Monday, May 28, 2012

The Mystery and Necessity of Prayer

The Mystery and Necessity of Prayer

Ps.27:8 - When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek.

Heb.11:6 - But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

We are being systematically robbed. Let us be honest at least with ourselves and with God. How often do we seek His face? If we are not seeking something from Him, how often do we recline in His presence and diligently seek Him? And when I say “seek Him” I do not mean to recite a list of our petitions before Him. I actually mean spending a lavish amount of time in His very presence and seek His face with all its glory.

Do our hearts burn within us to be in His presence and to search Him out in Spirit and in truth? We are so tempted to spend time in so many other things that we have neglected the greater part. Martha is our mentor while Mary sits at His feet alone. In fact, the church as a whole has lost the practice as well as the desire to dwell in prayer and meditation. We have allowed the cares of this world to rob us of our Master’s glorious presence. And we have even allowed the correction of falsehoods to overshadow our own private devotion to Him.

God does not redeem us so that we can preserve and defend the truth. That is a byproduct. When we are redeemed, we are grafted into God’s family and we become a child of God. Now when a baby is born to its parents it quickly begins to communicate by facial expressions, laughing, and even crying. But when it reaches the age of three, that child should be speaking with its parents. If it isn’t then there is a problem. All parents are thrilled to hear their child form words and communicate, and eventually that child tells its parents he or she loves them.

Now all through the child’s life he communicates daily with his parents. he listens to them, he receives direction and help, and he grows in his love for them through that communication. So why is it that those who have been born again into God’s family take so little time to communicate with the Father? Why can so many live the Christian life with so little prayer? And why does the church emphasize everything but prayer? It is the scourge of western Christianity that we are too busy with the things of this world and too busy with the things of church that we have almost abandoned prayer.

But those who knew Jesus best asked, “Teach us to pray.” They had watched Him and His devotion to the Father and His elongated times in deep and penetrating prayer. They saw Him separate Himself and get alone with the Father, and they heard Him teach about the worthlessness of stilted and redundant prayers. In reality, there is no way to walk in Christ without a vibrant and soul searching prayer life. And because prayer is difficult and requires a sacrifice of time, energy, and selfishness, most professing believers know nothing of its power and glory.

A professing believer is considered “mature” when he can regurgitate the cardinal doctrines and when he is a faithful tither to a local assembly. He is then a candidate for leadership. But where is the commitment to the secret life of prayer that basks in His presence and intercedes for God’s people? A professing believer can be a “voting” member of a church and never pray. And the pastor can be a great organizer with corporate leadership skills, and he can be personable and eat lunch with others several times weekly, and he can be a great golfing buddy to selected members. But given the amount of time he spends with all kinds of activities and phone calls, where are the many, many hours he should be spending in prayer? And he is the example the flock follows.

Let us be honest, we all struggle with our prayer lives. But if we surrender to the culture and what has become the painful norm, then we will continue to slog through this life with very little fruit. You cannot grow fruit in a fallow and hardened ground. And Christ cannot be manifested through a prayerless life that wholly depends on the flesh. But the church has succumbed to the dictates of a western lifestyle and rather than rejecting the dictatorship of its allurements and necessities we have cleverly incorporated them into our lives and by inference we suggest they are the Christian norm. The only problem with that is that the New Testament teaches the exact opposite.

Without Me you can do nothing,” Jesus said. What can that possibly mean? Does it mean we take a painting of Him with us? A cross around our necks? A copy of church doctrine? Surely Jesus was referring to a devoted life that seeks Him diligently in the closet of prayer. Yes, this is a lost practice in the church. Prayer is not sensational and is not results oriented. Prayer is a great mystery but also a great gift. Prayer breaks us and also makes us. Prayer fills us with God’s Spirit and crucifies that which lives against God. Prayer transforms a surrendered life and begins a journey that allows Christ to reveal Himself through a human conduit.

Prayer is not some “Polly want a cracker” begging. It isn’t some spiritual science that when perfected allows you to get material things from God. In fact, most of us already have more than enough material things and struggle to resist being imprisoned by them. Prayer is a secret and invisible glory that allows a redeemed sinner to speak with the Monarch of the Universe. Prayer allows an entrance into God’s throne room and in a mystery we speak with a Friend as well as our Master. Prayer takes the authoritative scaffold of Scripture and infuses it with unspeakable revelation and the glory of an understanding beyond our human intellect.

