Monday, April 30, 2012

We Need God's Help to Get Us Praying (Together!)

Some people have told me they have no problem finding time to read and study the Bible, but they struggle with making (and guarding) time for prayer. I can relate to that, as it has been my struggle, too.
Other people have told me that for them it is the opposite.
But I see more and more that both effective study and effective prayer are vital, and that they depend on one another.
  • Apart from prayer, from our heartfelt application to him for help, our reading of God's word will not fill us with the knowledge of his will as it should.
"Incline my heart to your testimonies..." (Psalm 119:36).

"Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law" (Psalm 119:18).

"And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding"(Colossians 1:9).

  • Apart from the Bible, from our reading and study of it and meditation on it to know God's will, our prayers will not bear fruit and be effective.
"If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples

"And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us" (1 John 5:14).

We need the help of God's Holy Spirit to rightly apprehend his word (i.e. his will), and so we ask him for that help. God wants us to ask for those things he wants to give. "If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" (Luke 11:13).

It seems like there is a real lack of prayer in the church (at least in the church I see around me). It seems we either make the mistake of believing our study of God's word is more important, or of believing that prayer is enough. Maybe another problem is that Christians are reading and praying, but praying ineffectively because we're reading ineffectively. If we misunderstand the texts we're reading and studying our prayers, no matter how sincere, will be amiss.

I pray for a revival of doctrine in the church that will result in:
   the right fear of the Lord and a trembling before his word, that will result in:
      dependency on God alone, that will result in:
         Prayer. Prayer in families. Prayer in the churches (not just "please pray for Aunt Sally's toe", but heartfelt corporate prayer for boldness and strength and for God's kingdom purposes. Prayers according to God's will, as revealed in his word).

I would love for God's people to really pray for these things together. And that I could get to be in on it. I pray that the day will come.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Perplexed But Not Doubting

The Bible uses the word "doubt" in a more negative sense than we often do. In the Bible, to doubt God is to:

  • Have a deficient faith (that's what "little" faith means in the Greek): "Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, 'O you of little faith, why did you doubt?'" (Matthew 14:31).

  • Be double-minded and unstable in all one's ways: "But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways" (James 1:6-8).

We should probably stay far away from any kind of doubting of God. I know a better word to use: perplexity. It's the word Paul used in 2 Corinthians 4:8: "We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies" (2 Corinthians 4:8-10).

There's just no good kind of doubting of God in the Bible, but to be perplexed is o.k. for his creatures. After all, he is God, and we're not. He has a plan but we're not privy to all the details, and it often seems difficult to us. God is patient with that. "For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust" (Psalm 103:14). To doubt him is to not even know him, it seems. But to be perplexed at times in this life is simply to be finite and human.

In times of perplexity, don't doubt his goodness and ability to keep. And (I remind myself) don't forget to take all your troubles to Jesus. "Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us" (Psalm 62:8).