9 Sep 2013
Have you noticed the human tendency to assume that we are doing just fine and any problems which may occur are the real responsibility of some other person or God? One of the detriments of our being seriously centered on self is that we assume that we are perfectly fine or right or well balanced and any needed corrections of others must be made to correlate with our own gold standard (exactly where everwe are). These ego-centered assumptions are subtle and while they may reside most firmly in the subconscious, they tend to color nearly all of our evaluations and interactions.
We can see this tendency played out with regard to prayer. In most any of our churches we can hear these words …. “God always answers prayer ….. either yes, or no, or wait.” But would a casual review of scripture actually support this view? First when we look below the thin veneer of our self centered desires, we see that some of what the Bible would define as prayer does not actually require an “answer”. But in our egotistical driven evaluation we center almost exclusively on what we can receive from God when we pronounce the word prayer. What about prayers of thanksgiving? What of prayers of praise; do these require an answer in the sense spoken of above?
God in His direction to Solomon in 2 Chronicles 7:14 below gave clear and concise direction regarding how our requests may be heard by our God. For a prayer request to be answered it must first obtain the willingness of God to hear it.
2 Chronicles 7:14 (NLT)
14 Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.
God’s first instruction was that we are to humble ourselves. This instruction may well disqualify many a prayer in the eyes of God. A proud self centered perspective is doubtful to open the ears and heart of God. The primary purpose of prayer is that God’s will would be done on earth not that our will would be done in heaven. The former is fueled by a humble servant’s heart. The latter by a heart burdened down with pride.
1 Peter 5:5 (NASB95)
5 You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.
When the Bible says that God is opposed to the proud it means that He actively resists them. This is a part of God’s very nature; He must oppose us when we are proud.
Isaiah 23:9 (GW)
9 The Lord of Armies planned this in order to dishonor all arrogant people and to humiliate all the honored people of the world.
While we have a natural and strong tendency toward pride it is clear from scripture pride places us in a position that is opposed to God. Additionally pride is sin and sin always introduces separation between us and God. God will often allow the proud to thrive for a time, butpridegoes before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall. (Proverbs 16:18) A high and holy accurate view of God is only possible in the heart and mind that is soaked and settled down in humility.
So we see that God instructs us to humble ourselves in preparation to pray. Jesus gives similar instructions when asked by His disciples to teach them to pray. He instructed first that we recognize God as our Father, which carries the instruction of our placing ourselves under God’s authority and His headship. Jesus further instructs us to hallow His Name. The process of authentically keeping the Name of God holy is of necessity the process of humbling ourselves before God and men.
While few would place themselves above God, in pride we often place ourselves immeasurably higher than we ought as we allow the world, the flesh and the enemy of our souls to seduce our thinking. We can know that we are being seduced when we find that we are no longer daily desperately dependent on nourishment from God’s Word and thefellowship and filling of His Sprit. A subtle straying away from the Word of God and the Spirit of God are explicit indicators that we are entering the danger zone where we start to believe and act as if we can “go it alone.”
Could it be that the further we stray away from an intimate relationship with God the more self centered our prayers will become? Listen to the words of God regarding some who have seriously strayed away from Him.
Jeremiah 7:16 (AMP)
16 Therefore do not pray for this people [of Judah] or lift up a cry or entreaty for them or make intercession to Me, for I will not listen to or hear you.
Following God’s instructions to humble ourselves and pray, God instructs Solomon to seek His face. Seeking the face of God is a continuation of humbly seeking God. Seeking God’s face is seeking Him for who He is not for what He can give. The person parked in pride does not seek the face of God. However in the pride place of self centeredness we quite often seek gifts from God’s hand.
Psalms 105:4 (NASB95)
4 Seek the LORD and His strength; Seek His face continually.
Lastly God’s words to Solomon were to turn from our wicked ways. Repent! Pride refuses to repent. In fact when pride senses the potential need to repent it immediately begins to work out the reasons required to justify staying parked in its present pride-filled position. Conversely humility runs toward repentance with tears and contrite confession, carrying the luggage of commitment to change with the help of God.
While may see 2 Chronicles 7:14 as a passage providing instruction regarding how to pray for revival, and it certainly is that, perhaps we should measure all of our praying by the heart needed to internally adhere to these God given instructions. We have the promise from God that He will hear and answer if we come to Him as He has instructed.
Our praying is embedded in our relationship. Our prayer is impacted by our study of the Word, by our obedience, by our seeking and worshiping the Lord and walking in His Spirit. Prayer is not an independent transaction it is rather a central part of our integrated intercourse with a very Holy but personal loving God. May our Holy Heavenly Father through His Word and through His Spirit continue to teach us to pray!