And as the old prayer warrior I heard in college say, “Prayer is the only attachment we have been given to God’s omnipotence.” Anything thought or done without prayer is of the flesh and does not bring God glory. Years ago a Chinese pastor was given a visa to come to America. His trip was paid for by American evangelical pastors, and he spoke at many churches. And at the conference he was the primary speaker and he spoke on prayer. He was awestruck by the buildings and books and organization of the western churches. When he returned to China the believers were anxious to hear a report.

What did he see? What kind of believers are in America? Where did you speak? How were you treated? The pastor answered all of these questions and more. And then one believer asked, ”What impressed you the most about the American believers?” The Chinese pastor replied, “How much the Americans can accomplish without God.” What was he saying? This humble Chinese pastor was taken aback at how little prayer figured into the western church. You see, prayer is the absolute core of the Chinese church and it is the main reason why they have grown more rapidly than have the western churches, even though they have operated under a brutal dictatorship.

Prayer, my friends, has been lost to us. If a believer bows his head to pray over his food in public he is considered extremely bold. Prayer takes sacrifice and humility, and both of these qualities are eschewed in a hedonistic culture. Listen to believers complain about gas prices and interest rates and economic conditions. Their complaints mimic those of unbelievers. Western believers cannot endure sacrifice, and when it involves money and inconvenience, they are quick to murmur and attempt to vote away their problems.

Humility is considered a weakness in a culture that boasts about its political accomplishments. In fact, I have heard thousands of pastors boast, “I believe the Bible is the Word of God!” Sure, but do you reflect it? And Who provided you with the grace and the faith to believe it? And why do the mixed multitude sitting in pews clap when you say it? It is nothing more than religious theatrics designed for self elevation and to entertain the gathering. But it takes genuine and even rigorous humility to discipline your life in order to pray with passion and brokenness. No one will applaud you in the prayer closet; no one will buy Cds of you praying; no one will buy a 20 dollar ticket to a prayer concert; no one will assign you a “doctorate” because you pray.

Yes, prayer is unsensational to the flesh. Many times it is a lonely practice whose rewards may come in the life to come. There are few examples to follow, and prayer will quickly require a rejection of all that is you and an embracing of all that is Him. And the flesh does not go quietly. It will bring an entire arsenal against any believer who sincerely seeks the face of God through sacrificial prayer. I’m afraid the devil does not fear our organization, nor our growing membership rolls, nor our well oiled youth programs, nor our wonderful music ministries. He does not fear the oratorical prowess of our preachers, nor our visitation programs, nor our stands against the moral decay.

But what the devil does fear is when and if God’s people commit themselves to a life of serious and devoted prayer. The devil knows that has the potential to affect the course of nations. Look into a bathroom mirror. As you turn your head to attempt to see your profile, you will notice that your eyes must remain affixed upon the mirror. You see, you yourself cannot fully see your profile, to say nothing of the back of your head. And so it is in the Spirit.

You and I can only see a limited perspective of ourselves, but the Holy Spirit can see us from every vantage point. The question is are we desirous to hear what then Spirit wants to share with us about us? Or since we have an orthodox doctrine, do we feel as though only minor alterations are necessary and we can see what needs to be done without the Spirit? Are we champions for truth or are we willing sacrifices that are personally slain daily on the altar of truth? Is God’s truth just a sword for His enemies or is it a sword indeed for us as well?

Without a revival of prayer the church will continue to meander through life, buoyed by our orthodoxy and soothed by our condemnation of others. And when a nobody like me identifies the lukewarm core of the church, or when I delineate the false teachings of others, the question is not do we see it. The ultimate question is are we driven to our prayer closets so that we can intercede for the situation and so that we ourselves can repent and be changed. And if indeed you and I do see these things, well then we are held to a greater level of accountability.

Personally, I have much fallow ground left in my prayer closet, and I am grieved over my often lack of thirst for His presence through elongated seasons of prayer. I ask God to help deepen the stakes and lengthen the cords of my commitment to prayer. And without controversy it is true, my Lord and Savior, without You I can do nothing. May I decrease and You increase with each passing day. Please, I beseech You, may You have all the preeminence in my heart and life. Lord, that is not altogether true yet.

11 comments:

KA9FON said...

Brother Rick,

May the Lord be glorified by our fight of faith, of which prayer should be the greater part.

In Christ,
Milt Poulos

shannon said...

