Prayer and the Christian Life
A few weeks ago I wrote a post titled “The Doctrine of Fear” in which I discussed my recent struggle with placing my trust in God as I ought to. I was always taught that claiming biblical promises, and then trusting God to keep those promises, is one of the things that any new Christian needs to learn. Faith rest is one of the basic “problem solving devices” which my former pastor drilled into his congregation.
Lately I have heard some teaching which has shaken my understanding of that doctrine or, at least, has made me question if I have been applying it correctly. For many years I have firmly held that if I focus on God’s promises of protection to me then I would have the courage to do the right thing in difficult circumstances. Sure there will be difficulties but God will see me through. For example here is a quote from one write-up on faith rest:
Finally, in Romans 8:31-32, the believer is able to reach a doctrinal conclusion. This passage says, “To what conclusion are we forced? If God be for us, who shall be against us? He Who spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up in behalf of us all, how shall He not with Him freely give us all things?”
Reaching the doctrinal conclusion “that God is for us,” allows us to retake control of our situation and restores confidence in God and in our ability to make good decisions. If the problem is too overwhelming, beyond our ability to solve, we are still able to cope by placing ourselves in the mighty hand of God and trusting Him for the solution. (Exodus 14:13)
So what happens if my government begins putting pressure on me to deny the clear teaching of scripture? What happens if basic scriptural teaching on morality is labeled a “hate crime?” Something like that could cost me my job or worse. That’s alright since God will protect me. Or will He? I have recently heard teaching from pastors I respect saying we cannot take it for granted God will always intervene in such situations (we are still expected to what is right though). I have to tell you that really shook me up.
As I have thought about this more and more I am starting to believe that there is more to faith rest than just claiming promises and leaving it at that. I am starting to think we need to couple promises with prayer and ask God directly to guide and protect us. If I petition God the Father to guide me so I make good decisions and also ask that He protect me and my family if those decisions are unpopular then I don’t see why He wouldn’t honor that request. The more I think about it the more it seems to me that Christians get into trouble when we don’t ask God for guidance and protection.
The idea of coupling prayer with promises stems from some posts I did a while back on the poor and unfortunate. One of the passages I looked at was Exodus 22:22-24 (see “The Poor and Unfortunate – Exodus 22:21”) where if anyone in Israel mistreated widows and orphans and the widows and orphans “cried out” to God then He would punish the wrongdoers. God’s moving against the evil was conditioned on His being asked to do so.
I have decided that I will, for my own benefit, begin reading and posting King David’s prayers from the Book of Psalms. I know of no man who got himself into more trouble, or prayed about it more, than King David. I would like to think that I can benefit from David’s wisdom and learn from him about how I should pray and ask for God’s provision.
I am not going to post one of David’s prayers this week since this post is long enough as it is. Instead I will finish with a quote on prayer which may not be strictly correct but is in the same spirit as what I am thinking:
Prayer is the one prime, eternal condition by which the Father is pledged to put the Son in possession of the world. Christ prays through His people. Had there been importunate, universal and continuous prayer by God’s people, long ere this the earth had been possessed for Christ. The delay is not to be accounted for by the inveterate obstacles, but by the lack of the right asking. We do more of everything else than of praying. As poor as our giving is, our contributions of money exceed our offerings of prayer. Perhaps in the average congregation fifty aid in paying, where one saintly, ardent soul shuts itself up with God and wrestles for the deliverance of the heathen world. Official praying on set or state occasions counts for nothing in this estimate. We emphasize other things more than we do the necessity of prayer.
Purpose in Prayer
by EM Bounds