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Making Sure Someone is There Before You Scream

Steve Brown makes the point that honesty in prayer is a key component of our relationship to God. We tend to forget that he already knows what we’re facing before we bring what we’re facing to him. As if we can cover up our suffering, shame, and pain. The good news is, his always being there, and knowing and understanding what’s happened, frees us up to be honest:

Childlike honesty doesn’t just include honesty about one’s feelings. It includes telling God where it hurts. The next time you see a child fall and scrape his or her knee, watch what happens. The little girl or boy will be picked up by mom or dad, and in that moment there will usually be silence before the storm breaks. Do you know what is happening? The child is making sure someone is there to hear – that he is in the parents arms before he screams.

-Steve Brown, Approaching God: Accepting the Invitation to Stand in the Presence of God, pp. 84-85

He’s there. You can scream if you need to.

DFW, End of the Tour St. Ignatius Quote

I recently watched the movie, The End of the Tour. Near the end of the movie, some space is given to a prayer of St. Ignatius that hung (not sure if this is true, it was a movie after all) on DFW’s wall:

Lord, teach me to be generous.
Teach me to serve you as you deserve;
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labor and not to ask for reward,
save that of knowing that I do your will.

The Holy Spirit as Editor

I have left my Spirit to be your secretary and the inditer [i.e. composer] of all your petitions.

-Thomas Goodwin, The Heart of Christ, p. 21

Goodwin expounds Christ’s promise of the Holy Spirit as the Paraclete of his people. This ties into an idea I’ve written about before HERE: The Spirit ‘fixing our prayers on the way up.’ When you have an editor in the Holy Spirit, you should not fear boldness in prayer.

How to Pray Before the Work-Day

Matthew Henry gives some great suggestions for how to start off the day in prayer for your work and family. Quotes are taken from Daily Communion with God: How to Make the Most of Each Day.

1) Pray for your family:

We have families to look after, it may be, and to provide for, and are in care to do well for them; let us then every morning by prayer commit them to God, put them under the conduct and government of his grace, and then we effectually put them under the care and protection of his providence. Holy Job rose up early in the morning to offer burnt-offerings for his children, and we should do so to offer up prayers and supplications for them, according to the number of them all (Job 1:5) (Kindle Loc. 636).

2) Pray for your work

a) for wisdom, for success, for God’s blessing and presence:

We are going about the business of our callings perhaps, let us look up to God in the first place for wisdom and grace to manage them well, in the fear of God, and to abide with him in them; and then we may in faith beg of him to prosper and succeed us in them, to strengthen us for the services of them, to support us under the fatigues of them, to direct the designs of them, and to give us comfort in the gains of them. We have journeys to go, it may be, let us look up to God for his presence with us, and go no whither, where we cannot in faith beg of God to go with us (Loc. 640).

b) for skill and strength:

We have a prospect perhaps of opportunities of doing or getting good, let us look up to God for a heart to every price in our hands, for skill, and will, and courage to improve it, that it may not be a price in the hand of a fool (Loc. 645).

c) for deliverance from temptations particular to that day:

Every day has its temptations too, some perhaps we foresee, but there may be many more that we think not of, and are therefore concerned to be earnest with God, that we may not be led into any temptation, but guarded against every one; that whatever company we come into, we may have wisdom to do good, and no hurt to them; and to get good, and no hurt by them (Loc. 646).

d) for God’s general grace to carry us through the difficulties of the day:

We know not what a day may bring forth; little think in the morning what tidings we may hear, and what events may befall us before night, and should therefore beg of God, grace to carry us through the duties and difficulties which we do not foresee, as well as those which we do; that in order to our standing complete in all the will of God, as the day is, so the strength may be (Loc. 650).

Praying by Faith and Not by Sight

My father was a Christian who believed in prayer but I knew and understood little of his praying until after my own conversion at the age of seventeen. From that time as I listened to my father’s petitions I concurred with them all – all, that is, except one, and this one had to do with a subject which was so much a part of his praying that I could not miss the divergence in our thought. Our difference concerned the extent to which the success of the kingdom of Christ is to be expected in the earth. My father would pray for its universal spread and global triumph, for the day when ‘nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more’, and when great multitudes in all lands will be found numbered among the travail of Christ’s soul…

-Iain Murray, The Puritan Hope, p. xv

I was deeply convicted by this paragraph. My prayer life, public and private, has already changed as a result of it.

The fact of the matter is that we too often pray by sight, basing all petitions on what we see, rather than laying ahold of the promises of God. Our pessimism leads us to forget the promises of Christ that his kingdom will not only endure, but flourish. Can you imagine that  Americans, to whom the gospel traveled so far to reach, are pessimistic about God’s ability to lengthen its arm?

In the context of the latest headlines, I remember Abraham, who pleaded with God for Sodom, for the sake of ten righteous men who might be there. There weren’t ten righteous to be found. But today we surely know that there is one righteous Man for whose sake we can plead. We can plead the name of Jesus, and plead the cause of Jesus, and plead the love of Jesus, and plead the death and resurrection of Jesus. Should we not be more optimistic than Abraham, who had only seen the shadow of Christ’s righteousness?

Plead with God that his kingdom would increase – not that he would crush his enemies, but that he would win his enemies; that he would spare them for the sake of his righteous Son, and for the sake of his kingdom. That he would see the travail of his soul and be satisfied to increase the number of his kingdom and family.

Matthew Henry once wrote, based on Zechariah 12:10, that when God wants to move in this world, he sets his people to praying. Surely this is the sort of prayer he inspires – the type of prayer Calvin had in mind when he wrote in the Institutes, that “we dig up by prayer the treasures that were pointed out by the Lord’s Gospel, and which our faith has gazed upon.”

The Deepest Thing I Know

I resolved to live differently, ‘to pay attention to the deepest thing [I] know,’ as Douglas Steere evocatively described prayer.

-Arthur Boers, Living Into Focus, p. 48

The Psalter paraphrase of Psalm 65:1-5 says this:

Praise waits for Thee in Zion; all men shall praise thee there
And pay their vows before Thee, O God Who hearest prayer.
Our sins rise up against us, prevailing day by day,
But Thou wilt show us mercy and take their guilt away.

How blest the ones Thou callest and bringest near to Thee,
That in Thy courts forever their dwelling place may be;
They shall within Thy temple be satisfied with grace,
And filled with all the goodness of Thy most holy place.

O God of our salvation, since Thou dost love the right,
Thou wilt an answer send us in wondrous deeds of might.
In all earth’s habitations, on all the boundless sea,
We find no sure reliance, no peace, apart from Thee.

In this psalm King David describes a group of people waiting, primed, to pay attention to God.

In Psalm 27: 4, David puts it this way:

One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the LORD And to meditate in His temple.

The old word, rarely used these days, that captures the idea is ‘behold.’ To behold, to see, to pay attention. This type of language has been missing from my vocabulary about prayer.