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Calling on the Name of the Lord: A Biblical Theology of Prayer (New studies in Biblical Theology, No. 38) Paperback – April 18, 2016
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About the Author
J. Gary Millar is principal of Queensland Theological College, Australia. Previously he served as a minister in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. He is the author of Now Choose Life, coauthor of Saving Eutychus and a contributor to His Mission: Jesus in the Gospel of Luke.
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Consider Millar’s thesis:
"Prayer in the Bible is intimately linked with the gospel — God’s promised and provided solution to the problem of human rebellion against him and its consequences. The gospel shape of prayer is evident from the opening pages of the Bible —and in particular from the first mention of prayer in Genesis 4:26, when people first begin to ‘call on the name of Yahweh’—right through to the end, when the church prays, ‘Come, Lord Jesus!’ (Revelation 22:20).” (17)
This thesis is greatly shaped by a powerful quote from Calvin’s Institutes that Millar refers to several times:
“Just as faith is born from the gospel, so through it our hearts are trained to call upon God’s name [Romans 10:14-17]. And this is precisely what [the apostle] had said a little before: the Spirit of adoption, who seals the witness of the gospel in our hearts [Romans 8:16] raises up our spirits to dare to show forth to God their desires, to stir up unspeakable groanings [Romans 8:26], and confidently cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ [Romans 8:15].”
(Calvin 1960, 2: 850-851)
The book walks through each major section of Scripture (the Pentateuch, the Former Prophets, the Latter Prophets, the Writings, the Psalms, the Gospels, the book of Acts, Paul’s letters, and the latter New Testament) to show the broad sweep of how prayer is talked about and done.
One of Millar’s main findings is that prayer responds to God’s promises. These promises look different at different points of salvation history. Early on, prayer responds to promises God made to Adam and Eve or responds to the Abrahamic Covenant, and pleads for God to keep his promises. As God’s self-revelation to humanity increases through the Scriptures and in relationship with Israel, covenant/promise-driven prayers are shaped by more revelation given. Since all of God’s promises are ‘Yes!’ and ‘Amen!’ in Jesus Christ, all true prayer is done in Jesus’ name and according to God’s purposes in history.
My experience and recommendation
This volume in The New Studies in Biblical Theology series is scholarly, but fairly accessible. Working through some chapters was slow going (particularly through portions of the Bible I have a hard time with). The book also was repetitive; but something to be expected in a tome seeking to prove a simple thesis through the whole Bible text.
Calling on the Name of the Lord has changed the way I look at prayer, but not in the way I expected. I expected to have some practical suggestions and insights from an assortment of biblical texts, but I found myself captivated by the big-picture simplicity of prayer. Pondering the prayers of Genesis 4:26 that were pre-flood, pre-Abraham, pre-Moses, pre-Bible, pre-automobile, pre-iPhone made me remember that we can still call on the name of the Lord and ask Him to fulfill His promises to us. And we enjoy so much more divine revelation available to us proving God’s love for us in Christ.
This book left me more motivated to anchor my prayers to God’s saving actions in Christ, pour out my heart before Him (Psalm 62:8), and cast all my anxieties on the One who cares for me (1 Peter 5:7).
I recommend this book for pastors and scholars looking to frame their understanding of prayer in God’s saving purposes.
It was very organized and informative in it's discussion of what 'calling on the name of the Lord' means. When I finished reading the Old Testament section I was for the most part quite pleased with the facts and information the book discussed.
The phrase 'calling on the name of the Lord' (or its equivalent 'call on Your name', 'called on this name', etc.) appears in about 10 passages in the New Testament. These include Acts 2:21; 7:59; 9:14; 21; 22:16; Romans 10:12-14; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 2 Timothy 2:22; (James 5:14). What I found surprising is that 1 Corinthians 1:2 was not discussed at all. This is a clear passage where 'calling upon the name of the Lord (YHWH)' is used in direct reference to the Lord Jesus in affirming His Supreme Deity - the same holds true concerning Acts 22:16 and 2 Timothy 2:22. As with 1 Corinthians 1:2 neither of these two passages were discussed at all.