A few Sundays ago, Jarrod spoke about the need to pray, not so much for what we want, but for what God has promised to provide us, in His Word. Sadly, there is often a significant difference in what we want vs. what God wants for us. Below are a few interrelated points to consider.
1. In 2010, David Jones, Professor of Christian Ethics at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote a book entitled, “Health, Wealth & Happiness: Has the Prosperity Gospel Overshadowed the Gospel of Christ?” In that book, Dr. Jones raises concerns over the continuing trend in our Christian culture, from a Christ-based focus to a me-based focus. God’s primary desire is to see all come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4). Said another way, to be saved (Romans 10:9). From that point forward, God’s longing is for us to love Him and to love our neighbor. This desire, referred to as the Greatest Commandment, is repeated, word for word (for emphasis) in Luke 10:27, Matthew 22:37, Mark 12:30-31 and Deuteronomy 6:5 among other verses spread throughout the Bible. Love comes from having a relationship with someone, exemplified from our F260 reading this past week where the Lord spoke to Moses as a man speaks to his friend (Ex 33:11). Once saved, our path to love God is through learning about who He is and what He has done for us (Jeremiah 9:23-24). The greatest expression of our eternal love for others is to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with them (Matt 28:19-20).
Reflection – Are these the foundational elements of your prayer life, to love God more and more every day and to share that love with others? If not, then you (we) are out of sync with God.
2. One of the “formulas” for prayer is A.C.T.S. These letters stand for Adoration (Praise – Psalms 68:35), Confession (of sins – 1 John 1:9), Thanksgiving (thanking God for who he is – Psalms 69:30), and Supplication (requests – Phil 4:6). Note the emphasis on this method of prayer, that adoration and thanksgiving are to be focused on who God is and confession is all about how we have fallen short. Only supplication has a component of prayer requests for ourselves balanced with prayers for others (intercessory).
Reflection – The obvious question is, what balance in these elements do you (I) see in your personal (not corporate) time of daily prayer?
3. God promises that all things will work out for good for His children (Romans 8:28). We cannot see eternity past (I have trouble remembering what I did yesterday). We cannot see today in all its detail (I can only see my side of an issue or event), and we cannot see into a perfect future (I pulled out of stocks two weeks ago, perfectly timing the lowest point in the market, which has risen consistently ever since). When God says He will work everything out for the good of his children, it is another way of saying Phil 4:6-7, that we should not be anxious about anything but pray with a focus on thanksgiving that God will take care of us regardless of the way circumstances seem to look at the time.
Reflection – It is always true that our prayer life becomes more vibrant when we, or our loved ones, get into trouble. The question is, do our prayers remain in balance (A.C.T.S.) or do they become only petitions to God, based on our imperfect view of the situation?
4. Finally, and perhaps the scariest reality as selfish individuals, God’s focus is not toward you and me, as individuals so much as it is to work everything out in a way that will bring Him Glory. God is not our servant, expected to come to our rescue and personally fix our problems based on the way we see them. John 16:33 reminds us that God desires that we have peace, not because we will get everything we want, but because He is in control. As I have mentioned in public before, God drove Judy and I into personal bankruptcy, the exact opposite of what I wanted for our lives. However, He used that process to drive us closer to Him, to be dependent not on ourselves, but on Him. I can look back and see the greater picture of God getting the glory, as well as my family entering His kingdom one day. However, this win-win is not always the case and it is not always so clear. Currently, I know a family where the father is in jail and will be for many years. The mom, with two kids, is facing major surgery in the next few weeks and a long and unsure period of recovery. God may somehow be glorified through all this but, at least so far, it does not appear to be a win-win for the family. Romans 8:28, working together for good, may eventually become visible, but it may not be all that clear on this side of the grave.
Reflection – Are you ok with the reality that comes from Proverbs 19:21 where it says, “Many are the plans in the mind of man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.”
I could go on and on but the point is that our sin nature (selfishness, pride, arrogance, etc.) clouds us from the reality that God sees things differently than we do. He has an eternal perspective where ours is often so blind and limited to earthly matters. The more our prayer life moves toward His desire, the more we will truly be citizens of Heaven rather than focused on struggling through the day to day existence in these temporary bodies.