Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Final Words on Prayer

The past couple of days have been spent detailing the sections of the Lord's Prayer. This prayer is a good rule for us to follow in our own prayers. Its form contains nothing superfluous and leaves nothing out. Calvin writes that if anything is added or removed from this prayer, then the one praying is attempting to add his own wisdom to God's wisdom, that he is contemptuous of God's will, and nothing will be achieved since the prayer would be apart from pure faith. Tertullian called the Lord's Prayer "the lawful prayer" since anything outside of it are outside God's law and are forbidden.

This does not mean that the Lord's Prayer is the only prayer we can pray. For instance there are many other prayers contained in Scripture. It just means that this is the right form of prayer, and other prayers must be composed in like manner under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. He writes, "no man should ask for, expect, or demand, anything at all except what is included, by way of summary, in this prayer; and though the words may be utterly different, yet the sense ought not to vary." He later writes, "let us remember that this is the teaching of Divine Wisdom, teaching what it willed and willing what was needful." This reminds me of Augustine's prayer that sparked his debate with Pelagius, "Grant what you command, and command what you will."

We are told to "pray without ceasing," (1 Thessalonians 5:17, New King James Version), but most of the time our sluggish hearts do not allow us to do just that. Calvin suggests the following times to pray, not superstitiously, but as appropriate times to engage ourselves in prayer: "when we arise in the morning, before we begin daily work, when we sit down to a meal, when by God's blessing we have eaten, when we are getting ready to retire." As we pray, we must not be making unlawful demands of God. I am sure that every one of us have known of people who confuse God with Santa Claus. To them a prayer is like their Christmas list and God should grant all these things to them. It is God's will that is most important, not our will. We pray Thy will to be done and not our own.

We must have faith that God always hears our prayers because He is always with us. Our prayers do not fall upon deaf ears, even though sometimes we may feel that way because God is not responding according to our desires or our timetable. We should be like David who was persistent in his prayers, but listened for and accepted God's response. We should never try to bargain with God, mostly because it makes no sense. Everything is already His, so what do we have to offer Him in return for doing our will?

God does hear our prayers and is faithful to us. "For though all things fail us, yet God will never forsake us, who cannot disappoint the expectation and patience of his people." Once again, God does not always grant our prayers in the fashion we expect, but our prayers are never in vain. Often, I find that I may pray one thing and then what happens is even better than I expected. Other times when I pray, it is me that is changed, not the circumstances for which I am praying. God does answer my prayers, just not always in the way I expect. When we pray, we should pray with perseverance: "for unless there be in prayer a constancy to persevere, we pray in vain."

Tomorrow's reading: 3.21.1-3.21.4

1 comment:

  1. It seems to me that when Paul writes to pray without ceasing he surely must mean that the believer should have his heart tuned at all times to God. It seems unlikely that he might refer to that prayer as petitioning. Can one continuously petition the Lord in prayer? Rather the ideal is to have such a fellowship with God in Christ that He is always in our uppermost thought.

    It is difficult at best for even the saved human being to order his life to have God always in mind. There are simply too many requirements of life that chase the thought of Him away. I wonder if the prophets of old were that kind of creature, sensitive like the poet, to see God's hand in everything, constantly in communication with Him. Were they mostly removed from the daily concerns of society, looking more at the bigger picture of the nation's spiritual life?

    With all the encumbrances of the modern life such constant communion with our LORD is elusive. It is easier for those desperate and downtrodden, since God is then most obviously their greatest hope. But Paul still calls to every believer to pray without ceasing, and that seems to me to declare that walking in constant fellowship with our LORD is his objective. If he says we should do it it must be obtainable. It certainly is most rewarding.


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