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Sunday, October 23, 2016

CONSIDERING YOUR PRAYERS

In John 12:27,28, one of my favorite Scripture passages, Jesus questioned how He should pray in a particular situation. Do you think about what you should be praying?
"Now is my heart troubled, and what shall I say? 'Father, save me from this hour'? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name!" Then a voice came from heaven: "I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again."
Consider the situation of your prayers.
God uses the particular circumstances of your life to motivate you to pray. Most of us think of painful circumstances that can drive us to our knees. That is good thinking. But in fact, the immediate situation of Jesus in John 12 was by no means the most painful of His life. However, Jesus was prayerfully sensitive to what the Father was doing in His life. He knew where He was headed. Every mention of the "hour," or "His hour," in The Gospel of John relates to the cross. When Mary broke the flask of fragrance over Him, Jesus knew she was actually preparing His body for burial. When the Greeks came asking to see Him, Jesus knew He would have to pay a terrible price to draw all men to Himself.
Consider the purpose of your prayers.
Knowing God's purpose Jesus could not pray, "Father, save me from this hour." God uses bad things to accomplish His glorious purposes. The Bible is clear that God uses trials to develop your character. And prayer is an essential element in His making you more like Jesus. Are your prayers counter productive? Are you praying against what God is doing in your life? I heard a powerful sermon this week by Tim Keller. In it he said, "Prayer is not a consumer tool. It is a refiner's fire."
God did not give you prayer so you could become more and more selfish. He gave you prayer so your prayers and your life will become more like Jesus'.
But even that is not the ultimate goal. God is developing your character so His name will be glorified. That is the highest good, the greatest joy, the most wonderful outcome of your life and the circumstance He has placed you in.
Consider the affirmation of your prayers.
When Jesus prayed, "Father, glorify Your Name!" there came a voice from heaven, "I have glorified it and will glorify it again!"
As we consider our prayers God draws us deeper into the fellowship of prayer. And He will give greater and greater assurance of His purpose.
Some of those standing there said, "It thundered." Others said, "An angel must have spoken to Him." I get goosebumps as I write this.
But Jesus said, "No. That was not it at all." They missed the point. "This voice did not for me. It was for your benefit."
Jesus did not need to hear the thunderous voice for His own assurance. It came to give assurance to those around Him. And as our prayer-roots grow deeper into God's purpose, He will give assurance to those around you with a thunder that shallow praying never brings.



Monday, October 10, 2016

PRAYING IN OUR PAIN

For all the years I have suffered with my cancer my pain has been surprisingly minimal. But for the past week I have had some severe pain. I just left my doctor's office. To his surprise and my delight, it is evidently not caused by my cancer. But it still hurts.
In his book, The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis calls pain, God's megaphone.
"God whispers to us in our pleasures, He speaks to us in our conscience, and He shouts to us in our pain."
I doubt if it surprises you that police and fire engine sirens or the smoke alarm in your bedroom don't play Beethoven melodies or the latest jingle from a TV commercial. Their purpose is not entertainment but alarm.
Although it may go against most modern American thinking, it is not necessarily the will of God that our lives be filled with pleasure, comfort and entertainment.
Above all else God wants us to hear His voice and respond to His grace. It is through pain and suffering that we are shocked into the realization that there is something wrong in our lives and in the world. Through pain God quickly gets our attention.
Pain certainly calls us to pray. But prayer does not often relieve the pain immediately. And we need to learn to pray while we are hurting. Over the years of minor to moderate pain prayer has been a comfort and joy. This week, my pain increased enough that the pain pills the doctor give me do not take away all the pain. Sometimes they don't seem to do anything at all.
Among other things, I have to ask God to help me focus on what I am praying. I have to ask God to help me focus on other people and greater needs. It is still true that nothing lifts my heart like worship and praise. But I need God's Spirit to keep my attention on His glory.
Of course, we always need God to help us pray. We even need the Spirit of God to teach us what to pray. We need His hand on every facet of prayer. I have become painfully more aware of that.
Lord, I need You not only to teach me, but to help me pray.