try to grasp not only the rudiments of Paul’s prayers but also how Christians can adopt Paul’s theology of prayer in their own attempts to pray.” (18) He then takes the rest of the book and goes through several of Paul’s prayers from 1 & 2 Thessalonians, Romans, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians.

At its core, this book is exegetical. This Carson’s particular expertise, and it is extremely helpful here. These chapters were originally messages that he preached in Wales in 1990, and they are thoroughly biblical. Each chapter begins with scripture, and then expounded at length. When a passage touches on larger theological issues (the sovereignty of God for example), Carson explains them, especially as they relate to prayer. Throughout, he is extremely practical in application to our praying, and often painfully piercing as he puts our typical ways of thinking under the ray of biblical light.

This is very different than E. M. Bounds on Prayer. Where Bounds offers short pointed bursts of insight, Carson offers extended exposition of Biblical text. Where Bounds often uses Scripture to punctuate his point, Carson develops everything he says directly from the text he is using. Carson is somewhat akin to Pink’s A Guide to Fervent Prayer, but where Pink is, well, Pink in his extended expositions, Carson is thoroughly exegetical.

This stands as one of the best books on prayer I have ever read. I commend it for developing a more biblically structured framework for your praying. I’ve heard also, that for the granddaddy of them all on prayer, see Carson’s Teach Us to Pray: Prayer in the Bible and the World.


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