The Christian life is one of constant repentance. Constant, meaning everyday. The day we stop repenting is the day we stop growing in Christ. In fact, praying for God to reveal areas in our lives that are in need of change should be a daily prayer. Can I just share with you a truth that was revealed to me in my time with the Lord this morning? Brace yourself….here it is; We serve a very big God.
Sounds anticlimactic I know. The reality that God is a big God seems to be such an elementary statement. Yet so many professing believers are completely stunted in their spiritual growth because they seem to think that they, in all of their years in church, have God completely figured out, therefore repentance in their lives is void. The nominal Christian can fall prey to wanting to have all the answers for fear of looking foolish when asked a question about our big God. But sometimes, its ok to not have all the answers. Because it is in not knowing something about God that pushes us deeper in to pursing Godly wisdom. And once the wisdom that was once lacking in our lives is attained through seeking the Lord, it is not to be used a bragging right of Biblical knowledge, but to humble us into further repentance.
This has been true in my own life. Specifically in the area of prayer. I have come to see that there is a direct correlation between seeing the hand of God and the prayer life of a believer. I am burdened by the reality of how watered down prayer has become, specifically in our modern-day culture. Today we tend to view prayer in one of two ways. The first view of prayer is that of a daily check list. This way is generally used by a person who has good intentions to grow in God. But due to the hustle and bustle of life in our 21st century world, God like everything else must be penciled into our daily planner. Some will prayer in the morning while others at night. And there is nothing wrong with having a set time to pray. Any prayer is wonderful. But in viewing prayer in this way, we attempt to put our big God in a little manageable box. Although done with great intentions, this view of prayer limits us from experiencing the blessings of prayer at a much greater level.
The second view of prayer is much more common today and its the view that we mainly come to God in prayer when we are in need. It is to see God as a means to get what we want out of life. And just as the former view of prayer mentioned above, this can also be done with the best of intentions. In fact many churches today fall into this pattern of prayer, except in within the church, we corporately pray as a body for the needs of others more than our own needs. Prayer meetings in the church consist mostly of praying for illness and healing. And again, there is nothing wrong with this. We should pray for the well being of others. The problem comes when this view of prayer is the predominate one. The problem comes when we are praying more for ailing church members rather than the lost world. As one pastor put it, at times the church prays harder to keep the saints out of Heaven than to pull the lost out of Hell.
When it comes to prayer, it boils down to the fact that our eyes are so focused on getting what we want out of prayer. And what happens when these selfish prayers are not answered, particularly in the case of praying for someone who is not healed from an illness, maybe even resulting in death? We cannot fathom at times why God would not hear the prayers of the saints and not want to answer their prayers of deliverance. And so discouragement sets in, and faith is shaken. We begin to doubt the power of prayer. We begin to wonder if God really hears us. I used to think of prayer in this way. And in doing so, I only proved that I knew nothing about the purpose of prayer.
I thought I had a great prayer life, until I began examining the lives of greater men that have come before me. Prayer warriors in the fullest sense of the word. And when measured against them, my prayer life was almost pagan in form. Think of these two modern views of prayer I mentioned above, and then begin to read about the men of God throughout history. Charles Spurgeon was known for his great prayer life. One friend of his told the story once of he and Spurgeon taking a stroll in the woods and laughing about different things together. Spurgeon stopped along the path and told his friend, “Let us kneel in prayer right now and thank God for laughter.” And upon reading this, I immediately was shamed. How often do we pray to God in this way? To just stop and acknowledge Him as giver of all things! And to not always come before God with an agenda, but simply to praise him for the water that runs from our kitchen sink, and for the food that he (not the grocery store) himself has supplied so that we may be nourished.
In the mid 1800’s in Bristol, England, George Muller set out to raise up and fund a series of orphanages. He took in hundreds of needy children to support. Muller was also a pastor. And his prayer life was amazing. In pastoring his church, Muller never asked for a paycheck. He had a box put in the back of the church for the members to put offerings for his support. He never urged them to contribute, because he wanted his sole income to be provided by Gods hand. God never let him down. He operated the orphanages in the same manner. Never asking for donations or funding, he and his staff prayed to God to supply their needs. One month the orphanage was out of food. The children were hungry and it was time for their morning breakfast of bread and milk. Muller prayed for God to supply the needs of the morning. No sooner than he had finished praying, a man with a bread wagon entered the orphanage and said that the Lord had led him to give a donation of bread to the church. A few minutes later, a man driving a milk wagon had busted his wagon wheel right in front of the orphanage. His wagon was full of milk. Knowing that he would never be able to get the milk to his destination without it now spoiling, the milk man told Muller to make good use of all that he had in the wagon.
