Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Prayer is complicated…

As I finish this trilogy of posts, let me sum up the last two.
Prayer is communicating with God. We must listen more carefully than we speak, because until we hear from God we can’t be sure how best to pray.
Being in the center of God’s will is exactly where God wants us to be. As one Pastor said, God is more concerned with your spiritual welfare than your physical (or mental/emotional) comfort.
Some things are clearly not in God’s will, and we should avoid praying for these. I recall one person saying once that God told them to get a divorce. Quite unlikely, because we measure what we think we hear from God against the Bible, which is the revelation of God’s character. Though God does not disallow divorce, He certainly hates it. Malachi 2:16 (NIV) says “I hate divorce," says the LORD God of Israel, "and I hate a man's covering himself with violence as well as with his garment," says the LORD Almighty. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith.
This isn’t a treatise on divorce, though I’m sure that would make an interesting post, but the point is that if we search Scripture we can see the things God loves and those He hates. One of the most clear passages is Proverbs 6:16-19 (NIV): There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.
Clearly there are some things we should not pray for, because they violate the very essence of God and harm what He wants us to become. Prayers that go against God’s nature will never be honored by God. As it says in James 4:3 (KJV) - Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.
The language is even stronger in the rest of James 4. James promotes correct thinking among the people of God. Clearly, praying outside God’s will is not wisdom. You can pray for these things, but at that point I’d suggest you search your heart, because God is probably not your primary focus.
So we don’t pray for things God considers evil. That seems simple enough.
We should pray for good things like world peace, warm puppies and gentle spring rain. Sure, but let’s not forget that we won’t see some things until this Heaven and Earth are wiped away and replaced.
Then there is the category of things we want to pray about and there is no clear indication of God’s will in the Bible. There are fewer of those than one might think, but they need to be addressed.
If I were one of the apostles and witnessed Jesus’ arrest, I’d pray for his release. After all, the apostles prayed for Peter’s release (and God miraculously released Peter). Praying for the release of Jesus wouldn’t work. God’s plan was different, from an entirely different perspective. Isaiah 55:9 states “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Thinking we can always know God’s will in everything is the ultimate hubris. We are not God.
I had a sick friend. I prayed for his healing, but he died anyway. Sometimes things in our lives happen and all we can do is cry.
Almost. We can pray for strength and stamina to get through the trials, and that God will somehow use the trials to bring glory and honor to His name. Roman fathers would send their sons out into the world and remind them “Remember whose name you bear.” This was a reminder for the son to act with honor in all things. Act without honor and you lose the name.
So it is complicated, all this prayer stuff.
I have to know my prayer is in God’s will.  If I don’t know, I can still ask. If it is specifically against His will or God has other plans I won’t get what I ask for. Then I bow my head to my King, my Lord, my Savior, my God and say “Thy will be done,” though tears may sting my eyes and my heart breaks.
Thy will be done.

“Let it rain, Let it rain. Open the floodgates of Heaven. Let it rain.” Michael W. Smith

1 comment:

  1. Proverbs 6 actually rocks with advice. I wanted to put the entire chapter in the blog post, but that seemed like a cheat. So here it is!
    My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor, if you have struck hands in pledge for another, if you have been trapped by what you said, ensnared by the words of your mouth, then do this, my son, to free yourself, since you have fallen into your neighbor’s hands: Go and humble yourself; press your plea with your neighbor! Allow no sleep to your eyes, no slumber to your eyelids. Free yourself, like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, like a bird from the snare of the fowler. Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest. How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest— and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man. A scoundrel and villain, who goes about with a corrupt mouth, who winks with his eye, signals with his feet and motions with his fingers, who plots evil with deceit in his heart— he always stirs up dissension. Therefore disaster will overtake him in an instant; he will suddenly be destroyed—without remedy. There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers. My son, keep your father’s commands and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. Bind them upon your heart forever; fasten them around your neck. When you walk, they will guide you; when you sleep, they will watch over you; when you awake, they will speak to you. For these commands are a lamp, this teaching is a light, and the corrections of discipline are the way to life, keeping you from the immoral woman, from the smooth tongue of the wayward wife. Do not lust in your heart after her beauty or let her captivate you with her eyes, for the prostitute reduces you to a loaf of bread, and the adulteress preys upon your very life. Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned? Can a man walk on hot coals without his feet being scorched? So is he who sleeps with another man’s wife; no one who touches her will go unpunished. Men do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy his hunger when he is starving. Yet if he is caught, he must pay sevenfold, though it costs him all the wealth of his house. But a man who commits adultery lacks judgment; whoever does so destroys himself. Blows and disgrace are his lot, and his shame will never be wiped away; for jealousy arouses a husband’s fury, and he will show no mercy when he takes revenge. He will not accept any compensation; he will refuse the bribe, however great it is.