The Courage To Pray

door knocker

Why should we think that the infinitely transcendent God would bother to hear the prayers of insignificant creatures like us?  What gives a peon like me the courage to ask Almighty God to do great things for me?  God’s promises.

For you, my God, have revealed to your servant that you will build a house for him. Therefore your servant has found courage to pray before you.  And now, O Lord, you are God, and you have promised this good thing to your servant (1 CH 17.25-26).

God’s promises gave David the courage to pray for them.  Knowing a biblical promise gives us boldness to ask that God fulfill that promise.  The more promises we have, the more confidently we’ll pray.

God has promised to counsel me with his eye upon me (PS 32.8), so I boldly ask him to.  Because he’s pledged to give wisdom to those who ask, I ask for wisdom all the time.  Because God has promised to supply all my needs according to his riches in Christ Jesus I ask regularly.

God has promised that his Spirit and word will never depart from believers or their descendants (IS 59.21), that the children of the righteous will be mighty in the land (PS 112.2),  taught of the Lord and have great peace  (IS 54.13).  Since God has promised, I’m going to ask for the max – that every one of my children, grandchildren and descendants from now till Jesus’ return will be saved, mighty in the Spirit, and taught of the Lord.

The Bible says believers will walk in good works (EPH 2.10) and bear much fruit (JN 15.16), so I ask Jesus to make me fruitful for him.  Knowing Jesus’ promise to be near to the brokenhearted and to deliver the righteous out of all their afflictions (PS 34.18-19), gives me courage to pray for suffering friends and family members.

Jesus does not wish any to perish but all to come to the knowledge of the truth (2 PE 3.9), and says that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us (1 JN 5.14).  So I’m going to pray for him to save people, because that’s a prayer that is according to his will.

When Jesus tells me ask, seek and knock because everyone who asks receives, all who seek find, to him who knocks it shall be opened (Mt. 7.7-8),  it fires me up to keep rapping on the door.

Which promises give you the courage to pray?

photo by alsuvi

Praying Backwards

backwards

Sometimes I get prayer totally backwards.

Prayer is supposed to be about communing with God, expressing my dependence on Him, and asking Him to meet my needs. It’s supposed to have a distinctly God-ward focus.

But there are many times when I don’t feel what I’m praying. I’m praying for boldness to share the gospel, but don’t feel bold when I pray. I pray that God would heal, but I don’t feel like He’s going to be doing any healing. I pray that God would save, but don’t have a feeling of confidence in God’s saving power.

So I turn in on myself. I try to manufacture feelings of boldness or faith, and I get discouraged when my prayers feel limp and lifeless. My focus becomes inward instead of God-ward, which is totally backwards. In his book, The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis, writing as a senior demon to a junior demon, comments:

Whenever they are attending to the Enemy [God] Himself we are defeated, but there are ways of preventing them from doing so. The simplest is to turn their gaze away from Him towards themselves. Keep them watching their own minds and trying to produce feelings there by the action of their own wills…Teach them [humans] to estimate the value of each prayer by producing the desired feeling; and never let them suspect how much success or failure of that kind depends on whether they are well or ill, fresh or tired, at that moment.

The success of my prayers is not based on the power of my prayers. Rather, it’s based on Jesus Christ, who sanctifies my weak, often feeling-less prayers. When my prayers feel weak, the solution is not to try to muster up feelings of spirituality, but to turn my gaze away from myself and on to my Savior.

The more time I spend gazing at myself, the weaker my prayers will be. It’s much more effective to spend my time meditating upon Christ, who perfects my prayers.

Can you relate to the temptation to examine your feelings when you’re praying?

The Greater The Sinner, The Greater The Glory

cross

“I saw Mr. Newton near the closing scene.  He was hardly able to talk; and all I find I had noted down upon my leaving him was this: ‘My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things: That I am a great sinner and that Christ is a great Savior.'”–from “The Roots of Endurance”, by John Piper, p. 347

Christ is an infinitely great Savior.  All the sins of all peoples of all time, if massed together, would be but a speck compared to the ocean of Christ’s blood.  Combine all the unbelief, doubts and fears of the whole human race and they would form a tiny anthill next to Christ’s faithfulness that reaches to the heavens.  Mountains of guilt and regret are like chaff that Jesus can blow away as far as the east is from the west by just a puff.

Heaven will be populated with great sinners, to display the awesome power of Jesus to save.  To save a young child is a marvelous miracle, but to save someone hardened in their sins after rejecting Christ for decades is even more amazing.  And to save millions of wicked, cursing, God-hating, lying, unbelieving, arrogant, dead people is more amazing still.  The greater the sinner, the greater the glory Jesus gains.  Heaven will be filled with great sinners like Newton the slave trader, Augustine the slave to lust, Paul the Church persecutor, David the adulterer and murderer, and me and you.

Every time you’re overcome by a sense of your sinfulness, remember that as great a sinner you are, Jesus is an infinitely greater Savior.  And every time you’re tempted to quit praying for someone’s salvation, remember that no one is too wicked for Jesus to rescue.  So keep praying to the Great Savior for the salvation of your family and friends.  The greater the sinner, the greater the glory.

photo by hour of the wolf

Enjoying Where God Has You Now

back-to-the-future

If traveling to the future were an option, I’d be all over it.

The future has such promise, and I’ve spent many hours pondering what’s to come. When I was single the future held the promise of marriage. Now that I’m married the future holds the promise of buying a house.

I longed for the day when I could purchase an iPhone. Thirteen seconds after I bought my phone it became obsolete, and I could look forward to getting a newer, faster phone someday.

When I was in high school I couldn’t wait to get to college. By week two of college I couldn’t wait to graduate.

Unfortunately, in my eager anticipation of the future I’ve often missed the grace that God has for me in the present.

In each season of life, God has blessings and grace for us that are unique to that season of life, and God wants us to enjoy those blessings. In his book The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis, writing as a senior demon to a junior demon, says:

We want a whole race perpetually in pursuit of the rainbow’s end, never honest, nor kind, nor happy now, but always using as mere fuel wherewith to heap the altar of the future every real gift which is offered them in the present.

When we perpetually long for the future, we miss the gifts that God has given us right now. We sacrifice the joy we could have now, in our current season of life, on the altar of the future.

God has a unique joy to give to singles that married couples won’t experience. He has special grace to bestow upon college students that the workforce doesn’t get. And He has special grace for renters that homeowners don’t have.

So what about you? Are you enjoying where God has you right now?