Archive for the ‘Prayer’ Category

Extravagant Promises: What About Whatever?

All the dealings of God with the soul of the believer are in order to bring it into oneness with Himself. (Hannah Whitall Smith in The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life, 1875)  I wish sometimes I could staple Hannah’s great quote to my brain.

A reader of my post, Prayer Is, asked me to share my thoughts on John 14:13 & 14:

And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.

Some years ago, I taught a study called Live a Praying Life by Jennifer Kennedy Dean. It changed my concept of prayer. The 12 week course starts with this premise:

The purpose of prayer is to release the power of God to accomplish the purposes of God.

 No my will.

Not my (unruly, tenacious) will.

My task, as a believer, is to be so surrendered to God that His desires become mine. Believe me, this is not easy. My will has muscles I didn’t even know existed.

In the study, Dean includes a section on the “extravagant promises” of Jesus. Not surprisingly, the John 14 verses appear in that section. Those texts prompt an obvious question:

Is this a carte blanche statement?

Well, yes, with one important condition. Every “whatever you ask” verse has what Dean calls a “relationship requirement.” Complete (as in “complete”) surrender to the will of God, abiding in the True Vine.

Addressing this point, South African pastor and revivalist, Andrew Murray, wrote: “The whatsoever is unconditional except for what is implied in the believing. Believing is the exercise of a soul surrendered to the influence of the Word and the Spirit [emphases mine].

God, he says, then breathes into us our praying.

I love that thought.

When we are unconditionally surrendered to the will of Christ, He is able, when necessary, to:

  • correct our petitions
  • alert us to the corrections
  • thereby making our prayers more answerable.

THIS IS A GREAT THOUGHT. TAKE SOME TIME TO THINK IT.

When we learn to pray His heart, we recognize His answers as exactly what we need.

And that will be whatever enough.

What is your greatest need in regard to prayer? Time? Desire? God has all the time in the world and can help us set aside the time we need to be with Him.

Prayer Is

If God will do what He wants to do when He wants to do it, why pray?                  prayerroots&shoots

Agnostic pundits and chronic doubters love this question. It makes, in their mossy little minds, “religious people” look like drones: thoughtless and easily led.

And it shows an astonishing misunderstanding of the practice of prayer.

Prayer is not:

  • simply a spiritual exercise
  • begging
  • trying to change God’s mind

God is not hoarding good things like health, reconciled relationships, or financial peace from us. We are not trying to pry blessings from His hand.

So what is it?

Prayer is:

  • aligning ourselves with the purposes of God
  • releasing the power of God to accomplish those purposes
  • intercession

Prayer that seeks to align us with the purposes of God frees us from our human-centric thinking. With an attitude of “not my will”, God is able to begin working out His will in the things we ask.

 Aligning.

Aligning.

Do not underestimate the importance of this.

We know what we want. We know how we want it.

God, however, wants us to want what He wants. Not my will means we are willing to cooperate with the God Who loves us.

Prayer, aligned with the purposes of God, releases His power. That power, Paul said in Eph. 1:19-20, is the working of His mighty strength.

Look at that language. The working of His mighty strength.

We all want that. It is only available, however, to those who are not my willed. Who are aligned.

Prayer that intercedes is serious. We learn to pray without ceasing, throughout the day, and in time set aside.

But intercession is prayer ratcheted up. It is Moses between God’s wrath and the golden calf. It is Abraham between Lot and utter destruction. It is Paul on his face for the churches he loved.

It is Jesus in the Garden.

 Prayer sets God's will in motion.

“Not my will” sets God’s will in motion.

It should be us for our neighborhoods and cities.

Martin Luther said, “Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance, but laying hold of God’s willingness.”

Indeed.

And it’s up to us to align and lay hold.

What’s going in your praying life?

3 Reasons Why We Don’t Really Pray Every Day

A few years ago, LifeWay Christian Resources surveyed more than 1,300 evangelical leaders from around the world and asked what they perceived to be the “Top 10 Issues Facing Today’s Church.” What was #1?  Prayer: The need for more ongoing, passionate prayer in both personal and church life.

It seems odd, doesn’t it? Prayer is, after all, what Christians do.

Don’t they?

According to a 2005 survey by Brandeis University, 90% of Americans say they pray every day. Most of these are quick, on-the-move requests or thank-yous. Which is fine, of course.

They are not, however, what those church leaders were talking about.

Although there are many, many reasons for this deficiency, I’ve been thinking about three:

1. We don’t think about what it actually is.

“Yes, I do!” you protest vigorously. “I think about prayer! and praying!”

What is it, then?

Chatting with God?

Asking for things?

Trying to change God’s mind?

Prayer, stripped to a simple definition, is cooperating with God to release His power on earth. That cooperation occurs when we give Him our undivided attention. For a period of time. Every day.

 2.  We don’t have (take, make, set aside) time, daily.

“It’s impossible!” you protest vigorously. “I have a very, very busy life and a lot of responsibilities! (and, by the way, some of them are church responsibilities!)”

Well, okay. But we’ll have to tweak some Bible verses to accommodate this response. One that comes immediately to mind is Matthew 6:33: “Seek the kingdom of God. First.” You will notice there are no exceptions.

I remember the struggle when I had a 3-year-old and newborn twins, then a 5-year-old and 2-year-old twins, then. . . well, you get the idea. It was tempting to just do another load of laundry – or scrub something.

Fact is, when you pray is up to you.

  • Early in the day might work best
  • or lunchtime
  • or kids naptime
  • or later in the evening.

When her children were young, writer Anne Ortlund would set her alarm for 2 a.m.  It was her uninterrupted time with God.

Not suggesting, just sharing.

 How long is up to you, too. That you do it should be non-negotiable. Giving Him undivided attention. For a period of time. Every day.

3. We are distracted.

“I’m easily distracted!” you agree vigorously.

No wonder. In America, the average person spends 4 hours, 39 minutes watching television – daily. This is while we are using phone apps, checking social media, and/or texting.

And, the average U.S. internet user spends 32 hours each month online.

The universe of technologies is here to stay. Obviously. And everyone is reckoning with the time-spent factor.

A corollary to this contemporary dilemma is the effect on concentration. We can breeze, browse, skim, sample through our YouVersion Bible app, then pray on the move.

These things are not inherently bad. The trouble is that something else, something valuable and precious, is being sacrificed.

Real time. With God. Every day.

In her excellent study, Live a Praying Life, Jennifer Kennedy Dean says that God, “searches out an intercessor [or pray-er] upon whose heart He can place His own desires.”

That heart must have time with Him.

Beyond the know-I-shoulds and guilt-tripping is a supernatural realm of communion. God loves us and longs to take these short, ordinary lives we lead and do extraordinary and eternal things with them.

His method of choice is prayer. Real time. With Him. Every day.

If you are struggling with daily prayer, what changes could you make in your life today?

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