Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
School of Communication and Arts
Education and Arts
Professor Peter R Bedford
The New Testament contains both promises to petitionary prayer (Matt 7:7–11 par. Luke 11:9–11; Mark 9:29; 11:23–24 par. Matt 21:21–22; John 14:13, 14; 15:7, 16; 16:23–24, 26; Jas 1:5–8; 4:1–3; 5:13–18) and restrictions upon it (e.g., Mark 14:36 par. Matt. 26:39, 42; Luke 22:42; John 12:27–28; Rom 8:26–27; 2 Cor 12:7–10); the Lord's Prayer (Matt 6:9–13 par. Luke 11:2b–4) demonstrates both aspects. The promises to petition embrace all of life's needs, including relief from present or anticipated suffering. The non-answer of such petitions (e.g., Jesus' prayer at Gethsemane) is attributed by many scholars to the behaviour or faith of the petitioner or to the "will of God," which overrides the present needs of the petitioner. Such solutions tend to be grounded in a prior theological framework rather than in the exegesis of the text. Furthermore, these solutions fail to account for the presence of apparently contradictory instructions or examples of prayer within the same text or in the name of the same author or speaker. In Matthew's Gospel, for example, Jesus exhorts the disciples to "ask, and it shall be given you" (7:7) and yet restricts his own prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane (26:39, 42). The exegesis of representative New Testament texts that promise and/or restrict petitionary prayer within their literary, historical, and theological contexts reveals the following constellation of recurring factors for virtually all texts: the generosity of God, who provides more than is requested of him in the fulfilment of his salvation purposes; the co-existence of promises to and restrictions upon petitionary prayer within the "already–not yet" eschatological tension; the mediation of Christ as guarantor, ground, teacher, example, co-object and co-petitioner; the comforting, empowering, and advocating intercession of the Spirit; and, the conditions of open-hearted and dependent faith and a community marked by forgiveness of others. The main findings of the study are that: (1) the prayer promises and limitations in the New Testament are not opposed in a final or deterministic sense but, because of the above factors, work together in the unfolding of God's salvation plan; and, (2) the prayer promises of the New Testament are so frequent and so bold that they must be thoroughly integrated into any depiction of New Testament petitionary prayer and not relegated into second place.
West, Donald S., "Promises to and limitations upon petitionary prayer in the New Testament: a study of their relationship" (2009). Theses: Doctorates and Masters. Paper 124.