Review: Prayer of Petition

prayerofpetitionAuthor: Jerry Savelle
Publisher: Gospel Light Publications, 2011
Rating: 1/5 stars
Amazon Price: $6.47 – $14.92

I’m going to be blunt. This is a horrible book. The way Savelle goes about prayer in this book is this: manipulating God in order to get what you want. It appears that way to me because in each type of prayer petition he would encourage to use Scripture as evidence before God as to why He will and should answer your prayer. It’s good to hold on to Scripture for encouragement, but not as evidence to use against God to say, “This is why You should answer my prayer” or, “This is why I expect You to answer with a yes.” Throughout the book, he gives different types of petitions to make. He compares the act of prayer to a courtroom in which God is the judge. As the judge, He argues we must approach Him as if we’re in a courtroom and give Scriptural evidence as to why we expect Him to answer our prayer depending on the type he gives with examples. In essence, I feel he’s saying we must approach God this way in prayer: “Hey God, You said this; therefore, do it for me.” For example, using Savelle’s method I could pray, “Father, I need more money. I need it for bills and I need it for comfortable living. According to Your Word in Psalm 1, You have promised prosperity. So I ask that You bless me with money so I may live prosperously.” That might sound like a good prayer, and the intentions might be good, but I would be misunderstanding the application of the psalm. The psalmist is not calling to mind material prosperity, but spiritual prosperity.

This method is prone to a lot of human error. It is also saying you want it to be done your way and not His—by your will rather than His will. Savelle does mention to pray according to God’s will, yet he nonetheless gives guidelines to prayer to make an argument before God why your will should be done rather than His will. I give this book 1 over 5 stars for several reasons. (I only gave it one star because the only sense in which he is right is that we rely on God to help us.) The first is that he views God as Judge rather than Father. He is viewing prayer from a law-based religion, not authentic Christianity. When a Christian comes before God in prayer, He is not there as judge but as our Father. When we pray, God is not sitting behind a desk with a giant gavel ready to pronounce His judgement upon us. Rather, God invites us to prayer for comfort and aid. Jesus encapsulates this when He says, “Come to Me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). Jesus is our Mediator in Heaven, and He is our only Mediator (1 Timothy 2:5). God’s will is always done, which also means He will do what’s best for us. Even when we do not agree, His will is always best for us. When we’re kids and ask our parents for candy at the grocery store and they say no, they know it’s because that’s what’s best for us. Likewise, when God answers prayer with a “no” or a “not yet,” it’s because He knows what’s best for us. Then, like the little children we are, we throw a temper tantrum and complain that God didn’t give us what we want and do things our way.

Prayer is not a method in which we get to make an argument before God and demand things from Him; prayer is the instrument in which we can come before God for comfort, rest, aid, and assurance on the basis of Christ our Mediator. We’re not in the position to demand anything from God! The God Savelle is describing is not the God of the Gospel I know; it is a god of Law looking down upon you and daring you to persuade him. God cannot be persuaded by our diminutive reasoning. He is our Father who deeply loves us, comforts us, and works His will in our lives as He intends. We can, of course, ask certain things from God. We can certainly ask Him for healing, comfort in the midst of finals, and even money when we’re struggling financially.

The problem with Savelle’s book is not what we are asking God, but the way in which we approach Him. When we’re asking God for healing or financial help, is it better to approach Him as Judge or Father? In the Parable of the Ten Minas (Luke 19:11-27), Jesus tells the parable of three servants who were to use the resources given to them to advance the nobleman’s kingdom (Jesus is the nobleman, we are the servants). The two servants use the resources they had to advance his kingdom, and the third servant who did nothing because he didn’t want to take any risks said, “I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man” (v. 21). The nobleman responds, “I will condemn you with your own words, you wicked servant! You knew that I was a severe man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? …But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me” (vv. 22, 27). A rather dark end to the parable, but it captures the kingship of Christ (kings, after all, sentence their enemies to death). We are judged by the God we expect—either gracious or harsh (v. 22). He’s essentially saying, “That’s who you think I am? You think I am severe, so then I will be severe toward you since that’s how you expect Me to be. Your own words condemn you.” The third servant approached the nobleman as if he was a harsh man. Since that’s what the man expected, the nobleman dealt with him that way.

This parable is in the context of the Parable of the Pharisee and Tax Collector in order to understand it further (Luke 18:9-14). In it, the pompous Pharisee comes to God expecting to be heard graciously, he looks for a God like himself, well-pleased with his accomplishments, operating on a “reap what you sow” basis. In his self-righteousness, he treats others in contempt. The tax collector, on the other hand, wants a God opposite of himself—a Saviour of the unrighteous, not a destroyer like the Pharisee. In this parable the self-righteous Pharisee is condemned by the harsh God he expected and the humble tax collector is justified by the gracious God he expected. God is found by the humble, not the proud.

So how do we approach God in prayer? Do we approach God, as Savelle says, like He’s a harsh judge and wants us to make a rational cause before Him? Or do we approach Him as our gracious Father, who is eager to hear our cries and rely on Him for mercy and grace? This is, of course, a rhetorical question because the obvious answer is the latter. God is not a judge to His people; He is our Father who hears us on account of Christ and works His will in our lives for our own benefit, even when it’s not what we want. After all, what we want is not always what’s best for us. What we may be asking might seem enticing, but in reality is covered with the sweet fragrance of sin. Sin, after all, is chocolate covered dog poop.

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