Saturday, May 4, 2019

The Thoughts of God that Direct our Prayers

As I noticed how Paul began another one of his prayers, “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you…”,[1] I realized that when Paul tells us what he prays for the church, he first tells us something of the greatness of the one to whom he prays.

In this prayer, Paul tells us that he thinks expectantly of what he prays because the one he prays to is, “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ,” the very person who has saved and redeemed us from sin at such great expense. And he is, “the Father of glory”, who is himself the reason that anything is glorious at all. To such a person we can express our hearts to him in the full expectation that anything we pray according to his will he will answer.[2]

This reminded me that Paul’s next prayer in Ephesians is addressed to, “the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you…”[3] If we pray that he would act “according to the riches of his glory”, the fact that he has the glory of “the Father” who is the source of everything gives us faith-building cause to not only expect him to answer us, but to answer in the perfection of fatherliness.

Suddenly this hit me the way Jesus taught us to begin our prayers, by addressing God as, “Our Father in heaven”.[4] Again, the fact that he is a “Father” to us as his beloved children, and that he is the Father “in heaven” instead of like fathers on earth, and that this perfect Father is “our” Father, all call us to expect him to do in our lives the very things we pray according to Jesus’ teaching on prayer.

LESSON: our prayers rise out of our beliefs regarding the one to whom we pray. Wrong beliefs about God demoralize our attempts to pray; true beliefs about God encourage us in our efforts to pray.

FREEDOM ISSUE: any struggle to pray is a revelation of things we do and do not believe about God. Likely there are things we do believe that are not true, and things we do not believe that are true. Addressing our faith-issues with God will automatically fix a lot of our issues with prayer.

APPLICATION: as anything comes up that you have difficulty bringing to God in prayer for any reason at all, ask God to reveal to your mind what you believe about him that is hindering your prayers. Whatever comes up is likely the best thing to talk to God about in order to get to know him as your Father better than you have ever known him before.

EXPECTATION: as God shows us wrong beliefs about him that hinder our prayers, he will lead us into another hike through the Beatitudinal Valley.[5] Here we will first admit to our poverty of spirit in how we know him (or do not know him) as revealed. We may then find ourselves mourning specific things about what we have gone through that have shaped our wrong beliefs about him. We will next come to that place of meekness where we know we can’t fix ourselves but can see that Father is at work to put us back together again. And then we will find ourselves hungering and thirsting to know him in his fatherliness in such a way that makes prayer the most simple and natural thing to do as we talk to him about everything.[6]

This is all coming up as I prepare to teach on, agape “is not irritable or resentful”.[7] It makes me wonder how much irritation and resentment tell us about our wrong beliefs about our Father in heaven. Feel free to let me know what he reveals about this when you ask him.


Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.)

[1] Ephesians 1:17
[2] Which is, of course, what God says in his book in I John 5:14-15, along with many other places.
[3] Ephesians 3:14-16
[4] Matthew 6:9
[5] This is my affectionate way of describing the wonderful gift of grace revealed in Jesus’ teaching on “the Beatitudes” at the beginning of his Sermon on the Mount. The Beatitudes are described in Matthew 5:1-12, and the Sermon on the Mount is shared with us in Matthew 5:1-7:29.
[6] These four blessings of transformation are only the first half of the Beatitudinal Valley, what I call the “downside” because it leads us down into the true condition of our soul where we call out to God for what he alone can do. As we attach to God in these Beatitudinal changes, and, in this case, come to trust him more profoundly in prayer, we continue on the upside of the Beatitudinal Valley where we become the merciful people whose hearts are made pure in our single-minded devotion to seeking first the kingdom and righteousness of God. We are transformed into peacemakers who are so earnest in our desire that everyone we know come to have peace with God that we are even willing to face persecution and hardship for the sake of the kingdom, and even for the sake of our enemies who need to become brothers in Christ.
[7] I Corinthians 13:5. Our home church has been working through I Corinthians 13 for a while with special attention on I Corinthians 13:4-7 where Paul describes what agape-love is like. The whole chapter is I Corinthians 13:1-13. The first section explains what we are like without this agape-love, and the last section shows the supremacy of agape-love over everything else. Both are to motivate us to look at verses 4-7 with a hunger and thirst to do what Paul summarizes in the first verse of the next chapter: “Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts…” (I Corinthians 14:1). Agape-love should cover everything we do (I Peter 4:8), and whatever spiritual gifts we have received will give us the best ways of expressing agape-love in our ministry to others.

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