Election is sometimes debated and misunderstood. And no, I’m not discussing the election of public officials. I’m referencing the doctrine of election as it is found in the Bible.

According to the Lexham Bible Dictionary, election is “God’s choice of a person or people group for a specific purpose, mission, or salvation.”

To be elect means that God has chosen us out of this world, to journey through this world as exiles, in order to find our home with him in the next world. 

The doctrine of election is associated with Calvinism or the five points of Calvinism. Without going into much detail here, election is more than a term used by a theological system. It is a biblical concept. Election refers to God’s choice of a nation (in the Old Testament) and a people (the church in the New Testament) as his own. Election is important as it underscores the importance of God’s sovereignty and work in salvation.

Several passages of Scripture refer directly to the doctrine of election:

The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. 

Deuteronomy 7:7-8, (emphasis mine)

“You only have I chosen of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your sins.”

Amos 3:2 (emphasis mine)

 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia,Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia,  who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance.

1 Peter 1:1-2 (emphasis mine)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 

Ephesians 1:3-6 (emphasis mine)

These passages are but a sample, but they make it obvious that election is a biblical doctrine. It did not come from the minds of men, but rather from the plans of God.

Election in this biblical sense is unconditional. God did not choose Israel because they were good. Indeed, the prophet Amos above reflects that God would punish Israel because as his chosen people, they had rebelled. God did not choose Israel because they would be good. They never really were good. God chose them to reveal his grace and kindness in redemption.

How does election work? God elects according to his foreknowledge. See 1 Peter 1:2 above. This is another oft misunderstood term. How does God foreknow? The term foreknowledge implies intimate, personal knowledge. See God’s statement to Jeremiah below.

God knew us before he formed us, and God’s knowing of us formed the basis for his election. God knows us in a personal sense. So according to God’s foreknowledge, he elects us to be part of his family.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

Jeremiah 1:5 (emphasis mine)

I realize that divine election as an aspect of salvation is a thought-provoking subject. It has also spawned much debate over the centuries. But it is not a fatalistic doctrine. Rather it is a doctrine that encourages the greatness of God’s work in our salvation. Robert Letham helpfully observes the following in his Systematic Theology:

Election cannot be understood biblically and theologically in abstraction from Christ. It is a Trinitarian decree, bears an inseparable connection to the person and work of Christ, cannot be severed from the gospel, and is the root of all the ways union with Christ is worked out in the life experience of the faithful. It is as far from fatalism as could be imagined.

Robert Letham, Systematic Theology, 409.

The doctrine of election should encourage us in our faith.

  • The doctrine of election reminds us that our salvation was in the mind of God before our lives began.
  • The doctrine of election encourages us to give God the appropriate glory for our salvation.
  • The doctrine of election inspires us to thankfulness for the Father’s planning of our salvation, the Son’s accomplishing our salvation, and the Holy Spirit’s bringing us to salvation.
  • The doctrine of election motivates us to share the good news of Christ’s salvation to everyone we can.

The doctrine of election should not divide us. Rather it should encourage us that God has acted in salvation to make us a part of his family.

Our culture preaches a narrative that we are able, capable, and only limited by the imagination of our minds. We don’t have to listen too closely to the voices around us to notice the overt emphasis on self-help and human capability.

But we are more like the dependent child depicted in the prayer image than we are capable adults in control of all our circumstances and situations.

There are times in each of our lives where we realize how insignificant and weak we really are. A cancer diagnosis. Unexpected death of a loved one. Job loss. Pandemic. Work stress. Family illness. Natural disasters. Spiritual death.

If we are honest with ourselves, many things in our lives are outside our control and influence. This sense of personal helplessness is a prime opportunity to find ourselves anchored to God through prayer. This will be the fourth and final anchored post, and it culminates the underlying themes of the previous posts: Anchored in the Word, Anchored in the Gospel, and Anchored in the Church.

Why pray? Our sense of helplessness and inability is a key factor in our willingness to pray. When we are overwhelmed, uncertain, stressed, unable, or facing lack, through prayer we can find ourselves anchored to God who is in control, certain, able, and owns everything.

