30 Oct 2013
God in His amazing grace has granted to us, His children, the awesome privilege of coming directly to His throne in prayer. We aptly celebrate that we no longer need to come to God through a third person but can approach His throne directly. However could it be that in some cases we take this dispensation of grace too casually? Could it be that we sometimes fail to remember that God communicated in His word some guidelines for approaching His throne?
It seems that at the center of God’s heart regarding prayer is the question of our heart attitude. God’s word demonstrates an acceptable attitude expressed by Daniel:
Daniel 10:11-12 (NLT)
11 And the man said to me, “Daniel, you are very precious to God, so listen carefully to what I have to say to you. Stand up, for I have been sent to you.” When he said this to me, I stood up, still trembling.
12 Then he said, “Don’t be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day you began to pray for understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your request has been heard in heaven. I have come in answer to your prayer.
Perhaps a point to begin as we examine the attitude by which we should approach the living God is to consider humble submission. Daniel’s prayers were heard by God as soon as he began to pray for understanding and to humble himself before God.
This same idea, humbling ourselves, is also revealed as God Himself instructs King Solomon in II Chronicles 7:14 …. “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray,” It was no mistake that God instructed we should first humble ourselves and then pray. Just as in the building of a house we would not likely think of beginning without preparation; should we come with petitions to the Creator of the Universe casually without our hearts being prepared?
In our modern mentality we subtly long to make truth fit into our self-centered desires. We can subconsciously lean in the direction of manufacturing our own “truth” from the raw material of our individual inclinations. This most often occurs when we have a sharp and clear focus on our own desires and a fuzzy out of focus perspective on the Word of God. This is a subtle but sure means to move away from humble submission to God and obedience to His Word.
Jesus taught an interesting parable regarding our attitude in prayer:
Luke 18:10-14 (NASB95)
10 "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.
11 "The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: 'God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.
12 'I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.'
13 "But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, the sinner!'
14 "I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted."
Jesus’ main point in this parable is pride closes the ears of God against our prayers, while humility of heart draws the listening ears of God to our petitions. God hears and responds to the cries of a humble heart.
The person chosen by Jesus to represent the proud person was very religious. He would have done all of the “acceptable” things to come close to God. He would have been intelligent and learned and perhaps had letters behind his name. He would have had the respect of many people. But God did not agree with such people. God neither respected this Pharisee nor respond positively to his prayers. In fact the prideful prayers of this Pharisee were likely distasteful to God.
In one sense our attitudes are somewhat similar to the automatic transmission of an automobile. When the transmission is in reverse we have an attitude of rebellion against God. When we humble ourselves and submit to the desires and will of God we move in a sense into neutral. Now in order to move into drive and make a positive impact for God and His purposes we must maintain an attitude of humility while putting the shift lever into drive. This is done by intentionally seeking God. James tells us that after we humble ourselves we need to draw near to God. Seeking God intentionally and intently with pre-agreed obedience puts our life transmission into drive. It is impossible to get into drive from reverse without going through neutral.
James tells us that if we draw near to God, God will respond by drawing near to us.
James 4:6-8a (NASB95)
6 But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, "GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE."
7 Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.
How do we draw near to God? We may draw near to God in several ways, in authentic worship of God, in a time of meditation on His person through His word, or the observation of God in His creation. But perhaps the most powerful and cherished drawing near to God is found in intimate personal prayer. Not prayer laced with petitions but prayer focused solely upon loving and receiving the love of God in His presence. This kind of prayer apparently held a high priority in the life of the apostle Paul. Listen in as Paul prayed for those in the region of Ephesus:
Ephesians 3:16-19 (NASB95)
16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man,
17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love,
18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,
19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.
Wow, to be filled up to all the fullness of God, Christ dwelling in our hearts through love. Could this be the result of knowing and experiencing for ourselves the love of God which far surpasses mere knowledge? When we are filled up with all the fullness of God, we will instinctively with little thought or effort love God and worship Him. It all depends on our attitude. We will only progress from reverse to neutral when we humble ourselves. Interestingly Peter had very similar thoughts to those of Paul.
1 Peter 5:5-7 (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.
6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time,
7 casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.
The heart shift from reverse to neutral is perhaps the real starting point for authentically coming into the presence of God. The presence of God is the place of authentic prayer. It is here in God’s presence that our prayers for revival may be heard and answered.