Struggling in Prayer

“Prayer is not merely a way to get inward peace–it is also a way to look outward and participate with God in his work in the world.”~~Timothy Keller

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“People are just as happy as they make up their minds to be.”~~Abraham Lincoln

Today’s word of the day, from Dictionary.com, is penurious, “extremely stingy; parsimonious; miserly,” “extremely poor; destitute; indigent,” or, “poorly or inadequately supplied; lacking in means or resources.” So Scrooge was penurious, but so was Bob Cratchit? Interesting.

Today is Name Your PC Day. I still haven’t done that. I’m not sure what its name is. Is it a she or a he? Who knows? I thought about calling it “Hal,” but that might not end well.

Christi had her last Huddle last night, and I got a few things accomplished around the house. Tonight, we go to Mineral Wells to pick up my mother and bring her back here for the weekend. Going to be a busy one. We have to do holiday grocery shopping tomorrow morning, the concert for the Christmas Tree lighting at 4:30, church Sunday morning, take Mama home, and then the church’s Thanksgiving dinner on Sunday evening. It should all be good fun, though.

Of course, I will probably have to work late tonight, but we’re kind of used to that, now.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

(From Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God)

Today, I begin chapter fourteen, “Struggle: Asking His Help.” This chapter tackles a third form of prayer. We have looked at upward prayer, which is praise and adoration of God. We have looked at inward prayer, which is self-examination and confession. Now we look at outward prayer, which is asking God for things for ourselves, others close to us, and for the world. David expressed this kind of prayer in Psalm 61:1-2, in a rather primal way. Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; from the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint. On the surface, petitionary prayer looks simple. In the words of Mr. Keller, “looks can be deceiving.”

First, we look at the book of James, where the brother of Jesus writes, You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. Our petitions could actually be bad for us, especially if we see them as a way to tell God, “My will be done!” We tend to want to indulge our appetites and tell God how he should run things. This is neither pleasing to God nor helpful to us.

We can still be manipulative without being arrogant about it, though. Sometimes we get it into our heads that if we pray a certain way, God is obligated to us. If we follow certain “elaborate forms and practices,” we can get what we want from God. These prayers “do not seek God’s face, grace, and glory so much as power to get things from him.”

We can also be too timid in prayer, especially when attempting to avoid these other two errors. Here is a great quote from Keller:

Prayer is not merely a way to get inward peace–it is also a way to look outward and participate with God in his work in the world.

Theologian Donald Bloesh said, “‘Prayer is not simply petition, but strenuous petition. It is . . . active pleading with God. It consists not merely in reflection on the promises of God but in taking hold of these promises.'” Paul asked the Roman Christians to “strive” with him in prayer. I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf. (Romans 15:30) In Ephesians 6:12, Paul says, For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. How do we “wrestle” against “cosmic powers?” In prayer.

I have caught myself falling into the trap of thinking that if I pray the right words, God will answer. I frequently stop myself in the middle of prayers and rethink what I am saying. I have also been guilty of spending most of my petitionary time praying for others, and never asking anything for myself. I believe this is equally erroneous. It is almost a false humility, thinking that God is too busy to worry with me, but will answer my prayers for others. Or maybe I think my own petitions are too trivial.

“It is quite natural in prayer to ask wrongly or not at all. We must learn to ask, and to ask rightly.”

Father, teach me, as I continue to study this book, to “ask rightly.” Teach me to pray. That is my ultimate goal as I read this book, and then continue on to others. Teach me to pray. I want to knock on the doors of heaven with confidence, but not arrogance; with humility, but not timidity. I want to participate in the work that you are doing in the world, with strenuous petition.

Come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

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