[This is a post in our ongoing series looking at the themes raised by David Crump in his book Knocking on Heaven’s Door: A New Testament Theology of Petitionary Prayer. We began this series here.]
The primary reason I have found myself coming back to this book is because it makes me want to pray more. It does so not through anecdotes of great practitioners of prayer (apart from Jesus and Paul) which often leave me overwhelmed and under-equipped, but rather through a careful unfolding of the biblical teaching about prayer.
Crump unfolds this biblical teaching with a detailed attention to what the text means and not to what we might want it to mean. In the process, he elevates the reader’s appreciation for the authority and sufficiency of the Bible. That is a gift.
As well, I appreciate the satisfying blend of scholarly rigor and pastoral sensitivity. I don’t know David Crump – though I think I wish I did – but he has clearly spent time out of his books and in the lives of Christian people stumbling like the rest of us through life ‘with wandering steps and slow’.
Further, Crump weaves into his presentation a knowledge of the fundamentalist/evangelical tradition’s misrepresentation of some aspects of prayer. But he does so with gentleness and respect. He is critical, but not with meanness or mockery. That is a gift. Where possible, he illustrates these aspects and his own wrestling with them with illustrations from his own life, but never to distraction.
But all of this he presents with a style that is accessible and often evocative. In these later chapters, for example, I am captured by some of his phrases.
“[Mark 14’s account of Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane] confronts its reader with [a dense] constellation of Christological conundrums….” (255)
“Even the best of intentions frequently run aground on the shoals of execution. Commitment fades. Resolve melts away, leaving only the frail skeleton of human vacillation.” (260)
“[God] remains unmoved by selfishness, no matter how emphatically it is launched heavenward.” (276)
Never is his writing unnervingly flowery or trite. It is evocative and thoughtful, and a pleasure to read. (And he does it all without once quoting C. S. Lewis. He may the only contemporary evangelical author able to pull that off.)