The Safety Catch of Prayer

“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.”~~Dr. Seuss

Today’s word of the day, from Dictionary.com, is uxoriousdoting upon, foolishly fond of, or affectionately submissive toward one’s wife.”

Today is Parfait Day. Fancy a layered fruit dessert? Today is the day for it! And, apparently, the word “parfait” means “perfect” in French. I guess that makes sense, now that I think about it.

Christi is feeling some better, but her stomach is feeling weird. Mostly, she feels better, though. I’m not sure about Stephanie. Last night, she was still complaining of not feeling well. I think we’re just going to skip November next year. I’m okay, so far, but last night, I had something go down the wrong way while I was eating dinner, and it started a coughing fit that lasted several minutes and got my throat all scratchy. My voice is about an octave lower than normal, this morning. Otherwise, though, I feel fine.

Today is the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, of course, which means that we will have to work until everything is finished, this evening. We are hoping for a light day, naturally, but it’s unpredictable.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

(From Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God)

We need to understand that, as we pray for “good things,” we already have, in our lives, “the ultimate good thing.” Keller says, “In God himself we have the headwaters and source of all we desire, even if one of the tributaries of our joy, something in this world that we love, goes dry.” Even if everything around us fails, God, himself, will never fail or forsake us.

The “safety catch” of prayer is that if we are asking for something that would not be good for us, God won’t give it to us. “We must have the assurance that he will answer the basic desire but find a form and mode that isn’t harmful.” Keller uses himself as an example, telling a story of when he was beginning seminary. At the time, he was in a relationship with a woman, and she decided she wanted to break up with him. He pleaded with God, believing that he could not do this ministry without her. He states, though, that it is a good thing that she broke up with him, because he later married his wife, Kathy. God did not exactly deny his prayer, because, at the core of the prayer was a desire for a ministry partner. The mistaken part was that it had to be the first woman.

We also should consider that we have the Holy Spirit, who will take those “core prayers” and pray them for us, as we should be praying. Romans 8:26 says, Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. In our prayer struggles, we can have confidence that God will give us what we would have asked for if we already knew what he knows.

Another aspect that Calvin mentions is that we should, as we pray, ask ourselves what we might need to do to “implement answers to our prayers.” In other words, what might I do to help myself obtain the answer that I am looking for? This does not imply that I can help God answer my prayers, but there are many times when “the answers to many of our petitions would be facilitated by changes in us, but we usually do not take time to consider this as we pray.” While we should attempt to connect our prayers with what we know about God, we should also consider what these prayer requests tell us about ourselves, “about our own motives, our own loves, and even our own sins and weaknesses.”

This causes J.I. Packer to be concerned “about how many Christians tend to pray from long ‘prayer lists.'” Uh-oh. Seriously, though, if we attempt to go through the “theological thinking and self-reflection” that Packer has suggested we do in this chapter, it will take some serious time! When we (as I tend to do) pray from prayer lists, we go rather speedily through them (as I also tend to do), tacking on the obligatory “if it is your will,” without any means of backing up the request “with thoughtful reasoning.” I believe that Keller is citing Calving when he says, “‘Our amplifyings and argumentations will [then] lift our intercessions from the shopping list, prayer-wheel level to the apostolic category of what Paul called “struggle.”‘”

For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Colossians 2:1-3)

Father, I seriously desire that you teach me this kind of prayer. Even though I might not be able to pray for as many people or things in each prayer session, I would feel that more was accomplished if I went through the items with this kind of thoughtful, theological reasoning, knowing that I am praying what is best, and attempting to pray your desires, rather than my own. Help me to learn and practice this.

Come, Lord Jesus!

Grace and peace, friends.

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