The Seeker's Prayer - by Dr. John GerstnerArticles on Puritan Evangelism, Preaching and the Christian Witness
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In volume 3 of The Rational Biblical Theology of Jonathan Edwards John Gerstner, an Edwardian scholar, sets forth Edwards’ doctrine of “seeking.” It is a very helpful section in understanding Jonathan Edwards’ puritan roots in evangelism. Gerstner surveys the doctrine of “seeking” systematically through Edwards’ writings and sermons, even his unpublished sermons that are still not available to the public. In the midst of such a survey, Gerstner created a hypothetical letter for an unregenerate seeker to pray based upon what Edwards was thinking as a result of this compilation of information. The following is that letter.
Just in case you are unclear on this, the letter below is an attempt to set forth what Jonathan Edwards would have counseled a seeker to actually pray based on his own ideas, though we do not have anything in his writings practically as such. As you will notice, this prayer would be considered as anti-evangelistic in contemporary circles – the church today repudiates such thoughts and would be abhorred to see it in print in any form. They would never counsel someone to pray a prayer as this. But in light of the survey of puritan teaching, up and through Edwards, this is surely what the puritans did say, did counsel and did preach from their pulpits. The doctrine of seeking is essentially gone from 21st century Christendom, but it needs to be revived. Here we see the outworking of such a doctrine practically. Where are you on the evangelistic theological scale? After reading this prayer, ask yourself “Does this shock you?”
Dear God, whom I hate with all my being precisely because you hate and threaten me with hell, I hate this punishment perhaps even more than I hate you. Or, maybe I should say that I love my comfort even more than I hate you. For that reason I am asking a favor of you. I want you to make me love you, whom I hate even when I ask this and even more because I have to ask this. I am being frank with you because I know it is no use to be otherwise. You know even better than I how much I hate you and that I love only myself. It is no use for me to pretend to be sincere. I most certainly do not love you and do not want to love you. I hate the thought of loving you but that is what I’m asking because I love myself. If you can answer this ‘prayer’ I guess the gift of gratitude will come with it and then I will be able to do what I would not think of doing now—thank you for making me love you whom I hate. Amen.