Thursday, September 20, 2007

Why Pray?

Why should a person pray?

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. (Matthew 5:44-45)

Here the Lord Jesus holds before us certain actions that flow from the hearts of those who know the Lord God Almighty as their Father. What is in the hearts of the sons of God? Love, even for enemies, the same love that God has for enemies. Love that moves the hearts of God’s sons (not children, for this is the language of inheritance) to bless those who curse them and to pray for those who abuse them. After all, their Father causes His sun to rise upon the entire world, and sends His rain to water the crops of all.

But those who are not God’s sons do not realize where these blessings come from. Only those born of God know Him as their loving Father and provider of all that is good. This is what prayer does for the one who prays. Prayer serves to teach the one born of faith that his faith is not in vain.

In this same understanding the author to the Hebrews writes:
For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children,

My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.

If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.

Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.

Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.
(Hebrews 12:3-13)

For those who are God’s sons of the promise that is in Christ, those who are of God’s household and live in the faith that He supplies, God sometimes holds back on certain blessings. Yes, while God continues to let the greedy and corrupt prosper, He disciplines those who are His beloved children.

This is why those who are of the household of faith often seem not to prosper in worldly things as those who are outside of God’s loving embrace do. God does not want His household to forget that they live because of His love. He does not want His beloved to become blinded by the worldly successes that often seem to come from one’s own efforts. God wants His household to remember that He is their Father and their life.

So He promises to hear and answer our prayers. He holds back on a few things from time to time so that we notice their absence and turn to Him and cry out. Then the Lord releases what He withheld and we learn that His promises are true.

It is not really because we pray that God blesses us, but rather, because God blesses us that we pray. The more that we pray, the more we see God’s blessings. He blesses us with far more than we even know that we need. He blesses us whether or not we ask. But when we ask, we are blessed with not only the things for which we ask, but also with the awareness of God’s goodness.

This is why the Lord not only commands us to pray, but also teaches us how and what to pray. We are to pray as He has taught us.

Perhaps the most powerful prayers are when a person simply cries out “O Lord,” or “Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!” Sometimes a person is in such terror or pain or helplessness that this is all that the person can produce. And what more does faith really teach us? In such moments as these, a person no longer trusts in anything from himself, not even trusting in his own ability to pray. This is the greatest expression of faith, looking to Jesus and depending upon absolutely nothing else.

Truly the Lord is good and His mercy endures forever. Is this not the reason for prayer?

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