Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Why Pray?... and Pray What?

Good morning,

I have found that, in the daily discipline of meditating on God's Word, and then afterwards writing a blog post, it is difficult on some days to string two sentences together.  This is one of those mornings.

Yesterday, my family was confronted with "unanswered prayer".  A loved one said to me yesterday something like this, "I'm done.  I've been praying for months and this is the good it did!"  He was deeply hurt by God's answer because, although the answer came, it was not the one we wanted.

God's sovereign will and our part in it are so very difficult to comprehend.  On the one hand, Jesus prayed for His disciples, modeling that we should pray for one another.  People of God praying for their own needs and for the needs of others are seen all throughout the Bible.  On the other hand, we are told that God "knows the end from the beginning".  He knows how things are going to play out. He knows our requests even before we ask Him.  What a paradox!  A paradox too deep for this blog post today...

I'm so glad that we were given in God's Word a glimpse into Jesus' prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Here we see God the Father, the first Person of the Holy Trinity, being petitioned by His Son, the second Person of the Trinity.  That, in itself, blows my mind.  It is my belief, and some will disagree with me, that Jesus set aside some aspects of His omniscience to "put on flesh" and become fully man, while remaining fully God.  This is why we see Him praying, all throughout the gospel accounts. It was not just some kind of fake exercise to model prayer for His followers.  He was and is "one" with the Father, but He still needed to commune with His Father in prayer.

In the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:32-42), Jesus was praying so hard that drops of blood oozed out of his pores, like sweat.  What an agony of spirit!  He prayed that Father would somehow make some other way to redeem mankind, other than the severe death and separation from God that Jesus was about to endure. Some have thought that Jesus was praying to avoid the physical pain of death, and I'm sure that that was part of his agony.  He knew what He would be undergoing physically.  But, more importantly, He knew that on Him would be laid all the sins of all mankind, that He would be spiritually separated from Father, who would have to turn away from His Son at that moment that He was bearing all our sin and dying the most terrible of physical deaths.  Jesus was praying this although He was present with Father when the foundations of the world were laid; and, He knew even then that the days of His extreme sacrifice would come.

Peter affirms this truth (1 Peter 1:19-21) - - -

19but by precious blood like that of an unblemished and spotless lamb, namely Christ. 20He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was manifested in these last times for your sake. 21Through him you now trust in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

And again: Peter is speaking on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:23) - - - 

This man was handed over to you by God's deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.

Here we hear this affirmed by John (Revelation 13:8) - - - 

the Lamb that has been slain from the foundation of the world.

This is why Jesus ended His torturous time of prayer with the request, "Not My will, but Yours be done..."
36 “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
"Abba" is the more personal form of "Father".  Basically, Jesus was addressing His "Daddy"...

I was trying to be faithful to previous commitments yesterday evening, in the midst of upheaval, distraction and grief.  In that context, God blessed me through the words of others.  I'll close with those.  The words of comfort came from a fellow believer who had read a Facebook post (of all things!).

In paraphrasing the post, this brother said that we often petition God to "make things better", to change circumstances to the way we want them to be.  And, God wants us to ask Him for good things!  He loves to hear and answer our prayers. This is scriptural (Matthew 7, for example).

But, when His answer is not the one we wanted, we should pray that God will use our grief, our trials, our adversity to further His kingdom on earth, that He will "make things count".

Abba, my ways are not Your ways, nor are my thoughts Your thoughts.  And, my heart breaks. Wrap us in Your loving arms and comfort us.  Pour Your grace into our empty places.  In the midst of this, please make this count.  May this suffering not be wasted or squandered.  Make it powerful, Lord. Use it to glorify Your name in a way that nothing else can! Make it count for eternity, Sovereign One. In Jesus' name, amen.

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