Monday, November 25, 2013

The Sacred and Holy Place of Prayer

Lk.18: And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;
Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man:
And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary.
And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man;
Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.
And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith.
And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?
I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?

I Thess.5: 17 Pray without ceasing.

I had not planned to post again about prayer but the Spirit would not leave me alone. When I speak of prayer I am always challenged as well as convicted. I have been redeemed for almost 40 years now and I have read through the Scriptures countless times, but I am continually amazed and grateful that I can still see things hidden within the words of this eternal book of treasure that I had not seen in its fullness before. And once again the Holy Spirit has shown me with many infallible proofs that He was the Author of the divine mystery we call the Bible. It is not just interesting and profitable for doctrine and correction and reproof, but in all candor it is our very life.

But when we speak of prayer let us all be honest before our Father and admit we need to be continually challenged and exhorted because we fall short in our prayer lives. We have much more Bible knowledge than we do experiential knowledge about the fathomless glory available to us in what we call “the prayer closet”. That phrase is taken from the lips of our Lord and they are symbols for time alone with God in prayer. What power have I surrendered because I could have prayed more in my Christian walk? We can study the Scriptures and uncover eternal truths that boggle the mind. And well we should. But I believe that when we drench our lives and our knowledge of Scripture in prayer the Spirit unlocks the depths and profound glory contained in those truths. This is not some geometry book. This is the Word of God which is eternal. spirit, powerful, absolute, and while all men are liars it stands alone as the power of Almighty God!

“I would rather teach one man to pray than ten men to preach”.

Now who said those words? It was none other than he who some refer to as the prince of preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon. What was he saying? Let me be honesty here. I am no Calvinist for sure, but I have wept openly just reading some sermons from Spurgeon’s library. I have had to pause and put the book down when I have read one of his messages on the cross because I literally fell on may face and wept before my Savior. God has given him such a mighty gift and he used it to God’s glory.

But now he says he would rather teach men to pray. Even Spurgeon recognized what power there is in prayer. Look at verse 8 of Luke chapter 11. The Lord asks “Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” But in this context Christ is not speaking of sound doctrine or Biblical purity, although the Scriptures clearly teach that as well. But Jesus speaks about being faithfully relentless in prayer, and then He asks about what faith He will find upon His return. Stop and meditate on that for a moment! And let us make those words personal. Will our own prayer lives reflect the faith that Jesus is looking for?

That, my friends, is a penetrating and disarming thought. I would venture to say that the depth and quality of a believer’s walk is not found in how much theology he knows or how much doctrine he can recite. I suggest that the measure of a believer’s faithfulness is most accurately reflected in his prayer closet. And if we all would hold ourselves to that standard then what kind of repentance would that entail?

We were born into an evangelical system which minimized prayer while giving it lip service and sanctioning it for the opening and closing of gatherings. It has become a formality which is relegated to men who can put together spiritually sounding sentences without much stumbling. Is that honest enough? We have become quite adept at planning what we think is God’s will, carrying that planning out ourselves, and offering a few prayers along the way that ask for God’s blessing in our endeavors. But once we have a good idea, and once we have thought about how to achieve that idea, we proceed with great confidence and enthusiasm. And as I said, prayer is an appendage.

But if we are to believe the teachings of Jesus concerning prayer than there is an incredible reservoir of power that is available to those who would seek the face of God with great sacrifice of our own time and talents and most of all our own opinions. If we are willing to drain ourselves of our own ideas and opinions and our own wills, then we can proceed to the throne of grace. But the Lord will not be a rubber stamp to the ways of men. And God will not incline His ear to convenient prayers that are little more than passionless and redundant speeches designed for the ears of men rather than the ear of God.

Oh the glory and gift of prayer! The church has lost the reality of prayer and it has made prayer bow to our busy schedules and our need for constant entertainment. How many in this next generation will even understand the concept of a prayer closet? How many will have ever attended an all night prayer meeting? How many church members have a legitimate prayer life that rises higher than a five minute “give me” list? The preachers today play golf and go out to lunch and speak on the phone and think of new advertisements and manage their portfolios and go on date nights and prepare messages, but how much time is spent in deep and searching prayer which results in brokenness, humility, and a profound sense of complete dependence upon the Spirit of God?

