Why We Pray

Understanding Prayer in the Context of Cosmic Conflict

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Pub Date Jul 23 2024 | Archive Date Aug 06 2024

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If God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and entirely good, why do we need to ask God to do good things? Won't God act for the best regardless? Do our prayers even make a difference? Why do some go unanswered? This brief, accessible book provides a fresh angle on our questions to help us think differently about why we pray and what happens when we pray.

John Peckham applies the insights from his successful book Theodicy of Love to the perennial problem of petitionary prayer, offering practical implications for how we might pray and live in ways that advance God's kingdom of unselfish love. Since our understanding of petitionary prayer is inseparable from our understanding of God, Peckham sheds significant light on the nature and character of God and the often-mysterious workings of divine providence. He does so by bringing theological and philosophical nuance to readings of key biblical texts on prayer, weaving in other scriptural clues to articulate an understanding of prayer that highlights not only its necessity but also its urgency. This book will appeal to students, pastors, church leaders, and thoughtful laypeople.

If God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and entirely good, why do we need to ask God to do good things? Won't God act for the best regardless? Do our prayers even make a difference? Why do some go...

Advance Praise

“John Peckham provides a deeply moving and profoundly theological case for prayer to a consistently good and trustworthy God. He makes sense of the conundrum of unanswered prayer, describing the parameters that impact the hearing and answering of our prayers. Peckham’s clear case for a God who is not distant or immovable but affected by our words and actions demonstrates that humans are genuine partners with God in accomplishing his will. Every Christian, indeed everyone contemplating a conversation with God, will be enlightened by this important work.”—Ingrid Faro, professor of Old Testament, Northern Seminary

“In this outstanding discussion of petitionary prayer, John Peckham reassures us that prayer really does make a difference. Peckham shows how cosmic conflict is central to a biblical theology of prayer. God has created a world in which we are invited to strive, with him, against the powers of darkness. Tough questions about unanswered prayer are not ignored, even as the overall picture of God that emerges is reassuring. Readers will learn much from Peckham’s rich theological treatment of prayer. And more than that, they will be inspired to pray!”—Kevin Kinghorn, professor of philosophy and religion, Asbury Theological Seminary

“The disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, and he did. Even more now than then, the world needs prayer, and John Peckham has not only cogently offered us the biblical antecedents and exemplars for this primal human speech but also thoughtfully argued the theological and philosophical bases for prayer. From discussing simple prayers on our own behalf to prayers for catastrophic events to what might be termed ‘warfare prayer’ on a cosmic spiritual level, Peckham runs the gamut of possible philosophical arguments for and against the necessity of prayer—especially why a good, omniscient, and all-powerful God needs our prayers to act in any dimension at all.”—Esther E. Acolatse, professor of pastoral theology and World Christianity, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary

“Lucidly written and normed by Scripture, this book explains why we pray if God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving. Why We Pray addresses Western concerns about how prayer can influence such a God as well as what to do with unanswered prayers and the problem of divine hiddenness. I found myself both challenged and encouraged by Peckham’s stimulating engagement with prayer. Most of all, I found myself wanting to pray more, which is a testament to the theological task and to this work specifically.”—Christa L. McKirland, lecturer in theology, Carey Baptist College; executive director, Logia International

“It is not every book of serious theology that leaves one eager to pray, but this one does—not by admonition but by fundamentally shifting our view of God and how he works in the world. It eases long-lasting puzzles (and the perplexity they cause) by putting more pieces of the providential jigsaw on the table. It even defuses the disturbing implications of the doctrine of predestination along the way. The only disappointment of this book is that it doesn’t come with a free pair of kneepads!”—Michael Lloyd, principal, Wycliffe Hall Oxford

“In Why We Pray John Peckham tackles a series of fundamental questions that I and many others have about the nature of prayer and our disappointments with it. He approaches these puzzles with a pastoral sensitivity that is both theologically astute and scripturally infused. In this book you will not find easy answers, trite sayings, or pointless advice. Instead, expect a thoughtful, mature Christian wrestling with profound mysteries and discovering more and more reasons to pray.”—David B. Capes, director, Lanier Theological Library

“John Peckham provides a deeply moving and profoundly theological case for prayer to a consistently good and trustworthy God. He makes sense of the conundrum of unanswered prayer, describing the...

