Thursday, April 10, 2014

Pray until something happens. . .

At least that is what it says on a Baptist sign board I pass every morning. . .  It seems to be a popular sentiment, though largely without attestation or support in Scripture.  Prayer may not change things but it does change us, some say.  There is truth in this.  Jeremy Taylor said to pray as if work did not matter and to work as if prayer did not matter.  There is some truth in this.  I forget who advised us not to pray for that which we were not willing to work and not to seek or work for that for which we would be embarrassed or ashamed to pray.  Also true.

Perhaps we do more praying during Lent than other times -- at least I want to think so.  But for what do we pray?  I would be curious to know if the prayers of the devout differ much from the prayers of the marginal or occasional Christian.  Again, I want to think so.  I want to think that in addition to the typical situations in life for which we pray, Christians pray for discernment of God's will, for discernment of that which is good and right from that which is evil and wrong, for the desire of the heart to pursue with unabated vigor the good and truth of God and His kingdom, and most of all, for His will to be done in us, among us, and through us.

I have oft related the story of the parishioner who told me there would be no more prayer requests coming my way for this person's needs, causes, or people.  This person insisted that praying for God's good and gracious will to be done was, in effect, negating the prayers for something specific to happen, for the sick to be healed, and for the petitioner to get what is being prayed for.  I suppose to some it sounds like this.  But Christians, if we have learned anything in Christ, have learned not to fear the good and gracious will of God.

So it is worth considering as we edge out of Lent, do we pray for our purposes or for God's?  It does not have to be exclusively God's purpose -- we pray not because the Lord does not know what is the desire of our hearts but so that we may confront them and in faith trust those desires to His good and gracious will.  But under it all, all the pious words, the pleading, and the aching sighs of a heavy heart, the bottom line is this.  Do we trust God's good and gracious will or not?

The sign board I quoted saw prayer as a tool to use for a larger goal.  I fear that too many Christians see prayer in this way.  It may be this, in part, but it is even more about the expression of our confidence in the good and gracious will of God in conjunction with the desires of our hearts.  Thy will be done is not a last resort when all else fails.  It is the joyful and confident expression of those who have seen that good and gracious will of God at work in Christ and who trust that we have nothing to fear from the love of God which was manifest in the suffering, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus.

Bestow on us, we pray, O Lord,
a spirit always pondering on what is right
and to hasten to carry it out,
and, since without you we cannot but fail,
may we be granted Your Spirit so that
we may be enabled to live according to your will.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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