- How has your prayer life grown since writing/editing this book and fleshing out all of the doctrines taught by these reformers and puritans?
Before answering your question, allow me to first express my heart-felt gratitude for this privilege of being interviewed by you. By God’s grace, since I started this project, I have noticed a growth in my prayer life. However, I realize that the more I study the subject of prayer, the more I see my own prayerlessness. And the more I see my prayerlessness, the more I realize my great need of the Holy Spirit in prayer.
Indeed, my study of the subject has made me more aware of two basic truths: first, because of my indwelling sin, my soul acts unfriendly toward prayer; and second, because of my indwelling sin, I need the Holy Spirit’s assistance. For me to be able to pray, therefore, I have to constantly remind my soul that prayer is not a foe but a friend. Prayer is such a difficult work that it requires strong discipline. Martin Luther (1483-1546) is not exaggerating when he declares, prayer is “the hardest work of all” (p. 9). I am not embarrassed to admit that sometimes I find it more enjoyable to play basketball than to pray to God. Sometimes prayer becomes boring to me. Writing in his treatise I Will Pray with the Spirit (1662), John Bunyan (1628-1688) understands what I mean here when he says:
May I but speak my own experience, and from that tell you the difficulty of praying to God as I ought; it is enough to make you poor, blind, carnal men, to entertain strange thoughts of me. For, as for my heart, when I go to pray, I find it so loath to go to God, and when it is with him, so loath to stay with him, that many times I am forced in my prayers; first to beg of God that he would take mine heart, and set it on himself in Christ, and when it is there, that he would keep it there (Psalm 86:11). Nay, many times I know not what to pray for, I am so blind, nor how to pray, I am so ignorant; only (blessed be grace) the Spirit helps our infirmities [Rom. 8:26] (cited in p. 116).
Dr. Michael A. G. Haykin, commenting on this quote, notes, “From personal experience, Bunyan well knew the allergic reaction of the old nature to the presence of God. So were it not for the Spirit, none would be able to persevere in prayer” (p. 117). Since my indwelling sin makes me unfriendly and even ignorant towards the necessity of prayer, I need the assistance of the Spirit. Why? Because in the words of Bunyan, a “man without the help of the Spirit cannot so much as pray once; much less, continue…in a sweet praying frame” (cited in p. 118). O my blessed Holy Spirit give me more grace to pray!
This interview is by Chadd M. Sheffield, a student at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky. To continue reading the interview, click here.