Prayer and the Power of Contrary Choice: Who Can and Cannot Pray for God to Save the Lost? -- By: C. Samuel Storms

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 12:2 (Spring 2003)
Article: Prayer and the Power of Contrary Choice: Who Can and Cannot Pray for God to Save the Lost?
Author: C. Samuel Storms


Prayer and the Power of Contrary Choice: Who Can and Cannot Pray for God to Save the Lost?

C. Samuel Storms

I want to introduce this article by taking us back some forty-two years to the initial publication of what soon became an evangelical classic: J. I. Packer’s Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God (InterVarsity Press, 1961). The book was an expansion of the address Packer delivered to The London Inter-Faculty Christian Union (LIFCU) on October 24, 1959, at Westminster Chapel.1 What makes Packer’s book so instructive for us today is the utter incredulity on his part, in 1961, regarding a theological perspective that today, in 2003, is widespread and pervasive in its influence.

Packer begins his defense of divine sovereignty in salvation by appealing to what he believes is, or at least should be, an evangelical consensus on the practice of prayer. He appears to assume that no one who embraces a high view of Scripture could possibly think otherwise. It is more than simply that we pray, but also how and what we specifically ask God to do that Packer believes supports his understanding of the activity of God in saving a human soul. Here is what he says:

You pray for the conversion of others. In what terms, now, do you intercede for them? Do you limit yourself to asking that God will bring them to a point where they can save themselves, independently of Him? I do not think you do. I think that what

you do is to pray in categorical terms that God will, quite simply and decisively, save them: that He will open the eyes of their understanding, soften their hard hearts, renew their natures, and move their wills to receive the Saviour. You ask God to work in them everything necessary for their salvation. You would not dream of making it a point in your prayer that you are not asking God actually to bring them to faith, because you recognize that that is something He cannot do. Nothing of the sort! When you pray for unconverted people, you do so on the assumption that it is in God’s power to bring them to faith. You entreat Him to do that very thing, and your confidence in asking rests upon the certainty that He is able to do what you ask. And so indeed He is: this conviction, which animates your intercessions, is God’s own truth, written on your heart by the Holy Spirit. In prayer, then (and the Christian is at his sanest and wisest when he prays), you know that it is God who saves men; you know that what makes men turn to God is God’s own gracious work of drawing them to Himself; and the content of your prayers is determined by this knowledge. Thus by your practice of intercession, no less than by givi...

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