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Featured Reviews

I'm reading Why We Pray a second time because this isn't the kind of book one reads once. Dr. John C. Peckham has already written several helpful books on theodicy; he now takes his interpretive tools to the task of giving us a theology of prayer. Beginning with identifying common objections to prayer, Dr. Peckham then addresses them in the light of how God's covenantal love functions within the war of good and evil. He shows how even God submits to the rules of engagement of the cosmic conflict, and how this sometimes makes Him appear indifferent to our woes.

Toward the end of the book, Dr. Peckham's pen takes on a pastoral feel. All the elegant logic he has laid down in previous chapters builds his appeal to keep trusting God even when loss and grief challenge that trust. Speaking personally, this book fortified my faith, comforted my heart, and left me wanting more from the author.

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The author of "Theodicy of Love" explores the problem of petitionary prayer in "Why We Pray: Understanding Prayer in the Context of Cosmic Conflict," a relatively quick read that somehow still also takes a deep dive into questions many questions have asked and others have thought but been afraid to ask.

If God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and entirely good, why do we need to ask God to do good things? Why do some prayers go unanswered? Do our prayers really make a difference?

In short, John C. Peckham looks at why we pray and what happens when we pray. Despite "Why We Pray" being a relatively short and quick read, it's not filled with easy answers or the usual formulaic responses to these questions. Instead, we get a thoughtful, well-informed, and theologically grounded discussion about these questions that mystify. Did I necessarily agree with all of Peckham's conclusions? Nope, but I deeply appreciated his discussions, observations, and invitations to wrestle with prayer and more reasons to commit myself to it.

So many books that try to approach this topic take a lighter, more inspirational route. Peckham does a Scriptural deep dive that I believe will resonate with Christians across the theological spectrum. "Why We Pray" is both deeply felt and theologically satisfying. Peckham directly addresses the issue of unanswered prayers, not the Garth Brooks type, and paints a wonderful portrait of a God who is impacted by our words and actions and in relationship with us.

In short, Peckham strongly creates an argument that prayer really does make a difference and discusses how cosmic conflict is actually essential. I was struck by just how much I felt I had learned, or been challenged to learn by "Why We Pray" and also how inspired to learn and pray I became by the end.

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"Why We Pray" is a compelling and insightful work that reimagines the practice of prayer through a relational and love-saturated theological lens. John C. Peckham masterfully articulates how prayer functions within the context of a relational God who is deeply engaged with creation. He delves into the intricacies of petitionary prayer, addressing common doubts and reaffirming its significance in the cosmic conflict. The book skillfully incorporates the theme of cosmic powers, exploring how prayer interacts with spiritual forces and influences divine action in the ongoing struggle between good and evil. By emphasizing God's dynamic responsiveness, the book bridges traditional and contemporary theological thought, making it both profound and accessible. Peckham's integration of biblical narratives and theological principles provides a robust framework for understanding prayer as a transformative and relational practice. His exploration of divine love, human freedom, and the impact of prayer on both God and the world is particularly illuminating. This book is highly recommended for theologians, clergy, and laypersons seeking a deeper, more nuanced understanding of prayer.

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Pray is a very ordinary spiritual discipline in the life of Jesus's disciples like me and you. But sometimes, we could get unmotivated to pray from time to time. We think that God don't answer our prayer so why should we pray anymore. Surely, Peckham will bring us to understand prayer in new context of cosmic conflict, and by this perspective, will encourage us to pray more for the growing of God's kingdom in the world.

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