Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Praying for Obedience

I've recently been much more intentional about praying and taking opportunities to witness which are presented to me. Someone told me that I was doing well and asked if I had anything I could say to stir up zeal in others. This is a modification of my reply:

I will boast in the Lord. He has made me knowledgeable and zealous and easily conversational, and He is the one I will credit for finally compelling me to pray desperately for the desire, opportunity, and actual fact of witnessing. That was one half of a prayer to give me strength to be obedient. I've tried before, with regard to mortifying besetting sin, and certainly haven't neglected prayer, but one thing I can't deny -- my prayer has not been continual. 

My only thought this time -- while rejecting the idea that praying is just another way to "do x for God to get y from God" -- is that I have never succeeded at a HABIT of DAILY, regular, time devoted to prayer (I have always been mindful and ask for mercies as I exercise or drive but it's not exactly the same, certainly not the model seen in Daniel and Jesus' behaviors). My thought was, EVEN IF the efficacy is due to the psychological effect of being deterred from sinning due to the natural conflict and contradiction that would have with prayer ("not harboring sin in your heart?"), it will still be worth it to pursue regular prayer for aid and strength as the way to be daily protected from failure. And Biblically, we're promised we can do nothing without His strength, so it is a continuing plea for Him to provide the indispensable spiritual means by which I can be sustained in obedience. 

Further, by having prayed, I have confidence because won't He answer any prayer asked in accordance with His will? And I spend much of my time asking that my motives, desires, requests and acts be pure and Godly and that I don't deceive myself, such as by evaluating whether my prayer was good or efficacious based on the words.

That ties directly into the fact that we have a high priest and it's His prayers that are efficacious on our behalf and He "knows what we need before we ask" and always makes the right request of the Father because they are united in their will. So it's Him, start to finish, on whom I lean, and I'm desperate enough to have the relief from my failure that I have no intention of trying to grab anything "for myself" out of praying, and so I have focused so much more on seeking His imparting of spiritual disciplines than any other request, even practical ones like that I find work. I have lost the fantasy of adult life I had when I was young, and I am left, to my perception, able to honestly ask Him to glorify Himself in me however He wills, without condition... Yet being hopeful enough to ask that the MEANS He uses to glorify Himself in me would also be something that brings me joy, and 
does not make His servant a byword. I am encouraged to think that the result of having more free time on my hands is that I will now finally cement in place a habit of praying early in the morning, regularly, to "put my armor on before the battle and not at the end".

So i would hesitate, of course, to say I have "a trick", or even to say what "I" am "doing", but such is the challenge when talking about an infinite God who nevertheless gives us the ability to "really act" and yet empowers everything we do. It's hard to talk about God or to God when it gets down to the deeply personal. That's what makes my prayers go long. Not that I'm trying to impress Him. I just want to be duly reverent and not presume.


-W

Thursday, March 9, 2017

How To Pray: Don't Get Hung Up on Your Performance

When you pray, what do you depend on to decide if you prayed a "good prayer?"

"When you sigh, "if only my prayer were a true prayer," you must be cautioned, because this thought can contain the notion that the quality of your prayer gives it merit. Humble petitioners know that their prayers have no merit. If you believed that your prayers were "good" prayers, then they would be prayers of self-merit. You would then be trusting on your prayer offerings instead of God's gracious reception--trusting in your works instead of God's mercy. If you are waiting to approach God until you can offer "good" or "true" prayers, you are waiting in vain. Humility evaporates when it recognizes itself. The humble person recognizes his pride. A humble person does not see his own prayer as humble. Praying humbly is asking, "God be merciful." ... Pray for humbling grace, so that you might pray as a needy, unworthy supplicant to the great and holy God of the universe. Every cry of broken heart to God is a true prayer. These are the prayers that God delights to hear."

~ Joel Beeke, Developing A Healthy Prayer Life

Consider that you have a high priest who intercedes for you, who always makes the right request of the Father because He is united with Him in His will. Ask your Mediator to make the request for what you need, on your behalf, and then that the Father would grant the request on the basis of the pure motives of the Son, and to glorify Himself.

Romans 8:34
Hebrews 7:24-25
22 so much the more also Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant. 23 The former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers because they were prevented by death from continuing, 24 but Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently. 25 Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.

It's not because you prayed, or how long you prayed, or how you prayed, or what you prayed for, or with what motives you prayed, that persuade God to answer. God already knows what you need before you ask - Matthew 6:8. Therefore, do not trust in your own behavior, but trust in God's graciousness to grant anything you ask in His will, (John 14:13) not because you "asked it right" but so that the Father may be glorified in the Son, as that verse says.

This frees you from having to worry about praying the right way. Ask God to cover your weaknesses. Pray to Jesus to petition the Father for you, for the needs He knows you have, which you may not even be aware of. Then you won't doubt that God would answer your prayers based on how you prayed, because that is no longer the metric you evaluate your own prayers by.

Further reading: Donatism

- W