Rick,

Are you saying that the Church here in the U.S. is not growing because believers are not praying? Does this not limit the power and love of God the Father? Isn't He the One Who said in Matthew 16:18 "....I will build My church..."?
If the growth of His church depends on yours/my weak, at best, prayers, there would be no church at all. What does John 3:19 mean?

"And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil."

Also, John 6:37,44
“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out."
“No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day."

Romans 10:18 "But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have, for “Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.”

shannon

Rick Frueh said...

I am sorry that's all you got out of my post.

shannon said...

Rick said "I'm sorry that is all you got out of my post."

I have shared what I got out of your post. I am asking for what else you are wanting us, the readers, to understand.

shannon

Rick Frueh said...

Really? I do not believe it needs amplification as to the centrality of my post. The title is probably a good outline.

shannon said...

Rick,

You have used Hebrews 11:6 as example of the necessity of prayer. I don't understand your use of this verse for context.

When the Hebrew Christians were born of His Spirit, the "faith" of Christ Jesus indwelt them. Jesus Christ is the Author and Finisher of the faith, Hebrews 12:2.
It wasn't their 'faith'. The flesh 'faith' can't do anything for God. This flesh 'faith' of Cain is works based.
Those Jews who diligently sought Him were rewarded with salvation...i.e. the "faith" of Jesus Christ indwelling them. The "faith" is the Fruit of His Spirit, Galatians 5:22 showing another verse of whose faith it is.
"Faith" is given by the Holy Spirit to the Body of Christ, 1Cor 12:9.

Praying the Lord gives us understanding. We know only He can do this for us.

Shannon

Rick Frueh said...

I used Heb.11:6 as an exhortation to seek His face, and I suggested prayer was an intregal part of that practice. Even after conversion, God rewards those who diligently seek Him. (Ps.27, etc.)

alsnelson said...

Paul exhorts us to be living sacrifices. I'm seeing prayer as part of being a living sacrifice. This is perhaps part of what the Lord sees as the daily sacrifice. That which was prophesied to be stopped by the antichrist in Daniel 9 and re-affirmed by Jesus in Matthew 24. Slightly off subject, but maybe worth a mention.

Josef said...

Shannon as you know, prayer takes sacrifice and humility so dig into your Bible and study it diligently, so that God can strengthen you from week to week when you pray to him.
Shannon, I think that everyone desiring to honour God ought to study the Psalms very diligently! Make them a port where you call frequently!

May your heart say unto the Lord Thy pure presence, Lord, will I daily seek, so that I can honour you in my life more consistently.

Friends, let’s commit ourselves to a life of serious and devoted prayer, for when wholeheartedly submitted unto our gracious God we all have the potential to affect the course of nations as Rick says.

Precious readers, may Almighty God bless you with a thirst for His presence through daily prayer and deepen your commitment to him, so that he can bless you to his glory.

Exalted Lord and Saviour, without you we can do nothing. May you so bless us so that we decrease and you increase with each passing day and may you have all the pre-eminence in our heart and life now and for ever! God bless you!

Lisa Brabant said...

Josef, you are so correct! And thank you, Rick, for a great post!

I have been side-tracked lately by reading many things by many people - most of them lost people. Not that that is such a bad thing - I've gotten their perspective on some things - mostly the state of the world. But now I need to set that aside and consider God's perspective of the state of the world and pray.

I need to pray for direction, for guidance, for wisdom...only He knows where I should go and what I should do. Not these lost people. The best of man's wisdom is still just man's wisdom. It is God's wisdom we need to seek.

Bless you, brothers, for being out there writing and being encouraging. I was told off today by a man who has a blog about economic collapse. He had written an article in which he seemed to very much misunderstand the difference between organized religion (or Constantinian Christianity) and true followers of Jesus. I tried to explain and he accused me of being "preachy". I must pray for him. He just doesn't see - can't see - maybe won't see...but my words mean nothing to him. Prayer is powerful.

Lisa

Julie Wilton said...

Brother Rick,

I fail so miserably in my prayer life. For the past year I've been reading some great books concerning prayer (E M Bounds, George Mueller, David Branierd, Andrew Murray etc..) They put the desire in me to pray more and more, but I still fail at consistency and in not knowing how to pray, except for my Polly wants a cracker way. I'm always asking the Lord to teach me to pray. It doesnt come quickly or easily to me.
May you be blessed. And thank you
for sharing your writings.

"Moreover as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you." I long to be able to intercede for others. What if the salvation of their souls depends on the prayers of the saints? That thought pops into my head every now and then...

Your sister in Christ,
Julie Wilton