Saturday, May 21, 2016

"The Prospect of Prayer 1-5 MONDAY, MAY 23-FRIDAY, MAY 27

Monday, May 23 - Friday, May 27


"The Prospect of Prayer"

Part 1

The Mystery and Origin of Prayer

    I greatly enjoy writing these messages, and still find it humbling and gratifying that you read them.  Regarding our fellowship in Christ, however, I must say that I find even more rewarding the privilege of praying for you daily, and the knowledge that you pray for us.

    "I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers" (Ephesians 1:15-16).

    Is there anything more mysterious than the privilege and responsibility of prayer?  That God would call us into active, involved participation in the fulfillment of "Thy will be done" should fill our hearts with wonder (Matthew 6:10).  Indeed, after more than forty years as a born again believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, the main thing I know about prayer is that I know very little about it.  I've long studied the Scripture regarding the matter, read fine books on the subject, talked about it with fellow believers, written about it, and oh yes, I've even prayed a bit!  Four decades into the blessed realm of communion with God, however, causes me to feel as if I've barely stuck a toe into the shoreless Ocean of our Father desiring our fellowship, and our desiring Him in response.

   "When Thou saidst, Seek ye My face, my heart said unto Thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek" (Psalm 27:8).

   One thing I know for sure about prayer is that it does not begin with us.  The glory exists as an eternally ancient blessedness of loving relationship and fellowship between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (John 17:5; 20-26).  It proceeds to those who believe - "Because ye are sons and daughters, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying Abba Father" (Galatians 4:6).  It reaches us in this moment as the Holy Spirit beckons us to commune with our Heavenly Father, who so loves our fellowship with Him - "the prayer of the upright is His delight" (Proverbs 15:8).  Our prayers are response to the Spirit's moving upon and within us to seek the One who first sought us, and who still seeks the communion of our hearts.  God made and redeemed us for such a bond of love, and we please and honor Him as we respond to His overtures of grace.

   I rejoice in our mutual prayers, knowing where and with Whom they begin.  I also know more than ever that communication with an infinite, eternal Being will always hold much mystery.  I find this to be perhaps the most blessed aspect of prayer, namely, the more we know of it, the more we need to know.  This should thrill us as we realize that any blessedness we have experienced in communion with God promises more to come.  More, forever.  What a contemplation, and I close because I certainly have no words t express the wonder of such a prospect, of the prospect of prayer.

"Thou wilt show me the path of life: in Thy presence is fulness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures forevermore."
(Psalm 16:11)

Weekly Memory Verse
   "The fear of man bringeth a snare, but whoever putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe."
(Proverbs 29:25)


"The Prospect of Prayer"

Part 2

Motive and Prayer

     Having considered the origin of prayer in Part 1 of these messages, we now turn to the Why? of prayer.  The model prayer of the Lord Jesus Christ illuminates the subject.

    "Our Father, which art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name.  Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth as it is in Heaven" (Matthews 6:9-10).

    The glory, purpose, and will of God serve as the paramount motivations for all genuine prayer as led and enabled by the Holy Spirit.  Our needs and desires matter in prayer, but only as they flow from the fount of God-centeredness - "This is the confidence we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us" (I John 5:14).  This references what we pray, but "according to His will" even more concerns why we pray.

    "Ye ask and receive not because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts" (James 4:3).

    James references motive regarding unanswered prayer - "that ye may consume it upon your lusts".  Prayer that proceeds from fleshly or even devilish motivations falls upon a deaf Divine ear because answering such requests would encourage the self-centeredness from our Lord works to redeem us.  In the love of Christ, we exist for the glory of God and the blessing of others, even as the two great commands of Scripture mandate -  "Love the Lord thy God… love thy neighbor" (Matthew 22:38-39).  Again, our needs and desires matter, they matter much.  True prayer, however, places them where they belong, safely in the heart and hand of God.  This delivers us to the God and others-focused motive fostered by genuine communion with God.

   Prayer is not for the selfish and greedy.  It rather saves us from being selfish and greedy as "Thy name… Thy kingdom… and Thy will" motivate our intercessions and supplications.  Indeed, things change as we pray, but even more, we change.  Or, as the Apostle Paul affirmed…

"Beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, we are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord."
(II Corinthians 3:18)

Weekly Memory Verse
   "The fear of man bringeth a snare, but whoever putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe."
(Proverbs 29:25)


"The Prospect of Prayer"

Part 3

Reverence and Prayer

     A Christian attorney once told me that on several occasions during a busy courtroom schedule, she inadvertently began a time of prayer with "Your Honor".  I responded that in her case, the Lord doubtless has no problem with being referred to in this way, which leads to the subject of this essay.

    "Holy and reverend is His name" (Psalm 111:9).

    Nothing we do in life should be more accompanied by respect than prayer to the living and true God.  He is worthy of far more reverence than we can ever express, and the proper familiarity believers know regarding God as our Heavenly Father does not preclude our utmost awe of One far greater than we can imagine.  Old Testament and New call us to such a sensibility, commanding that we confidently approach our Father through His grace, while also reverently affirming His otherness.  As A.W. Tozer once wrote, "the same Apostle John who laid his head on Jesus' chest during the Lord's earthly life fell at His feet as dead when He saw Him in His resurrected glory" (John 13:25; Revelation 1:17).  These dual sensibilities grace the hearts of all who know and pray to God as He is.

