Saturday, March 14, 2009

Fight to Pray

Pray! Pray till you pray!

Let us first agree that prayer is a means of grace, that this grace is available to ALL believers. The Puritans used to call these 'means' duties, which sounds odd to us because we modern people aren't typically used to valuing 'duty'. We are a little too concerned with having the right words then we are with having the right attitude. Prayer is a great OPPORTUNITY that God welcomes us into, He draws us into.

As a baby Christian I remember putting this quote from Jonathan Edwards on a picture i framed:

Prayer is as natural an expression of faith as breathing is of life; and to say a man lives a life of faith, and yet lives a prayerless life, is every whit as inconsistent and incredible, as to say, that a man lives without breathing. A prayerless life is so far from being an holy life, that it is a profane life. He that lives so, lives like an heathen, who calleth not on God's name; he that lives a prayerless life, lives without God in the world.

Let us remember that faith means 'to trust', or to entrust ourselves to God: which is why prayer is 'natural' then, because it recognizes that God alone is our provider, is our counselor, is our deliverer, and is our treasure! Prayer then must flow from our humility, our constant AWARENESS of our dependence upon God. I believe that without a doubt God will use things to cause us to depend on Him MORE as we grow. The biblical formula for growth is 'more dependence', for the good within us is only God within us and the minute we begin to forget that, we will find ourselves struggling once again. I like something Ray Comfort said about 'great' faith:

Someone once said to me, "Ray, you're a man of great faith in God," thinking that they were paying me a compliment. They weren't. If I said to you, "I'm a man of great faith in my doctor? It's to the doctor. If I have great faith in him, it means that I see him as being a man of integrity, a man of great ability—that he is trustworthy. I give “glory” to the man through my faith in him. The Bible says that Abraham "staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God, being fully persuaded that, what He had promised, He was able to also perform" (Romans 4:20-21). Abraham was a man of great faith in God. Remember, that is not a compliment to Abraham. He merely caught a glimpse of God's incredible ability, His impeccable integrity, and His wonderful faithfulness to keep every promise He makes. His faith gave “glory” to a faithful God.

Prayer is a mighty foundation that points to One as the source of all success, it leaves no room for boasting (if a man can boast in prayer then he's not praying to God, Mt 6). I was about to say unlike preaching, but that's not true: too bad there are too many eloquent preachers, that deliver masterpieces that draw much credit to themselves---Bless God preacher and preach with an over-arching desire to CONVINCE men (in otherwords, SWEAT! CRY! preach like you believe it!).

The Christian who prays much (and biblically motivated) is one who knows their own weakness, knows their need, fears indwelling sin, knows they are powerless to bear fruit by themselves, and knows the closest they will ever get to heaven is on their KNEES. Prayerlessness is the mark of pride, it's the mark of self-sufficiency, if you understanding of God's Sovereignty doesn't lead you to pray more, then you desperately need to re-learn His ways! For God has never said anything to lead His children into a state of satisfaction with little, God in no wise encourages laziness, on the contrary He comes to constantly humble us. Consider what He does to those who ARE growing:

John 15:2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.

James 1:2-4 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

God is constantly nurturing your conscious need of Him, He disciplines those He loves, His love produces a fear that causes us to hide in Him! Here's a fiery quote from Leonard Ravenhill (and of course there's much lacking in his theology, yet he was a man of God)
"No man is greater than his prayer life. The pastor who is not praying is playing; the people who are not praying are straying. The pulpit can be a shop window to display one's talents; the prayer closet allows no showing off. Poverty-stricken as the Church is today in many things, she is most stricken here, in the place of prayer. We have many organizers, but few agonizers; many players and payers, few pray-ers; many singers, few clingers; lots of pastors, few wrestlers; many fears, few tears; much fashion, little passion; many interferers, few intercessors; many writers, but few fighters. Failing here, we fail everywhere. The two prerequisites to successful Christian living are vision and passion, both of which are born in and maintained by prayer. The ministry of preaching is open to few; the ministry of prayer-the highest ministry of all human offices-is open to all. Spiritual adolescents say, "I'll not go tonight, it's only the prayer meeting." It may be that Satan has little cause to fear most preaching. Yet past experiences sting him to rally all his infernal army to fight against God's people praying.
Man looks at the appearance, God looks at the heart: God alone sees us in the closet, God alone knows our desires and yet don't we feel crippled in this area. Without unnecessary condemnation, you must grasp that in your prayerlessness you are walking in disobedience- you are missing the point of Christ redeeming you. How's your prayer life? Have you wrestled with God lately? Don't confuse walking in grace and a confidence in God working all things out, with apathetic pride; Once again YOU don't pray because YOU aren't walking in HUMILITY!
Yes i am speaking to me as well, I can well recall my downslides, i can well recall the times I'm amazed at God keeping me from temptations even though i haven't given much effort to seeking grace (relief and deliverance) from God (perhaps you feel the prayers of others covering you), but what usually happens is a quick fall; because you begin to get comfortable in the thought that God is working in spite of you. If you would disagree, i would challenge you by saying that you wouldn't disagree in other areas. What would you say of a parent who trusts God so much that he/she doesn't buy food (because they had a week full of people inviting them over to eat)? or a Preacher who justifies his 'heretical or harmful' methodology by saying 'but it WORKS!'. Likewise prayer (as well as all the other spiritual disciplines) are the HOW's of God's sovereignty.
How in need we are of being aware of our weaknesses, which is not something we talk much of these days; we are consumed with not going to far in anything that would make someone uncomfortable. We've been trained to hate all discomfort and call any 'conviction', condemnation. Oh how we need to be set free from such strongholds, we need such a desire for holiness that we would welcome pain, trials, and discomfort.
In otherwords we need such a pursuit of God that we would scale any obstacle to get CLOSER to Him! Charles Spurgeon had this to say:
Communion with Christ is the happiest life. If you gained all the world and did not lose your soul but only lost the light of Christ's countenance for a few days, you would have made a poor bargain. There is Heaven in every glance of His eye!There is infinite joy in every word of His mouth when He speaks comfortably to His servants. Do not go away from Him. Abide in Christ and let His Words abide in you. Closer, closer, closer- this is the way to spiritual wealth! To follow afar off and live at a distance from Christ, even if it does not make your soul perish, yet it will wither up your joys and make you feel an unhappy man, an unhappy woman.
Allow me to suggest this, preacher, parent, student, child, and all others; If you cut your labors in half and prayed more, you would be more fruitful! If only you read less and prayed more you'd be more fruitful! If only you'd talked less with men and prayed (speaking with God) more you'd find more fulfilling fellowship! If only you spent less time in relaxation and recreation and prayed more you'd find more (and Lasting) REST and JOY! As i write this I'm thinking 'yes if only I, spent more time with my father, if only i would delight more in Him, if only I was smaller in my own eyes THEN I would pray MORE' I hope you too are being challenged. Not given 'food for thought', i remember saying something about much prayer being preaching to a brother and they made some comment along the lines of 'I'll give some thought to that' that's ridiculous, IMAGINE: we have people who'd reply to something like this, with "Hmm more prayer?, I'll have to pray about that..".
Repent of your prayerlessness, repent of your inconsistency, repent of your pride, repent of your excuses and MAY the Lord cause us to FIGHT against this wicked flesh that revolts against a life of prayer; may the Lord refresh us with overflowing worship that longs to be in His presence, and may the Lord convince us that a dying world is in need of Christ, His working, His word, and not our busyness, not our creativity, and certainly not our abilities!

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