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Posts Tagged ‘prayer’

The Priority of Prayer

This message is for me:

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Keeping Company with God

Recently, a friend and brother in the Lord decided he doesn’t want any of his Christian books anymore—he’s in a bit of a spiritual rut lately. Ironically, a good number of books in his library were formerly mine when I got fed up with church and decided to unload my massive library. I gladly took them off his hands and have been enjoying thumbing through the pages of my “old friends”.

Right now, one of the books I’m savouring is James M. Houston’s The Prayer: Deepening Your Friendship with God (formerly published as Prayer: The Transforming Friendship). The opening sentence in his Preface are words that could have come straight out of my mouth: “For many years, prayer was [still is for me!] probably the weakest dimension in my life as a Christian.”

Houston said the Aha moment for him was when he realized the truth of what Clement of Alexandria said about prayer as “keeping company with God”; from henceforth, he “began to see prayer more as a friendship than a rigorous discipline … more of a relationship and less of a performance.”  I see now that years of religiosity and ritualized routine have had the same effect on my prayer life.

He goes on to assert that “Prayer is a matter of theology and ethics, both thinking and doing. It is profoundly guided by what we believe and by how we behave. The character of our prayers will be deeply determined by the character of God as we know him and have experienced him.” I think that last bit is key: “experienced him”; I confess that I may have a fairly solid theological knowledge of God, but I can’t say that I have a deep personal and experiential knowledge of God.

Hopefully this book will help to deepen my friendship with God through prayer.

“Prayer does not change God, but it changes him who prays.” (Soren Kierkegaard)

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Reformation and Revival

Of late, I have been burdened about the spiritual condition of our church; perhaps my prolonged absence from church has heightened my sensitivity due to my intimate experience of lethargy and lukewarmness. Surely, such an awareness could lead to a critical and judgmental spirit were it not for my acute sense of my own sinful heart, not just when I was in my prodigal state, but even now as I struggle by God’s grace to be revived.

In his classic work, The Reformed Pastor, Richard Baxter, whom J.I. Packer describes as “the most outstanding pastor, evangelist and writer on practical and devotional themes that Puritanism produced”, observes that:

There are many of our flock that are young and weak, who, though they are of long standing, are yet of small proficiency or strength. This, indeed, is the most common condition of the godly. Most of them content themselves with low degrees of grace, and it is no easy matter to get them higher. …to increase their knowledge and gifts is not easy, and to increase their graces is the hardest of all.

I believe D.A. Carson is correct in his assessment that the “one thing we most urgently need in Western Christendom is a deeper knowledge of God.” (A Call to Spiritual Reformation; Baker Books, 1992). Okay, so now what? More preaching?  More bible studies? Certainly anything we attempt to do in the flesh would fall short at best and at worst, be manipulative, resulting in shallow results. No, we must get on our knees and pray— really pray— for revival.

Our church did have a prayer meeting last year, but to my knowledge, we haven’t had one since.  However, if (when) we have another one, I would suggest we strip it down to the essentials; sure, we could begin with an appropriate song or hymn. And yes, perhaps we could have an open time of sharing where brothers and sisters can briefly share the burden of their hearts, but the bulk of our time and the focus should be on revival—which would entail confession of sin (personal and corporate), crying out for the Spirit to fill and empower us, praising and exalting God, and agonizing over lost souls.

Like the early church, we must lift our “voices to God with one accord [ὁμοθυμαδὸν]” (Acts 4:24; NASB) and wait upon Him to pour out His Spirit upon us. While we can have a time of quiet prayer individually, we should also pray together as one body in unity.

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