Prayer is a conversation. Throughout Scripture God invites his people to pray. Think about that. God wants you to bring your requests, burdens, and circumstances to him.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7

If you are anything like me, you need God’s peace. So, if you are in need of God’s peace and interventions, then read on and learn some of the ways that prayer can anchor your faith.

When we pray, we are acknowledging God’s sovereignty and ability to intervene. There is nothing in this post more important than this truth. Praying reflects dependence on God. When we admit we are unable or that we lack, prayer and faith find their grounding in our spiritual lives. God is able to do far more than we can ask or imagine (Eph. 3:20). So when we pray, we can express our faith in God alone. It is from this place of dependence that God intervenes and answers,.

When we pray, we are trusting God’s wisdom. There are many things that I’ve prayed about and asked God for that I have not received. We must remember God is not a genie in a bottle. Our prayers are not wishes he is obliged to grant. Rather, God is all-knowing and all-wise. We should bring our burdens and requests to him. He is able to meet every one of them. But since he is Sovereign and in control, he knows best how to answer. We need to trust his wisdom. Remember, even Jesus requested that the Father remove the cup of the cross from him (Matt. 26:39), but submitted to the Father’s will.

When we pray, we are talking to our Father. God designed prayer to be more than a ritual or an event in a worship service. God granted us prayer as a glorious privilege. It is a conversation. Jesus teaches us to call God, Father (Matt. 6:9). Our Father in heaven knows what is best and cares to hear us and spend time with us. Prayer is a relational conversation between you and your Father who loved you enough to send Jesus to die for your privilege of prayer. This alone should motivate us to pray.

If prayer anchors our spiritual lives, then should we pray at set times or for extended periods of time like Jesus (Luke 6:12)? Should we pray for hours at a time like the spiritual giants of old (Martin Luther, Hudson Taylor, and others)? Should we whisper prayers through the day never ceasing our conversation with God (1 Thess. 5:17)? Should we fast when we pray (Matt. 6:9-18)?

Yes.

Yes. To all of the above and to many more questions we could ask about our manner and pattern of praying. Whether you pray in the morning during your quiet times, at night before bed, throughout the day in whispers, or in groups and services at church, prayer is a privilege that we should take advantage of more often than we do.

Here are a few guiding reminders that will strengthen our prayer lives:

  • Pray Scripture. One way you can be assured that you are praying what God wants is to pray phrases and sentences that God has already spoken. After all his thoughts and ways are not our own (Isaiah 55:8). My daily Bible readings often provide the content for how I talk to God. I find myself thanking God for his interventions as detailed in Scripture and bringing requests to God that connect to his work in the past. A helpful resource on this topic is Donald Whitney’s book, Praying the Bible.
  • Pray the gospel. What do I mean by this? Well the gospel teaches that we are spiritually bankrupt (Matt. 5:3) and in need of spiritual life (Eph. 2:1-10). Our need for Christ doesn’t change when we receive salvation. We do not need to be saved again, but the pattern of humility and dependence that characterized our entrance into salvation should continue to permeate our spiritual lives. When we remind ourselves in prayer of our need, our desperation, our dependence, we move to an attitude of humility, surrender, and faith that God hears. Praying gospel truths also reminds us that we can approach the Father because of the sacrifice of Christ.
  • Pray with others. Jesus taught us to pray “Our Father.” Prayer is a community privilege (Acts 4:23-31). While we cannot pray about everything on our prayer lists with everyone in the church, we can pray together with families, group members (Sunday school and discipleship groups), and close friends. Sharing prayer requests, praying together, and reflecting on answers to prayer will deepen prayer in our lives. Here’s one example. In our family devotions, we have often prayed for the sick and for protection. We also pray for the salvation of friends. Each time God strengthens, heals, and saves, we make time to thank God and praise him for answered prayer. This practice strengthens our faith.

Have you prayed today? I don’t ask to make you feel guilty if you haven’t. I ask to remind you that you can.

If you have a prayer request, I would be honored to join you in praying about it. Feel free to share in the comment section below, and I’ll pray with you about it today. If God has recently answered a prayer you’ve been praying, I would love for you to share that in the comment section as well. God’s answer to your prayer could encourage someone else!