What’s the Good of Prayer? – Pt.3

What’s the Good of Prayer? – Pt.3

The good of praying is that it gets us to know God and enables God to perform His order through us no matter what His permissive will may be. We are never what we are in spite of our circumstances, but because of them. As Reader Harris[5] once said, “Circumstances are like featherbeds—very comfortable to be on top of, but immensely smothering if they get on top of you.” Jesus Christ, by the Spirit of God, always keeps us on top of our circumstances.t element of prayer. It is often an abortion of religious hysterics, a disease of the nerves taking a spiritual twist. Jesus says we are to pray in His name, that is, in His nature, and His nature is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit when we are born from above (see Luke 11:13; Romans 5:5). Again, Jesus did not promise to be at every prayer meeting, but only at those “where two or three are gathered together in My name,” meaning, in His nature (Matthew 18:20). Jesus Christ does not pay any attention to the gift of “religious gab.” His words, “And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words” (Matthew 6:7) refer not to the mere repetition and form of the words, but to the fact that it is never our earnestness that brings us into touch with God. Rather, it is our Lord Jesus Christ’s vitalizing death (see Hebrews 10:19).

In His teaching about prayer our Lord never once referred to unanswered prayer. He said God always answers prayer. If our prayers are in the name of Jesus or in accord with His nature, the answers will not be in accord with our nature but with His. We are apt to forget this and to say without thinking that God does not always answer prayer. He does every time, and when we are in close communion with Him we realize that we have not been misled.

“Ask, and it shall be given you.” We grouse before God and are apologetic or apathetic, but we ask very few things; yet what a splendid audacity a child-like child has! And our Lord says, “Unless you . . . become as little children . . .” (Matthew 18:3). Jesus says, “Ask . . . God will give” (John 11:22). Give Jesus Christ a chance. Give Him elbow room, but no one ever does it until he is at his wits’ end. During a war many pray for the first time. It is not cowardly to pray when we are at our wits’ end. It is the only way to get in touch with reality. As long as we are self-sufficient and complacent, we don’t need to ask God for anything. We don’t want Him. It is only when we know we are powerless that we are prepared to listen to Jesus Christ and to do what He says.

Then again our Lord says, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire” (John 15:7), or rather, you shall ask “what your will is in.” There is very little our wills are in. Consequently it is easy to work up false emotions. We intercede in a mechanical way. Our minds are not in it. Jesus said to two of His disciples, “You do not know what you ask” (Mark 10:38).

Be yourself exactly before God and present your problems—the things you have come to your wits’ end about. Ask what you will, and Jesus Christ says your prayers will be answered. We can always tell whether our will is in what we ask by the way we live when we are not praying.

The New Testament view of a Christian is that he is one in whom the Son of God has been revealed, and prayer deals with the nourishment of that life. It is nourished by refusing to worry over anything, for worry means there is something over which we cannot have our own way, and in reality is personal irritation with God. Jesus Christ says, “Don’t worry about your life. Don’t fear them which kill the body. Be afraid only of not doing what the Spirit of God indicates to you.”

“In everything give thanks” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Never let anything push you to your wits’ end, because you will get worried, and worry makes you self-interested and disturbs the nourishment of the life of God. Give thanks to God that He is there, no matter what is happening. Many a man has found God in the belly of hell in the trenches during the days of war. They came to their wits’ end and discovered God. The secret of Christian quietness is not indifference, but the knowledge that God is my Father, He loves me, I shall never think of anything He will forget, and worry becomes an impossibility.

It is not so true that “prayer changes things” as that prayer changes us, and then we change things. Consequently we must not ask God to do what He has created us to do. Jesus Christ is not a social reformer. He came to alter us first, and if there is any social reform to be done on earth, we must do it. God has so constituted things that prayer on the basis of redemption alters the way we look at things. Prayer is not altering things externally, but working wonders within our disposition. When we pray, things remain the same but we begin to be different. The same thing occurs when we fall in love. The circumstances and conditions are the same—we have a sovereign preference in our heart for another person that transfigures everything. If we have been born from above and Christ is formed in us, instantly we begin to see things differently: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

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