Since God is righteous and we aren’t and we live in an unrighteous world, what are we to do? And if things lead to things, how do we make sure they lead to the right things? and without getting off-track between things?
Eph 6.10-11, 18 “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. ….praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints”
From Paul’s perspective, prayer not an after-thought; is an essential component of πανοπλιαν (panoplian, panoply), “a full suit of defensive armor” (Webster). If there is piece of armor missing, soldier is in danger, is vulnerable at that point. To be fully protected, must have all the pieces in good condition… and be wearing all of them. They do the soldier no good if they get left in the closet, either in part or in whole.
In light of that division (God is righteous, and everyone else is on the other side), Q (cough) shows that we must rely on prayer. We are deployed soldiers, and prayer is the walkie-talkie to our commanders. It bridges the gap the in the battle.
“prayer is the walkie-talkie to our commanders” – woefully inadequate view of prayer. For one thing, it pictures prayer as short bursts of communication between which soldier is operating independently. If you want to focus on only the verbal communication aspect, more like new style portable phone that is full-duplex: handles voice both directions simultaneously, always online. Even that misses the full truth of prayer in many ways, even though a fairly common viewpoint. Bible takes it much more seriously, reflected in Heidelberg/Orthodox Catechisms – 2 months spent on prayer to finish out the year.
Lord’s Day 45
Q. 116 Why do Christians need to pray?
A. Because prayer is the most important part of the thankfulness God requires of us. And also because God gives his grace and Holy Spirit only to those who pray continually and groan inwardly, asking God for these gifts and thanking him for them.
Q. 117 How does God want us to pray so that he will listen to us?
A. First, we must pray from the heart to no other than the one true God, who has revealed himself in his Word, asking for everything he has commanded us to ask for. Second, we must acknowledge our need and misery, hiding nothing, and humble ourselves in his majestic presence. Third, we must rest on this unshakable foundation: even though we do not deserve it, God will surely listen to our prayer because of Christ our Lord. That is what he promised us in his Word.
Q. 118 What did God command us to pray for?
A. Everything we need, spiritually and physically, as embraced in the prayer Christ our Lord himself taught us.
Prayer is serious resource – God takes it seriously and so must we… up to the level of our understanding. If a child, at that level – can teach even very young child to be serious and respectful when talking to Heavenly Father. If an adult, should be much broader and comprehensive understanding especially from experience of prayer concepts. To degree we can, should see it for all it is worth! Psalmist will help us gain insight into prayer from our present text.
A. Pray wholeheartedly in obedience to the Word (vv. 145–146)
many different facets expressed here – permission, command, expectation, intensity, object, response
permission: don’t approach royalty unbidden; remember Esther (4:11) “any man or woman who goes into the inner court to the king, who has not been called, he has but one law: put all to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter”
as gracious as God is, would be height of presumption to waltz into his presence and start talking without permission
command: not simply given liberty to call out to God, are commanded to do so –
Psa. 50:15 “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.” James 5:13 “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.”
God doesn’t just allow us to come to him, he expects us to do so whatever our circumstances or need; is first in order of means he uses to supply our need – prayer is what starts the supply chain moving
expectation: sometimes we cry for help automatically – is instinctive action at time of need; but when we have time to think about it, even just a little, expect if someone is within hearing they will respond
Carole – took her tumble, unable to get up, cried out for help, neighbor heard and responded; can be just as certain that God will hear and respond
God expects we will pray expectantly, even tells us that when we don’t pray that way should not expect results
James 1:6-7 “But he must ask in faith without doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed around by the wind.For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord”
intensity – nothing half-hearted, lackadaisical about this kind of praying; not done out of simple sense of duty, rather from need and strong desire
need can be a need for expression, a desire to be heard by God, to express praise or adoration or thankfulness (145)
can be need for help or supplies or deliverance from danger or hardship – both expressed in full confidence without reserve (146)
if expressed vocally (with actual sounds, but not necessarily words), is not done in a whisper – is loud, insistent, demanding attention, not holding back
since God is a Spirit, operates on spiritual level, does not require sound for communication; however… same intensity at work
not “I hate to bother you, Lord, but if you don’t mind my asking….”; should be “Lord, you commanded, you promised, I ask….”
