Prayer


The Blazing Center has a good article – More Important Than a Dream Job for recent grads looking for work. It’s something you can never hear too many times.

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I’ve also been reading Frans Bakker’s Facets of Prayer and this stood out under “Improper Prayer” –

Think, for example, of Esau. As big and tough as he was, he lay crying bitterly at his father’s feet, begging for a blessing. Alas, Esau was concerned with the benefits and not the benefactor…So it is with those who engage in this prayer. From whom they receive gifts is of little importance. They want the gifts, not the Giver…Such prayer will never be answered. Would the great giver separate the gift from Himself? Then God would not be God.

I was convicted by this because it’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately – how I keep failing at seeking God for who He is, not what I want out of him. I think the first step in the spiritual journey of prayer is to actually begin to ask God for things, to seek Him out in prayer believing that He can and will answer and reyling on Him to do so. The second step I think is beginning to pray to Him for other people -moving beyond simple selfish asking just for yourself to be concerned about other people, lift them up to the Great God of the universe too. Since I began seriously praying(not that long ago) I discovered gradually that I actually, for the most part, really do like praying for people. I consider it an act of service for them, and I have faith that God will help them. But there’s two problems with this – number one is, I’ve been questioning my motives in praying for people – is it just out of my love for them, rather than a pure godly love? Do I want to lay some claim on them by praying for them? Am I just praying for them so that I can tell them so and draw closer to them, rather than praying for them for God’s sake? And do I pray only for those I love and am close to, or is my prayer equally frequent and fervent for those in the outer layer of my prayer-intimacy? (I know for certain I fall far short in that last area anyway). So already this second step, at least for me, is clouded by so much selfishness.  But the third step, even beyond the second step, is seeking Him out for Himself, and that is where I fall really short.  I turn to God, at least three-fourths of the time, seeking emotional peace or comfort, or guidance, or asking him to fix things in my life, or praying for my present or future, or often for friends, of course, and their emotional peace, current life, etc. So seldom do I just spend time in prayer with God, listening to God. A friend of mine wrote this a while back –

Prayer is conversation with God…Consider what it would be like to have a one-way conversation with a friend. You tell your friend everything–personal facts, how your week is going, anything you are thinking about–and then you ignore your friend and keep talking when he/she responds. Do you think you could deepen your relationship or learn anything with your friend this way? Wouldn’t this be a lot stranger than a conversation that involves both of you talking and listening? Or if you went back in time to talk to someone famous, would you just talk or would you try to absorb as much as you could by listening to that person? Cliched analogies aside, that could only be a bit of what I’m missing when I don’t let His voice resonate in my heart. The way I’ve been praying is awkward, but counterintuitively listening to God can be spiritually refreshing. For instance, this is what the Lord’s Prayer sounds like when we just “go through the motions” without listening:

Man: Our Father, who art in heaven . . .
God: You called?
Man: Don’t interrupt me. I’m praying. Hallowed be thy name . . .

In contrast, here’s a prayer by A.W. Tozer that Amy Lin posted in one of those inspiring notes:

Oh God, show me Thy glory.
Oh God, show me myself.
Oh God, show me the need of the world.

If we really mean these words, we must actively listen for God’s response. Our loving God wants to share His heart with us, and He wants us to know Him.

I was convicted by the Bakker example of Esau also because I remember vividly how I’ve always despised Esau – he’s always been one of my least favorite characters in the Bible because not only is he sinful, but his sinfulness is of such a petty and childish manner. I remember always feeling contempt and wonder at how he didn’t seem to care for his father or who his father was at all, even though his father was clearly dying/old and whose company should be treasured. He always just seemed concerned with the blessing. I was never able to understand that. And yet – that’s what I do with God. I always want something from God – I don’t want Him. And while I continue to draw from him only things concerning me, my knowledge of Him, and hence my holiness and ability to live a God-centered and God-honouring life, will always be limited, crippled.

Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10 (italics mine)

A friend referred me to a good article today.

Continuous Conversion – “. . . unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” —Matthew 18:3

Have begun reading Lord Teach Us to Pray by 19th C Scottish Presbyterian Alexander Whyte, who was apparently quite famous as a preacher and writer in his own time.  Found it online at the Christian Classics Ethereal Library.

An ejaculation, a sigh, a sob, a tear, a smile, a psalm, is far greater to God than all the oblations, and incense, and new moons, and Sabbaths, and calling of assemblies, and solemn meetings of Jerusalem, because repentance and faith and love and trust are in that sob and in that psalm. And the magnificence of all true prayer—its nobility, its royalty, its absolute divinity—all stand in this, that it is the greatest kind of act and office that man, or angel, can ever enter on and perform. Earth is at its very best; and heaven is at its very highest, when men and angels magnify their office of prayer and of praise before the throne of God.

I. The magnificence of God is the source and the measure of the magnificence of prayer. “Think magnificently of God,” said Paternus to his son. Now that counsel is the sum and substance of this whole matter. For the heaven and the earth; the sun and the moon and the stars; the whole opening universe of our day; the Scriptures of truth, with all that they contain; the Church of Christ, with all her services and all her saints—all are set before us to teach us and to compel us indeed to “think magnificently of God.” And they have all fulfilled the office of their creation when they have all combined to make us think magnificently of their Maker. Consider the heavens, the work of His fingers, the moon and the stars, which He hath ordained: consider the intellectual heavens also, angels and 6 archangels, cherubim and seraphim: consider mankind also, made in the image of God: consider Jesus Christ, the express image of His person: consider a past eternity and a coming eternity, and the revelation thereof that is made to us in the Word of God, and in the hearts of His people—and I defy you to think otherwise than magnificently of God. And, then, after all that, I equally defy you to forget, or neglect, or restrain prayer. Once you begin to think aright of Him Who is the Hearer of prayer; and Who waits, in all His magnificence, to be gracious to you—I absolutely defy you to live any longer the life you now live. “First of all, my child,” said Paternus to his son, “think magnificently of God. Magnify His providence: adore His power: frequent His service; and pray to Him frequently and instantly. Bear Him always in your mind: teach your thoughts to reverence Him in every place, for there is no place where He is not. Therefore, my child, fear and worship, and love God; first, and last, think magnificently of God.”

That’s the marvelous thing about online works – you don’t have to laboriously type it up but can simply copy and paste 🙂

Everything that one turns in the direction of God is prayer. – Ignatius of Loyola

city-of-angels-grWe know, even as we are known. This is how we pray in Jesus’ name.  – Richard J. Foster

(Above photo is called City of Angels)

“God has institued prayer so as to confer upon his creatures the dignity of being causes.” – Blaise Pascal