I typically enjoy the books found in the “New Studies in Biblical Theology” series. Recently I finished Gary Millar’s Calling on the Name of the Lord: A Biblical Theology of Prayer (Downers Grove: IVP, 2016). Like the other books in this series that I’ve read, this one is a good example of summarizing a certain theme of Scripture. Beginning with Genesis and ending with Revelation, Millar explains what calling on the name of the Lord means. As I’ve mentioned before, “Biblical Theology” in this context simply means the study of a certain theme in Scripture, from beginning to end.
The book has nine main sections: 1) Prayer in the Pentateuch, 2) Prayer in the Former Prophets (Joshua-Kings), 3) Prayer in the Latter Prophets, 4) Prayer in the Writings, 5) Prayer in the Psalms, 6) Prayer in the Gospels, 7) Prayer in Acts, 8) Prayer in Paul’s Letters, and 9) Prayer in the rest of the New Testament. There is an afterword of around five pages that gives brief application on prayer. As you can see, the structure of the book is pretty straightforward and easy to follow.
I appreciated this book because it was well written, it stuck to explaining Scripture, and it highlighted the gospel throughout. The main phrase Millar emphasizes is found in Genesis 4:26: At that time people began to call on the name of the LORD (NIV). The point Millar makes from this phrase is that it means “asking God to intervene specifically to do one thing – to come through on his promises” (p. 22). When you find this phrase (or similar ones) in Scripture, Millar says, it is a prayer asking God to fulfill his covenant promises. This is the main point Millar makes in the book.
There are two minor weaknesses of the book. First, since Millar made his point up front (that calling on God’s name means asking him to keep his promises), he sort of gave a spoiler. After reading just a little of the book, I knew that every prayer he was examining would be summarized as asking God to keep his promises. I don’t necessarily disagree, but the book was less exciting to read since I knew exactly how it would unfold. Second, I didn’t like how Millar constantly quoted very large portions of Scripture. I know that sounds odd, but his frequent and long Scripture quotes were sometimes overwhelming and I wasn’t sure which verses he was really talking about. Again, these are minor weaknesses that came to mind as I finished the book.
So now you have a resource if you want to study prayer from Genesis to Revelation. It doesn’t give all the nuances and aspects of prayer, and it’s not a manual of how to pray better, but it does trace the theme – from Genesis to Revelation – of calling upon the name of the Lord.