A Biblical-Theological Perspective on Prayer -- By: Graeme Goldsworthy

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 10:4 (Winter 2006)
Article: A Biblical-Theological Perspective on Prayer
Author: Graeme Goldsworthy

A Biblical-Theological Perspective on Prayer1

Graeme Goldsworthy

Graeme Goldsworthy is a minister of the Anglican Church of Australia and has served in churches in Sydney and Brisbane. He is a graduate of the Universities of Sydney, London, and Cambridge, and earned his Ph.D. at Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, Virginia. He lectured at Moore Theological College, Sydney, in Old Testament, Biblical Theology, and Hermeneutics. Now retired, Dr. Goldsworthy continues as a visiting lecturer at Moore College to teach a fourth-year B.D. course in Evangelical Hermeneutics. He is the author of several books, including Preaching the Whole Bible As Christian Scripture (Eerdmans, 2000), According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible (InterVarsity, 2002), and Prayer And The Knowledge Of God: What The Whole Bible Teaches (InterVarsity, 2003).


I do not much like the word spirituality for two related reasons. First, it is not a biblical term which, of course, is not in itself a fatal objection. We have many theological words (e.g., trinity) that are not found in the Bible but which nevertheless stand us in good stead. But a word like trinity is ancient and has been honed by theological debate and given a shape agreed upon by church councils. Spirituality, at least in its modern usage, is a word of doubtful parentage, and there is no agreed orthodox meaning.

Second, the word spirituality has been hijacked by all and sundry.2 It means anything people want it to mean, and its usage is so diffuse and diverse as to render it practically meaningless until pinned down by some clear definition—which it seldom is. It does seem that the further people get from the biblical revelation and the doctrines of the gospel, the more likely they are to use the term spirituality to refer to some vague religious or mystical feeling. Often it seems to mean nothing more than a sense of the aesthetic, a feeling of belonging within nature, or an intensified sense of self-worth. It is a rejection of the hard-nosed scientism of the twentieth century that cannot admit to the inexplicable. Rather than add one more definition to the many that exist, either explicitly or implicitly, I prefer not to use the word and look for some more biblical way to speak of the realities of the spiritual life particularly as they relate to prayer. By the spiritual life, of course, I mean the Christian life as defined by the New Testament.

Prayer lies at the heart of what a lot of people refer to as spirituality. It is as diffuse as the term itself in that it belongs to every...

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