    Through Christ, God draws us into a relationship with Himself whereby we call Him "Father".  "To as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God" (John 1:12).  Never, however, do we forget who this Father is.  No thought of His majesty and greatness we can think approaches the boundary of His glory.  "Your Honor" indeed.  We pray with familiarity, but also with the most holy reverence.  

"In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up… And I said, Woe is me, for I am undone!"
(Isaiah 6:1; 5)
"Sing forth the honor of His name."
(Isaiah 66:2)

Weekly Memory Verse
   "The fear of man bringeth a snare, but whoever putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe."
(Proverbs 29:25)


"The Prospect of Prayer"

Part 4

Sanity and Prayer

   "I'm not a praying man."  We've all heard people utter these sad words, usually from the lips of those who seek to pull themselves up from the bootstraps, as it were, despite the fact that, in spiritual terms, they're not wearing any boots.  "They trust in vanity" (Isaiah 59:4).

   We must first view prayerlessness in terms of sin.  People who forego a life of communing with God omit prayer because they turn away from Truth.  "The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God" (Psalm 10:4).  We must also, however, consider the matter in terms of lacking a sound and lucid mind.  To trust in vanity leads to spiritual insanity.  Indeed, God's existence and intimate involvement in our lives means that we embrace utter delusion when we engage in a prayerless life (Acts 17:28).  The Lord made the human heart for communion with Himself.  "Come unto Me, hear and your soul shall live" promises our Heavenly Father of the life with Him that constitutes our only hope for truly being alive - "to live is Christ" (Isaiah 55:3; Philippians 1:21).  He makes such truth plain in His Word and in His world.  To live in reality thus requires that we live with a prayerful heart that acknowledges the beckoning of God, and responds accordingly.

     We fail to use our minds for their intended purpose when we ignore or disbelieve the One nearer to us than our next breath.  We must be praying people in order to consider ourselves truly rational and sane.  "He that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life" (John 8:12).  Countless mental, emotional, and even physical pathologies ensue when we seek disconnection from the Life of our lives.   Outwardly, many people function in an earthly sense, and may even seem possessed of a measure of peace and well being.  Within the heart, however, emptiness reigns as alienation from God results in a mind that cannot be used for its intended purpose.  "I'm not a praying man" is actually synonymous with "I'm not a completely sane man".

   A final thought.  Born again believers can be sane in our understanding and awareness of prayer's central place in our existence.  We can still walk in delusion if we fail to consistently commune with our Heavenly Father.  We must therefore come to our senses regarding matters of praise, thanksgiving, intercession, supplication, and walking with the One in whom we "live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28).  Indeed, how crazy is it to know the living God in personal relationship, but to walk as if we do not? Pretty crazy!  I know, because I have too often acted accordingly, and still do.  Perhaps you feel the same way.  Join me therefore in seeking our Heavenly Father's working to draw us to Himself, and let us pray one of the wisest and sanest requests ever offered, as voiced by the disciples of the Lord Jesus during His earthly ministry…

"Lord, teach us to pray."
(Luke 11:1)

Weekly Memory Verse
   "The fear of man bringeth a snare, but whoever putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe."
(Proverbs 29:25)


"The Prospect of Prayer"

Part 5

The Gift of Delight

     As we view the prospect of prayer in our lives, one reason stands above all others in terms of personal response to the calling of God regarding this most amazing of privileged responsibilities in our relationship with Him.

    "The prayer of the upright is His delight" (Proverbs 15:8).

    The "upright" are those God has made to stand by redeeming us from our fallen state apart from the Lord Jesus Christ.  "God… hath raised us up together, and made up sit together in Heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 2:4; 6).  "In Heavenly places… in Christ Jesus."  We spiritually dwell in the presence of God as His trusting children in Christ.  Thus, we possess the potential to please our Father in prayer, or even more, to "delight" Him by communing with Him.  May I suggest that we still ourselves, take a deep breath, and ponder the wonder of this truth…

    I cannot imagine a more intensely and intimately considered way to view the matter of communion with God.  We pray to glorify Him, of course, and for many Biblically declared aspects of seeking our Lord.  But to "delight" Him?  The word implies something beyond mere satisfaction, happiness, or even pleasure.  Delight means much more.  We possess the potential to bless our Heavenly Father with joy by realizing our place in His presence, and responding accordingly.  Former rebels become the beloved of God and "dear children" (Ephesians 5:1).  Thus, we may each bring a gift to our Father's heart graced with by our particular personality, disposition, and history with Him.  We bring the gift of delight to God as we pray with a trusting, humble, and devoted heart.  This is personal to the utmost degree, and no motivation to pray more calls the upright in Christ to kneel before the Father who so loves our presence and response.

   The prospect of prayer becomes the practice of prayer when we determine to be God-centered in our understanding of the matter, as directed by the authority of Scripture.  Delight awaits, God's delight and our delight as we realize His pleasure in our fellowship.  Who can understand such wonder?  No one.  But we can believe the plainly stated Biblical declaration that "the prayer of the upright is His delight".  We can pray in the blessed light of such grace, such glory, and such love as known in the Lord Jesus, and enabled by His Spirit

"Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying Abba Father."
(Galatians 4:6)

Weekly Memory Verse
   "The fear of man bringeth a snare, but whoever putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe."
(Proverbs 29:25)

No comments: