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Why We Pray

Understanding Prayer in the Context of Cosmic Conflict

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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.

1. Does Petitionary Prayer Make a Difference? Two Problems of Petitionary Prayer
2. If My People Pray: The Covenantal God of Scripture to Whom We Pray
3. Your Kingdom Come, Your Will Be Done: The Lord's Prayer in the Midst of Cosmic Conflict
4. Wrestling with God and Angels: Rules of Engagement and the Problem of Petitionary Prayer
5. Our Struggle Is Not against Flesh and Blood: The Problem of Seemingly Unanswered Prayer
6. Praying When God Seems Hidden: Fervent Prayer and Lament as We Await God's Final Answer


"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

The Author

  1. John C. Peckham
    © Darren Hislop

    John C. Peckham

    John C. Peckham (PhD, Andrews University) is research professor of theology and Christian philosophy at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan. His numerous books include Divine Attributes: Knowing the Covenantal God of Scripture, Theodicy...

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