One of my favorite preachers today Paul Washer has told the story of the beginnings of his ministry, Heartcry. He said there were times when in trying to get the organization going, he and his staff couldn’t take a paycheck. But always through prayer, God provided for them. Because in all their prayers, they never prayed for their will, but always Gods.
You see, prayer is about communing with God. Prayer is about relationship with God. But prayer is not about getting what we want. Prayer is not an avenue in which we can boast of how faithful we have been and therefore, begin thinking that God owes it to us to answer our prayers. Prayer is not about our wants and desires, its about the will of God. It is so much more freeing when we learn this. Because we realize that chasing after our own wants never works out. But if we are in the center of Gods will for our lives, then no affliction can prevail in our lives. I am still growing in my prayer life and in constant need of repentance. But I have learned how to prayer. Rather, I should say Ive learned how I am most comfortable praying. It is in the bulk of my prayers, that I utter these words….
“Father, not my will but yours be done….” Its to begin to pray for things in this manner of example;
I prayer for healing, but if God be more glorified in some way in the sickness; Not my will but yours be done.
I pray for a new car, but if God be more glorified in my travels by foot, then let me walk all the days of my life with no car.
I pray for prosperity, but if God be more glorified in my poverty, then I will rejoice in what little I have.
And in all this, let me do this with a heart full of thanksgiving that even though I may not be fulfilling the desires of my flesh, I walk in the utmost safety, because I have put myself in the center of His will, not my own. Using the example of health, we should never pray for health so that we may live longer for ourselves, but we pray for health so that we may be a sharper tool to be used by the Master for bringing others to know his glory! If we are praying for a car, it should never be so that we can keep up the with Jones next door, but so that in his will, it can be used to aid us in bringing Him glory! In everything we do, in every prayer we pray, at the core should be a concern for the glory of God!
When we begin to seek the Lord, our wants start align with His will. If a person in truly walking with the Lord, that person will begin to carry the same burdens as his Heavenly Father. And the temporal wants of this dying world will begin to be viewed as trivial and fleeting. The disciples were in constant prayer. And they saw God do many great things. But there were also times that they were not delivered. They lived a poor life. And they died horrible deaths. John was boiled alive in a vat of oil and then shipped off to live a portion of his later years on a remote island. Peter was crucified upside down. Paul was beheaded. Spurgeon struggled with depression his whole life and then died. A person with a low view of prayer could say that God didn’t answer their prayers of deliverance. But they would only show their ignorance in the matter. Because the treasure and reward of the toils of these men was not placed in earthly comforts, but in a pearl of great price. They held tight to a hidden treasure in a field. Their treasure was found in Christ, and their reward was not on this earth but in Heaven.
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”Matthew 13:44-46.
Regardless of the outcome of your prayers, it should always be a greater desire in your heart that God’s will triumph personal requests, because even though we may not get what we want, there is joy to know that the desire of our hearts seeks more for Gods will. Because we know that when we are tied to our Father, no danger can overtake us. Its sort of like those parents who put leashes around their young children s hands when going out in public. The kids may kick and scream when they cant go their way, but their way is not always the best. And as long as they are tied to their parents and walk in their footsteps, the child will not be lost. How is your prayer life today? Is God penciled into a box, giving him just a small portion of time? Or do you enter daily into an ongoing dialogue with him in which you pray constantly with out ceasing? (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Maybe its time like me, you repented of your prayer life. And if so that is nothing to be ashamed of, but something to rejoice in that God in his mercy, brings us into a greater knowledge of himself, thus placing our lives at the center of His will. For if he cares for the sparrows in the trees, then how much more will he care for his children who call upon his name, and walk in his ways?
“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”Matthew 10:29-31.