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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

PRAYER AND REPENTANCE

"If my People who are called by my name shall humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked way, then will I hear from heaven, and forgive their sin, and heal their land. "
Repentance is preliminary to prayer. I do not deny that God may answer the prayer of someone who is still in rebellion against Him. I am certainly not in control over what God chooses to do. But the great problem is with what that person desires. Such persons may ask, even demand that God leave them alone. And He may ultimately answer that prayer. C.S. Lewis noted that the gates of hell are locked from the inside.
Frankly, I am relieved that God can be trusted not to answer prayers that are against His will. All joy, all peace and all blessings are in God's will. Note the word of repentance in this verse. It does not call us to repent of wicked deeds. That is an important part of repentance. But this verse calls us to turn from our wicked way. This is talking about the direction of our prayers and our entire lives.
In this light repentance is also a process. The more time I spend in God's presence, praying, prayerfully saturating myself in His word and obeying what He tells me, the more He turns my heart in His direction. He implants Himself in my heart and mind and will. He changes what I hunger for Him to do in my life and in the world around me.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

SEEK MY FACE

"If my people who Are called by name will humble themselves and pray, and seek my face and turn from their wicked way, then will I hear from heaven and forgive their sin and heal their land."
2 Chronicles 7:14
One of the most wonderful commands and opportunities in Scripture is God's invitation to seek His face. Christianity is not simply a collection of rules or guidelines for life. Nor is it primarily a set of abstract truths that we must believe. Christianity is a relationship with Jesus Christ. Hence the heart of prayer is not seeking answers to our requests. In prayer we do not seek God's gifts first. We seek God Himself. He is sufficient to our deepest needs whether or not He gives us what we ask.
Let me give you a picture. Suppose you have a significant inheritance from which you draw a regular income. And you meet and fall in love with a man and marry him. But after your marriage you discover that he is only interested in your inheritance. How would that make you feel? Suppose he discovered that he could not get his hands on your inheritance, so he divorced you as fast as he could. You would feel used, wouldn't you? You might say, "He didn't love me for myself." Are you seeking God or something you can get from Him?
I love the words of the hymn,
"I will arise and go to Jesus. He will embrace me in His arms. In the arms of my dear Savior, oh there are ten thousand charms."
Rightly we hear these words as the testimony of a lost person coming to Christ. But they also describe the genuine romance of prayer.
There is another important facet to seeking God's face. This entire verse is plural. We must seek his face together. We encourage one another, strengthen one another and help one another seek His face.  
In 2 Corinthians 4:6 Paul assures us that we embrace the glory of God in the face of Jesus.
Let's seek His face.
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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

HUMBLE YOURSELF AND PRAY

2 Chronicles 7:14 reads,
"If my people who are called by my name humble themselves and pray, and seek my face and turn from their wicked way, then will I hear from heaven and forgive their sin and heal their land."
Prayer is the natural and supernatural expression of humility. Humility is evidence of God working in our lives drawing us to His embrace.
When we pray we humble ourselves in our spiritual weakness. Many years ago God pressed on my heart that I needed to gather a prayer team to pray for me. To be honest I found this very embarrassing. I had to publicly admit that I did not have it all together.
We must humble ourselves before the will of God when we pray. In biblical prayer I do not approach Almighty God as if He were my assistant to give me my selfish desires. Biblical prayer longs for things to be made right. It prays for God’s good and perfect will to be done.
In prayer we often humble ourselves before other believers. Notice that this verse, like most promises and commands regarding prayer, is plural. When we pray together as a nation, a church, a small group or two or three agreeing, we yield to each other's concerns. Even praying alone is more fulfilling when we intercede for others.  
In prayer we also humble ourselves before the mighty hand of God. It is necessary for us to pray for things God is calling us to do. I often think the final confirmation that God is in something is impossibility. If God is telling you to do something, it will be impossible. If God does not work, such things will never be accomplished. By praying you admit that you cannot do what only God can do.
And ultimately we humble ourselves before the person of God in prayer. When we pray we expose ourselves to God's might, majesty and absolute holiness. We come to see our absolute inadequacy in the presence of God. And we humbly and joyfully rest in His sufficiency.

Next week I plan to write on seeking God's face. In prayer we seek God for Himself. We don't just want His things. We seek and find intimacy with God.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

IF MY PEOPLE

“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and forgive their sin and heal their land.”
I thought I would bring this blog series to an end this week by returning to the subject of grace where I began. I will still do that in a few weeks. But as I prayed about it I sensed God pressing 2 Chronicles 7:14 upon my heart.
It may seem strange to you that I would separate out a series of blog entries on the foundations of prayer. Isn't everything I write in a blog, titled Watching In Prayer, to some extent foundational to prayer? I certainly hope so. That is my intention. But I have been encouraged by certain theological and spiritual truths which shape prayer. And this Old Testament passage gives us several of these basic principles.
We will start with the words, "If my people." Prayer is to be intimate communication between God and His people. There is no question that God called out Israel to be His special people. But 1 Peter 2:9-10 applies Old Testament phrases spoken to Israel to the church.
"But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people set aside as his own."
Several important questions arise from this truth. 
"Am I willing to belong to Him, or am I my own person?"
"Have I become a child of God?"
And "Do I think and pray and try to live as if I belonged to God?"
These questions are foundational to all prayer. The creator of time and matter and the vast expanse of space, the author of all that lives and breathes and wills and thinks, is not your assistant. Either you belong to Him or you do not know Him at all.