Thursday, August 03, 2006

Praying for Irresistible Grace

From John Piper's recent sermon on Desiring God Radio, "That Which Is Born of the Spirit Is Spirit":
I cannot pray for the lost without [the doctrine of irresistible grace]. I have tried time and again to imagine what I would ask God to do for a hardened, resistant neighbor if I did not believe in irresistible grace. Every prayer I come up with sounds like a joke. "God, provide my neighbor with some allurements to faith, but don't make those allurements irresistible." "God, work--work in my neighbor's heart, but don't work so much that he feels an overwhelming urge to believe."

No! I will not pray like that!

On the authority of God's Word, here's what I'm going to say to my neighbor: "God, give him a new heart! Reach in there and take that heart of stone and yank it out! Put a new one back in so that he loves to believe. Ravish him with your glory Put irresistible inducements in front of him. Save him! Don't let him go to hell."


Chris Anderson said...

I listened to that message yesterday, Ben. I thought his pseudo-prayer was silly...a sort of straw man. And I say that as one who is reformed(ish) in his soteriology.

I also didn't think he made a really strong case for regeneration preceding faith. Your thoughts?

BTW, how old is that recording? He sounds than usual.

Ben said...


I was tuning in and out while I was doing some low-brain-intensity work, and didn't catch the regeneration preceding faith part.

Your point about a straw man rested in my mind for a little while too. The alternative prayers do sound ridiculous, but after I pondered the question, it occurred to me that no one ever prays that God would make salvation more attractive. We pray that God would save people!

The very nature of prayer is an implicit acknowledgement of God's sovereignty, is it not? Doesn't praying for someone's salvation trample on libertarian free will?

It seems to me that Piper's "straw man" alternatives are the only prayers that are available to someone who rejects unconditional, irresistible grace and desired to pray in a manner consistent with that conviction. Granted, no one would ever pray that way, but that just means inconsistency abounds (as it does in all of us).

Or perhaps my thinking is fuzzy.

Dave said...

This may be less of a straw man than you think. I haven't listended to this particular sermon, but in "The Pleasures of God" Piper addresses this issue. He refers there to a book by Dick Eastman that argues that we can't ask God to force someone to believe so we should ask for six other things. Eastman says the same thing in another book of his. My reading of Piper and Eastmen leads me to believe that the former is not setting up straw men.

On the regeneration question, Piper presents his view very thoroughly and forcefully in "Desiring God" (the chapter on the Creation of a Christian Hedonist). His problem in his sermons (vs. his writing) is that he just doesn't preach long enough!:)