Thursday, February 2, 2012

If My People...

I have had several people express to me, concerning prayer, that praying is more for our benefit than anything. The thinking seems to be that since God sovereignly governs all things, and since he has decreed that all his purposes will come to pass, that our prayers serve mostly to encourage us when he answers them, or to remind us that he is God and we are dependent on him, and so forth.

We enjoy a real benefit to ourselves in prayer, for sure, but that's not all the Bible has to say of prayer. Paul, for instance, asked for prayer a good bit. And he asked for prayer so that good things would actually come to pass. He told the Colossians, "Pray for us, that God may open a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ... that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak" (Col. 4:3-4). He also told the Corinthian church, "You must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many" (2 Cor. 1:11).

It sounds to me like Paul really coveted their prayers, because opportunities and blessings and Paul's ability to speak well depended on them. I know God has already determined that his purposes and plans will prevail. I guess you could accurately say that they'll prevail with or without us. But they won't prevail apart from prayer. Prayer is a means God has chosen and ordained to accomplish his purposes. What happens when a Christian doesn't pray, or prays little? At the least, it seems that Christian will miss out on being a wonderful and important part of great things happening in the world.

Revelation 8:2-5 tells of an angel at the altar in heaven who takes a golden censer, filled with "the prayers of all the saints", and throws it upon the earth. This seems to bring about the final judgments of God on the earth and the end of all wickedness, and the ringing in of his everlasting kingdom. What did the Lord teach us to pray on a regular basis? "May your kingdom come and your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven." Surely that prayer, prayed by all the saints with fervency and longing through the centuries, will fill the golden censer and bring heaven to earth.

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