Archive for the ‘prayer’ Category
Paul Helm offers some stimulating thoughts about prayer. While I am still thinking about some of his conclusions, or suggestions, I did appreciate some of his particular concerns, as set out in the paragraphps below. Too often our prayers turn into data recitals, as we parade – for whose benefit? God who knows all things? The people around us, who might be impressed with our demonstration that we might know all things? – the situation we are praying about before God. Says Helm:
Don’t get me wrong, I am not against the provision of information. I have spent much of my adult life as a teacher and writer, engrossed in the world of ideas and arguments. I expect the students I teach to be able to absorb, understand, weigh and produce information. The more the merrier. But the point is that not all speech is primarily informative, and most certainly Christian petitionary and intercessory prayer is not primarily informative. Fellow-prayers in the prayer meeting may learn all sorts of things about Mr Smith when he prays publicly. But the living God is in a rather different position from our fellow worshippers in the pew. Does he need educating? Is he ignorant of any detail? Has he overlooked any of the needs of his people? . . .
So here is a paradox: we are not to pray to inform God because God already knows (as you might expect from what Scripture generally teaches about the knowledge and power of God), but we are nevertheless commanded to pray, and to pray without ceasing. But we are not heard for our much speaking. How is this paradox to be resolved? By noting and remembering that prayer is an expression of the desire by which we may receive what the Lord prepares to bestow, and continual prayer may therefore be evidence of a strong desire. So the paradox is solved once we realise that petitionary prayer has to do with desire, and such desire may be wordless, though not object-less.
I wonder if Hezekiah’s prayer in Isaiah 37 provides something of a paradigm for a holy assumption of what the Lord knows, a holy recital of what is grieving his own soul, and a holy petition that the Lord would act accordingly?
“Missed out her, and him, and them…”
“Yawn. Nothing new to say?”
“You call that a prayer?”
“Not enough faith…not enough passion…not enough anything.”
“You don’t actually believe that made a difference, do you?”
“You’ll probably not even think about prayer for the rest of the day.”
So whispers the Adversary when we have tried to pray. David Murray discusses how we might fight back with the truth.
Prayer, in many ways, is the supreme expression of our faith in God and our faith and confidence in the promises of God. There is nothing that a man ever does which so proclaims his faith as when he gets down on his knees and looks to God and talks to God. It is a tremendous confession of faith. I mean by this that he is not just running with his requests and petitions, but if he really waits upon God, if he really looks to God, he is there saying, ‘Yes, I believe it all, I believe that you are a rewarder of them that diligently seek you, I believe you are the Creator of all things and all things are in your hands. I know there is nothing outside of your control. I come to you because you are in all this and I find peace and rest and quiet in your holy presence and I am praying to you because you are what you are.’ That is the whole approach to prayer that you find in the teaching of Scripture.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Assurance of Our Salvation (Wheaton, IL; Crossway Books; 2000), 35.
Oh, for more faith, and more prayer!
HT The Old Guys.
To preach the word, therefore, and not to follow it with constant and fervent prayer for its success, is to disbelieve its use, neglect its end, and to cast away the seed of the gospel at random.
John Owen, Works, 16:78
Pray, preach, pray, ad infinitum.
Richard Crashaw’s poetic comment on the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector:
Two went up into the Temple to pray.
Two went to pray? O rather say,
One went to brag, th’other to pray.
One stands up close, and treads on high,
Where th’other dares not send his eye.
One nearer to God’s altar trod,
The other to the altar’s God.
Quoted in Ryken, Luke (Philipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2009), 2:255.
When we go to pray, do we have the appearance of being near to God, or do we truly come into his holy presence?
