January 7, 2016 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement
“Why do we even need to pray?”
That was the question my friend posed to me in the wee hours of a new day, after we had spent the whole night with our church family praying for our youth pastor, whose life was hanging in the balance after a drunk driver hit his vehicle head on. I was in no mood for my friend’s theological ponderings at that hour. He was wrestling with the age-old mystery of the relationship between God’s sovereignty and human responsibility. I was focused on praying for a successful surgery to patch the aorta of a dear friend (yes, it is as crazy and miraculous as it sounds).
The Bible never gives a simple and clear answer to how God’s sovereign ordering of all things works with human responsibility. The writers of Scripture affirm that God “works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Eph. 1:11) and that we are to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thes. 5:17) and “let our requests be made known to God” (Phil. 4:6). It is helpful to remember that God does not only ordain the ends but he also ordains the means to those ends. God has a plan for our prayers as much as he has a plan for the things we are praying about.
In his teaching on prayer, Jesus draws our attention to God’s plans for our prayers. It can be summarized in two points:
1. God wants to teach us about Himself through our prayers. Jesus says in Luke 11:9-10, “And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” Behind these commands to be people of prayer is the invitation to discover that God is gracious in giving gifts to his children. This is what Jesus immediately focuses on after these verses. “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Lk. 11:13). Jesus wants us to know (and receive) the graciousness of God in answering prayer. Why pray? Because it is through answering prayer that God reveals more of his kindness and blessings for us.
2. God wants to grow our faith through our prayers. In the same passage, Jesus tells the curious story of a neighbor seeking food in the middle of the night (Lk. 11:5-8). In his conclusion, he speaks about what motivates the friend to get out of bed to provide the food. It was not the depth of friendship, but the “impudence” [persistence] of the neighbor (vs. 8). Now, before we begin to wonder if God is some reluctant respondent to prayer who needs to be badgered, we need to remember that Jesus’ parables do not have one to one applications. Jesus does not tell this story to teach us about God (that comes in verses 11-13). He shares this story to illustrate how we should pray. Our prayers should be bold, desperate, persistent, and dependent, looking to God as the only one who can answer. Why this kind of prayer? Because persistent prayer is what manifests and stimulates growing faith. God wants us to receive and rest in Him and his grace more and more. Persistent prayer grows this in us.
How about you? Will you seek to discover God’s plans for you and your prayers this year? May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord as you seek to be a person of prayer this year!