Friday, June 27, 2014

Very Great and Precious Promises

You say: "All this seems impossible."
God’s Word says: “All things are possible.” (Luke 18:27)

You say: "I am just too tired."
God’s Word says: “I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

You say: "I cannot go on."
God’s Word says: “My grace is sufficient.” (2 Corinthians 12:9; Psalm 91:15)

You say: "I do not know where to turn."
God’s Word says: “I will direct your steps.” (Proverbs 3:5- 6)

You say: "I cannot do it."
God’s Word says: “You can do all things in Christ.” (Philippians 4:13)

You say: "I know I am not able."
God’s Word says: “But I am able.” (2 Corinthians 9:8)

You say: "I cannot see the purpose in all this.”
God’s Word says: “All things work together for good.” (Roman 8:28)

You say: "I simply cannot manage"
God’s Word says: “I will supply all your needs” (Philippians 4:19)

You say: "I am fretful, fearful, and unsettled."
God’s Word says: “I have not given you a spirit of fear.” (2 Timothy 1:7)

You say: "I am worried and frustrated."
God’s Word says: “Cast all your cares on me.” (1 Peter 5:7)

You say: "I cannot figure all this out."
God’s Word says: “I will give you wisdom.” (1 Corinthians 1:30)

You say: "I feel that I am all alone."
God’s Word says: “I will never leave you or forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)

Friday, June 13, 2014

Now When (Not If) You Pray

Does the irony strike you as powerfully as it does me? In teaching His disciples, the Lord Jesus says, “Now, when you pray…” (Matthew 6:5). Note, the premise of His instruction is that we “will,” not that we “ought;” it is “when,” not “if.”

Jesus is reminding us that prayer is the most common Christian expression of authentic faith; but it may be among the least practiced Christian disciplines. It is said that prayer is the universal language of the soul; but it is actually the solitary province of the supplicating saint. Prayer, as the unconscious heart-cry in times of distress, is the currency of all humanity; but prayer, as the deep and committed soul-bond in communion with Almighty God, is an exceptionally rare and precious jewel.

Certainly, regular seasons of prayer are essential to spiritual maturity--which is why spiritual maturity seems to be so terribly scarce. We take our time with God in snatches. We throw out petitions rapid-fire on the run. At best, we rush through our laundry lists of wants and needs. Even in the corporate life of the church prayer gets short shrift—only briefly imposed like talismans at predictable intervals in worship services, business meetings, and meals.

Thus, the great romantic poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge sadly observed, “The act of praying is the very highest energy of which the human mind is capable; praying that is, with the total concentration of the faculties on God. The great mass of worldly men, learned men, and yea, even religious men are absolutely incapable of prayer.”

In contrast, the heroes of the faith through the ages have always been diligent, vigilant, and constant in prayer. They humbled themselves before God with prayers, petitions, and supplications always acknowledging their utter dependency upon His mercy and grace. Historical anecdotes abound. Athanasius, for instance, prayed five hours each day. Augustine once set aside eighteen months to do nothing but pray. Bernard of Clairveaux would not begin his daily activities until he had spent at least three hours in prayer. Charles Simeon devoted the hours from four till eight in the morning to God. John Wesley spent two hours daily in prayer--beginning well before dawn. John Fletcher regularly spent all night in prayer. His greeting to friends was always, “Do I meet you praying?”

Martin Luther often commented, “I have so much business I cannot get on without spending three hours daily in prayer.” Francis Asbury rose each morning at four in order to spend two hours in prayer. Samuel Rutherford began praying at three. If ever Joseph Alleine heard other craftsmen plying their business before he was up, he would exclaim, “Oh how this shames me. Doth not my master deserve more than theirs?”

John Calvin, John Knox, and Theodore Beza vowed to one another to devote two hours daily to prayer. John Welch thought the day ill-spent if he did not spend eight or ten hours in prayer. The extraordinary thing is that such fervent praying was not considered to be particularly extraordinary. Indeed, as Homer W. Hodge argued, “Prayer should always be the breath of our breathing, the thought of our thinking, the soul of our feeling, the life of our living, the sound of our hearing, and the growth of our growing.”

For them, prayer was a matter of “when,” and not “if.” And, so it should be with us. May God allow us to hear the Master’s voice say, without even a touch of irony, “Now, when you pray…”