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The IVP New Testament Commentary Series – Closing Exhortations (5:13-21)
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Closing Exhortations (5:13-21)

Few questions vex faithful believers as much as that of petitionary prayer, especially in view of the extravagant promises in the New Testament that those who ask, receive—whatever they may ask. These promises are always understood to be qualified—one must ask with faith, or one must ask with the qualifier "nevertheless, thy will be done," as Jesus did in his prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. As C. S. Lewis comments, "[This reservation] makes an enormous difference. But the difference which it precisely does not make is that of removing the prayer's petitionary character" (1963:36). And yet the qualifier "not what I want, but what you want" (Mk 14:36 NRSV) is crucial, for it shows us that authentic prayer is the submission of the person to God. As one commentator perceptively notes, "Prayer is not a battle, but a response; its power consists in lifting our wills to God, not in trying to bring his will down to us" (Smalley 1984:295).

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