Prayer and the Gospel
Our understanding of the gospel affects how we pray. This is why when we see prayer represented in our culture, such as in movies, we see something like a child asking for a pony from Santa. (Of course, the hucksters on “Christian” TV don’t help with their name-it-claim-it nonsense.)—They don’t understand the gospel so they don’t understand prayer.
Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church (PCA) in New York city, takes up this topic at the church’s Web site. Here’s how the article begins:
One of the most basic things that the gospel does is change prayer from mere petition to fellowship and the praise of his glory. Galatians 4:6-7 teaches us that when we believe the gospel, we not only become God's children legally, but we receive the Spirit in order to experience our sonship. The Spirit leads us to call out passionately to God as our tender and loving Father. The Spirit calls out 'Abba' (4:7). In the very next verse Paul refers to this experience as "knowing God" (4:8). We do not just know and believe that God is holy and loving, but we actually experience contact with his holiness and his love in personal communion with him.
No one had a deeper insight into the gospel and prayer than Jonathan Edwards. Edwards concluded the most essential difference between a Christian and a moralist is that a Christian obeys God out of the sheer delight in who he is. The gospel means that we are not obeying God to get anything but to give him pleasure because we see his worth and beauty. Therefore, the Christian is able to draw power out of contemplation of God. Without the gospel, this is impossible. We can only come and ask for things- petition. Without the gospel, we may conceive of a holy God who is intimidating and who can be approached with petitions if we are very good. Or we may conceive of a God who is mainly loving and regards all positively. To approach the first "God" is fearsome; to approach the second is no big deal. Thus without the gospel, there is no possibility of passion and delight to praise and approach God.
You can read the entire article here.