Here is John Bunyan’s allegorical reckoning of prayer drawn from The Holy War. The town of Mansoul, backslidden and besieged and now indwelt by an army of Doubters under Diabolus, is in a terrible condition. Only the castle of the heart stands out, battered daily by the enemy. Petitions to the Prince Emmanuel have so far failed to obtain the needed relief, but now Mansoul is directed to the Lord Secretary (the Holy Spirit) to assist in their prayers:
After the town of Mansoul had been in this sad and lamentable condition for so long a time as I have told you, and no petitions that they presented their Prince with, all this while, could prevail, the inhabitants of the town, namely, the elders and chief of Mansoul, gathered together, and, after some time spent in condoling their miserable state and this miserable judgment coming upon them, they agreed together to draw up yet another petition, and to send it away to Emmanuel for relief. But Mr. Godly-Fear stood up and answered, that he knew that his Lord the Prince never did nor ever would receive a petition for these matters, from the hand of any whoever, unless the Lord Secretary’s hand was to it; ‘and this,’ quoth he, ‘is the reason that you prevailed not all this while.’ Then they said they would draw up one, and get the Lord Secretary’s hand unto it. But Mr. Godly-Fear answered again, that he knew also that the Lord Secretary would not set his hand to any petition that himself had not an hand in composing and drawing up. ‘And besides,’said he, ‘the Prince doth know my Lord Secretary’s hand from all the hands in the world; wherefore he cannot be deceived by any pretence whatever. Wherefore my advice is that you go to my Lord, and implore him to lend you his aid.’(Now he did yet abide in the castle, where all the captains and men-at-arms were.)
So they heartily thanked Mr. Godly-Fear, took his counsel, and did as he had bidden them. So they went and came to my Lord, and made known the cause of their coming to him; namely, that since Mansoul was in so deplorable a condition, his Highness would be pleased to undertake to draw up a petition for them to Emmanuel, the Son of the mighty Shaddai, and to their King and his Father by him.
Then said the Secretary to them, ‘What petition is it that you would have me draw up for you?’But they said, ‘Our Lord knows best the state and condition of the town of Mansoul; and how we are backslidden and degenerated from the Prince: thou also knowest who is come up to war against us, and how Mansoul is now the seat of war. My Lord knows, moreover, what barbarous usages our men, women, and children have suffered at their hands; and how our home-bred Diabolonians do walk now with more boldness than dare the townsmen in the streets of Mansoul. Let our Lord therefore, according to the wisdom of God that is in him, draw up a petition for his poor servants to our Prince Emmanuel.’ ‘Well,’ said the Lord Secretary, ‘I will draw up a petition for you, and will also set my hand thereto. ‘Then said they, ‘But when shall we call for it at the hands of our Lord?’ But he answered, ‘Yourselves must be present at the doing of it; yea, you must put your desires to it. True, the hand and pen shall be mine, but the ink and paper must be yours; else how can you say it is your petition? Nor have I need to petition for myself, because I have not offended.’ He also added as followeth: ‘No petition goes from me in my name to the Prince, and so to his Father by him, but when the people that are chiefly concerned therein do join in heart and soul in the matter, for that must be inserted therein.’
So they did heartily agree with the sentence of the Lord, and a petition was forthwith drawn up for them. But now, who should carry it? that was next. But the Secretary advised that Captain Credence should carry it; for he was a well-spoken man. They therefore called for him, and propounded to him the business. ‘Well,’ said the captain, ‘I gladly accept of the motion; and though I am lame, I will do this business for you with as much speed and as well as I can.’
When we pray, the hand and pen must be the Spirit’s, but the ink and paper must be ours, and faith – however lame – must carry the request to the throne of grace.
From Augustine, On Christian Doctrine, volume 4, chapter 15:
And so our Christian orator, while he says what is just, and holy and good (and he ought never to say anything else), does all he can to be heard with intelligence, with pleasure and with obedience; and he need and so far as he succeeds, he will succeed more by piety in prayer than by gifts of oratory; and so he ought to pray for himself and for those he is about to address, before he attempts to speak. And when the hour is come that he must speak, he ought, before he opens his mouth, to lift up his thirsty soul to God, to drink in what he is about to pour forth and to be himself filled with what he is about to distribute. For, as in regard to every matter of faith and love there are many things that may be said, and many ways of saying them, who knows what it is expedient at a given moment for us to say, or to be heard saying, except God who knows the hearts of all? And who can make us say what we ought and in the way we ought except Him in whose hand both we and our speeches are? Accordingly, he who is anxious both to know and to teach should learn all that is to be taught, and acquire such a faculty of speech as is suitable for a divine. But when the hour for speech arrives, let him reflect upon that saying of our Lord’s as better suited to the wants of a pious mind “Take no thought how or what ye shall speak; for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.” The Holy Spirit, then, speaks thus in those who for Christ’s sake are delivered to the persecutors; why not also in those who deliver Christ’s message to those who are willing to learn?
via Heavenly Worldliness.