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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Comfort & Butt-kicking from the School of Prayer

I read something early this Summer that was brief yet powerful enough to get my rear end into gear:
History Belongs to the Intercessors. -Walter Wink
When I read that, I winced because I knew if the above rang true as I suspected it did, my history read about as long as a one of those "World's Largest _____" Attraction leaflets you pick up at a Holiday Inn. Intercession is a weakness in my life. I'm so thankful that I get to meet with the elders every Tuesday morning to pray for specific persons & requests in the church -- because doing this on my own is more of struggle.

Thankfully, the Lord brought to my attention a devotional book I had long heard of but never before read. The book is called With Christ in the School of Prayer by Andrew Murray. Murray was a South African pastor in the mid-18th century & passionate champion of global missions. This Summer I spent a couple mornings each week working & praying through this rich devotional material. I want to share just three of my favorite selections and pray they might provide some comfort or needed sanctified butt-kicking as they did for me.

"But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you" (Matthew 6:6). Christians often complain that private prayer is not what it should be. They feel weak and sinful, the heart is cold and dark; it is as if they have so little to pray, and in that no faith or joy. They are discouraged and kept from prayer by the thought that they cannot come to the Father as they ought or as they wish. Child of God! Listen to your Teacher. He tells you that when you go to private prayer, your first thought must be: The Father is in secret, the Father waits for me there. Just because your heart is cold and prayerless , get yourself into the presence of the loving Father. As a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth you. Do not be thinking of how little you have to bring to God but of how much He wants to give you (Excerpt from Lesson 3)
One of the great benefits of many of these less if the inspiring images or word-pictures Murray gives us in applying Scripture to prayer. My Father is waiting for me in secret -- so what am I doing here?!

Ask and it shall be given you (Matthew 7:7). If no answer comes, we are not to sit down in sloth that calls itself resignation and suppose that it is not God's will to give an answer. No; there must be something in the prayer that is not as God would have it, childlike and believing; we must seek for grace to pray so that they answer may come. It is far easier to the flesh to submit without the answer than to yield itself to be searched and purified by the Spirit, until it has learnt to pray the prayer of faith (Excerpt from Lesson 5).
Granted, Murray starts treading down a slippery slope as he nears the claim that it is the effort of our prayers that will make all the difference. No, Jesus is the great Intercessor who ultimately makes all the difference and often works without our prayers. Nevertheless, our tendency in prayer is to pray something once, let it fly heavenward without giving it a second thought. I remember Bill Shakespeare saying: "Words fly up, thoughts remain below; Words without thoughts, never to heaven go." There is so much about prayer in which God wants to impress His holiness and His image upon us even while we tend to think of prayer making an impression upon Him. We learn perseverance in faith, how to discern His voice and listen to Him, how to 'be still and know that He is God,' to joyfully drink in his presence in long quaffs. It's far easier for the flesh to submit content with a 5-second prayer and move on. Oh but to go deeper, be refined, have our senses grow more acute, and unite ourselves with the very will of God!

"Truly, Truly, I say unto you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do, and greater works than these he will do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son" (John 14:12-13). And now the second lesson: he who would pray must work ... we find that [Christ] no less than six times (14:13; 14:14; 15:7; 15:16; 16:23; 16:24) repeats those unlimited prayer promises which have so often awakened our anxious questionings as to the real meaning: 'whatsoever,' 'anything,' 'what ye will,' 'ask and ye shall receive.' How many a believer has read these over with joy and hope, and in deep earnestness of soul has sought to plead them for his own need. And he has come out disappointed. The simple reason was this: he had rent away the promise from its surrounding. The Lord gave the promise of the free use of His Name with the Father in connection with the doing of his works...Prayer not only teaches and strengthens to work: work teaches and strengthens to pray" (Excerpt from Lesson 19).

If you attend SCC, you can find With Christ in the School of Prayer available at the Sunday AM Book table for $6 or $8 (can't recall which). Until next time, may the Spirit use this to give you comfort & perhaps a needed butt-kicking so you may be part of changing history & become more like Jesus along the way.