Article # eight: Prayer Life
F A R
Mannie prays religiously, morning and night, to a God way up there. Praying to a God way up there isn’t very effective, so she repeats her petitions over and over and over again, hoping a little faith times twenty or thirty or fifty is enough to get her prayers answered.
Instead of walking in the awareness of His Presence, Mannie walks in the awareness of her problems, meditating more on her problems than the problem-solver. Not good.
D a v i d : In His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper. (Psalm 1:2,3)
“His law” is His word. Our New Testament word is different (and far superior), but the principle of meditation certainly applies. Poor Mannie cannot be likened to a tree planted by the river, but more like a shriveled shrub in dry land. And that’s because she doesn’t meditate upon the words of Jesus. (And that’s because she keeps Jesus at a distance. And that’s because of her idols.)
Snuggled up to her problems she prays to a faraway God. (Yes, our precious Lord is everywhere, but I’m speaking relationally.) Not a good way to get prayers answered.
J E S U S : Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14:27)
Every christian who distances herself from Christ has a heart troubled and afraid. Peace is available only through Christ. Everyone has troubles but not all have a troubled heart. We can only protect our heart by getting the Lord to protect our heart. To believe and receive, hearts must be free, “for with the heart man believes.”
J a m e s : Let him ask in faith, with no doubting. (James 1:6)
Could you peek inside Mannie’s heart you would see a pile of belief and a pile of unbelief. Guess which pile is larger. You got it, belief is an ant hill, unbelief a ski slope. If only unbelief would stop rising up every time she prayed, but no, unbelief never slumbers, always eager to war against her faith.
To receive one must believe. How can Mannie know if her belief outweighs her unbelief or vice versa?
Mannie’s life reveals Mannie’s heart. The one not having faith to give does not have faith to receive. The one disobedient to the words of Christ does not believe the promises of Christ. To the degree one relies on others is the degree one is not relying on Christ. Mannie’s life reveals her heart, her faith, her unbelief.
Some evangelicals are tricky, trying to get to God without going through Christ. Their m.o. is to quote and claim biblical promises until they get what they want, the focus being on the promises, not the promise-giver. The Pharisees boasted in their faithfulness to Scripture, but when the author showed up they crucified Him.
Prayers are no more or less powerful than our faith in Jesus. Faith is trust. Trust is an Old Testament word, faith a New, but they mean the same. Trust is an easier word to understand than faith. We know what childlike trust is, we can understand the trust a child has in mom and dad, deserved or otherwise, and we know the devastation of broken trust. Trust is the fruit of relationship. A child trusts her scoundrel daddy much more than nice Mr. Smith next door.
How can we trust in an unfamiliar God? We can’t. That’s why the lukewarm have little prayer power. Prayer power is relative to trust in Christ. Most of us are trusting people, but trust directed at someone else is useless. It must be directed to, placed upon, He who is able. We must trust in God and….
Nothing…. nada…. no one…. Him alone. No plus, plus, plus.
A. W. T o z e r : Let me tell you straight out that Jesus Christ will never stand at the right side of a plus sign. (Who Put Jesus On the Cross)
N E A R
Ask Merf, “How are you doing?” and he will reply “Great!” without fibbing too much. When people ask, “How are you doing?” they want to know if you got lots of problems. Doing “Great!” means life has been treating you pretty good lately. But although Merf has as many problems as most he doesn’t notice them so much. It’s hard to pay attention when you’re pursuing Christ.
Like wifey, Merf has unbelief. But unlike wifey, his unbelief is shrinking. He is gradually becoming a believing believer. Believing believers are guys who know how to receive, guys switching over from a life of unbelief to a life of belief. It’s a process, a difficult one, takes years.
To change from a couch potato to an athlete it’s important what you put in your tummy. Physically, what you eat today helps determine who you are tomorrow. Mixing junk food with health food is not as advantageous as eating only the good stuff. You can see that. And you can see that two hours of tv (unbelief) helps neutralize the benefit of two hours of prayer and study.
Merf’s trust is increasing because he is spending more time in the Presence. Merf’s unbelief is decreasing because he is spending more time in the Presence. First it was an hour a day. Then two, then three. Next year it will probably be four. It all has an accumulative effect. Faith increases.
The first hour of Merf’s day is spent praising Jesus. No petitions that first hour; they can wait for the second. Just quiet time, alone time, an hour of remembering, surrendering, thanking, worshiping Jesus. It may sound wonderful but, as you know, it’s a battle to stay focused. Thoughts insist on mind-entry, all kinds of thoughts – business thoughts, Mannie thoughts, I-got-to-do-this-and-that thoughts, yesterday thoughts, would-have/should-have thoughts, money thoughts, they-did-me-dirt thoughts. But eventually Jesus thoughts crowd out the others.
Merf often tells the Lord, “I’m not much, but I’m here.” Jesus likes us here, in the awareness of His presence. To help focus on Him, Merf has his own communion service, breaking the bread and drinking the “fruit of the vine” in memory of Him. It’s a special time of bonding and intimacy. What has this got to do with prayer power? Everything.
J E S U S : According to your faith let it be to you. (Mat. 9:29)
It is being done to Merf and Mannie, you and I, according to our faith. Think about it. Life is being played out according to our faith, our trust in the Son of God. Daily we receive blessings according to that trust.
Faith (please get this) is relative to relationship.
Do you think Paul would have been the great man of faith if he hadn’t seen Jesus and heard His voice (the Damascus road and elsewhere), if he did not “die daily,” had not developed a rich relationship with Christ?
Merf is no different than Paul – his faith is also relative to relationship. Relationship between two is something two develop. Lots of faith requires lots of developing, lots of time, lots of giving up distractions.
C h a l l e n g e : Can you see your trust is revealed by your living? And can you see your unbelief is revealed by your living? And can you see the world you live in, spiritually, is the world both your faith and your unbelief has created for you? And can you see you are able to create a better world for yourself?
P r a y e r : Lord Jesus, apply in greater measure Your Holy Spirit upon our lives, that we would hunger and thirst for You increasingly, that we would be filled and satisfied, that our trust in You would deepen, that Your purposes would be fulfilled in our lives. And Lord…. anoint this article. (And hopefully the reader says, “Amen!”)