object – Carole had no specific object in mind when she cried out for help, just whoever was within earshot and able to respond
effectual, biblical, God-honoring prayers are directed to him specifically, not to any deity who might happen to be listening
even prayer of seeker: “God, if you’re out there, show me” to be effectual must be directed to God of Bible to degree he is known
don’t mistake this as deal-making: God, if you get me out of this, if you do this for me, I will do such and such in return
is reaffirming commitment to obedience – I am already doing what is pleasing to you, obeying your commands; answer my prayer so I can continue in obedience as a way of life
B. Pray without ceasing according to the Word (vv. 147–148)
prayer not an addon, kicks in at particular times or under certain circumstances, hangs out in the background rest of the time
lots of different comparisons – prayer not our backup source of power, is the primary one; no automatic transfer switch, no need for it
as primary or better, sole source – should be active every waking moment, our first and only go-to at all times
first thing in the morning – before you get into a situation: thank God for new day, rest of the night, ask for his help
communication / conversation with God closely connected with meditation on his word – Bible is where we find instruction on how to pray, what we can rightfully ask for, what we can confidently expect from God in answer to prayer
spontaneous prayer as expression of devotion, thanksgiving or need is fine; so, too, is repeating God’s words back to him – you said thus and so, believing that I ask this, confident you will respond because you did this and said that
last thing at night, or when sleep takes its time in coming – what occupies your mind and thoughts
review the day, looking for God’s fingerprints – recognizing all the ways God has protected, provided, directed, strengthened, and thanking/praising him for it
meditate on what he has taught you about his word, his ways – if you started day with devotional reading, time in his word, how did that connect with the rest of the day
rest of time in between, does prayer color your day
is prayer first resort or last, even if not spoken aloud or long or profound – is it the first step of each activity, the last one
are you continuously aware of dependence on God for all things, quick to acknowledge his response to your need
C. Pray as an act of love (v. 149)
if we are kind of children pleasing to God, must do more than ask him for things – is good to ask, for ourselves and others, but…
need to express our love, our heartfelt praise and thanksgiving to God for his loyal love – remember what John, the disciple Jesus loved, said: 1 John 4:19 “We love him because he first loved us.”
two greatest things we can do to show love for God – love him in return and demonstrate it by obedience; give him glory, the praise and worship he deserves
What is the chief end of man? Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.
feel like you’re running out of steam? express your love to God through prayer, listen for his response, expect to be revived
prayer is an essential means of grace – one of the channels by which God builds up his people by nourishing and strengthening their souls; preaching of the Word and the ordinances are two other crucial means
doesn’t matter how fit (or even unfit) our bodies are – is of primary importance that our souls be in good health
participating in that ultimate conversation with God, at least some of the time just because we desire conversation with God and nothing more, is vital to healthy souls
D. Pray with your eyes open (vv. 150–152)
isn’t safe to drive with eyes closed, isn’t wise to pray with eyes closed, whether driving or not
obviously need to be aware of conscious dependence on God – at same time, need to be alert to our circumstances, dangers that are around
remember what Paul said – “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance”
is just as true in everyday relationships as in spiritual realm: Neh. 4:9 “Nevertheless we made our prayer to our God, and because of them we set a watch against them day and night.”
prayer is both defensive and offensive resource – defensive: seeking God’s help for wisdom and discernment; offensive – seeking God’s action, doing on our behalf things beyond our ability or responsibility
especially when challenged by enemies, is very easy to respond badly – mis-identify the true enemy, fail to discern the real issue, respond according to human emotion and reason rather than biblical principle
If we just put it on autopilot, prayer will take a back seat. Simply going through life, one foot ahead of the other can quickly become the default. Keeping prayer in its proper place takes continuous conscious effort – making and keeping it a habit, devoting specific times each day for prayer. The payback – the blessing that comes from regular fellowship with and dependence on our Great Heavenly Father.
Is during periods of concentrated prayer that we often experience nearness of God. Not that he isn’t near at other times, he is always present with us and in us by his Spirit. But… we don’t always have the same level of awareness – activity and distraction can hinder our sense of his presence. Prayer, when we focus intently on what we are doing, pushes those distractions aside, enable us to commune more closely with God. Do your soul a favor and spend a sweet hour in prayer regularly.