I believe that when we minimize and marginalize prayer we openly express an incredible amount of self righteousness. In fact, it smacks of humanism even though we claim to be against the humanist movement. But let me tip toe a little further into an even darker place. When the church has so little regard for prayer it reveals a spirit…of…atheism. Yes, I said it. What would become of a relationship in which the bride to be studies her betrothed, buys him fishing gear, sometimes brags about him to others, and supports him, but never speaks with him? They go out to dinner and he inclines his ear but she never speaks to him. She speaks to the waitress; she speaks to her friends; she speaks to her fellow workers; she talks on the phone; she speaks about her upcoming wedding; she speaks to her dog; but she speaks so little to him that even when and if she does speak to her fianc√© she uses the same redundant and antiseptic words over and over again. And when her husband to be requests time with her she is always busy with everything and everyone else that she has no time for him.

What kind of relationship would that represent? Can that be described as passion or romance? Well we are a bride and we have a Bridegroom who has provided us with an open channel of communication to Him and He beckons and even longs to commune with us.
Song of Solomon 1: Draw me, we will run after thee: the king hath brought me into his chambers: we will be glad and rejoice in thee, we will remember thy love more than wine: the upright love thee.

Please allow the Lord to open the eyes of our understanding and see just how profoundly intimate is a time of prayer. It is like being allowed into the chamber of the King and communing with Him with awe and reverence but with an eternal love which passes all understanding. Even though our God is greater and more powerful than the human mind can imagine, He is not some Wizard of Oz who attempts to use His august power to keep His subjects aloof and far away. This King…this Lord…this Almighty Sovereign and Creator of all there is has opened His chambers to us by the power of His own shed blood, and far from holding His sufferings over our head and using them against us, which would have been what we deserved, He beckons us with a love and grace that should drive us to His presence without a thought of sacrificing our earthly time.

Just given the privilege to look at Him would be an amazing act of grace. Just given the privilege of touching His garment would be an amazing act of grace. Just knowing Him is an amazing act of grace. But our Redeemer not only suffered and died to redeem us from the eternal consequences of our sin, but He has flung the doors to His presence wide open accompanied with all kinds of wonderful and precious promises which he Himself will prove for our sake and His glory.

Prayer, at its finest and most sacred essence is a sacred mystery of love and worship between a Father God and his child.


Cherie c. said...

I don't know about anyone else, but the Spirit is speaking though Pastor Rick tonight.

How this post has increased the desire to seek His face in prayer. How enticing is the thought of spending time with out Father God and His Glorious Son?

Nothing on earth can compare to time spent with God in the prayer closet. Even if it is to just bow before Him in praise and worship.

I know this may sound silly, but sometimes I am so sick of my "I need and they need" list that I just ask if I can bow before Him and just worship for a while. What peace it brings, what wonderful peace and it fills the soul.

I so love it when I do go into the prayer closet for this very reason, not just to pray for my needs, or others, but just to worship.

My greatest fear is being like one of the nine leapers that did not thank Jesus for His healing. I want to be like the tenth one and always be thankful and privileged to just worship Him.

My heart is breaking for my laziness and the missing the time to spend with Him. A love I cannot describe and is the only true joy in my life. Yes, I am pining right now for the Lord. Time to go read His Word. Great comfort and joy!

your sister in Christ Jesus,
Cherie c.

Anonymous said...

Job 38:3 Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me.
:4 "Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding.

2Corinthians 12:9 And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

I want to apologize to everyone about the last part of my comment placed in Prayer and Fasting. I would never want to sound glib about time spent in prayer to the Father. But I went back and looked at it again and it sounds that way. Rick thank you for your messages. I am profoundly humbled and I ask for forgiveness. I need to remember that it is only by God’s grace that I am still breathing.

I do not want anyone to think that I take prayer lightly. Or that I can command God to do anything.


Cherie c. said...

Nothing but love for you brother Joel! =D

your sister in Christ Jesus,

Cherie c.

Anonymous said...

Greetings Joel!
I think you are being brave. Certain challenges are challenging.

May the LORD continue to strengthen you body, soul and spirit so that every tomorrow can be looked forward to and fully appreciated as God's gift to you, and your wife, family and friends.

Josef Sefton