I have been pondering our Worship and Prayer service last night. Several of us are sensing a time of preparation in our hearts for the assignment ahead. I had a strong sense at one time that “ground was being plowed up” for something yet to come.
It really began before the service when we were at a local restaurant only to each get a chocolate molten lava cake. As Terry prayed over the food for God to “bless” what we were eating, I chuckled to myself. Here we are, eating something neither of us should have and asking God to bless it. I thought to myself, “fat chance of getting that prayer answered”.
Later, during the prayer time together, I heard in my spirit, “you (church) do not know how to pray”. I was a little taken back as I think of myself as a seasoned prayer warrior and carry a passion for praying for our nation and church. However, it was clear that it was not a statement about the “mechanics” of prayer but the attitude of prayer. I then remembered that Jesus said in Mt. 18:19 if any two of us agreed on anything, it would be done for us. It does not take a Biblical scholar to realize that this just is not happening, so what do we do with this Scripture? We can explain it away, and there are plausible explanations, such as blaming the one we are praying for because they obviously do not believe or worse, have sin in their life. Or, we can just say we may be at fault. The Word of God is truth and never changes, and if Jesus said this, we must accept it as a goal for corporate prayer.
Later, as we were leaving, I remembered how the kings of Judah and Israel were described in the Old Testament. Many “did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight yet failed to remove the pagan shrines”. (2 Kings 12:3, 14:1, 15:4, 15:14, 2 Chron 15:17; 20:33) This is interesting that the kings could be described as “doing” what was pleasing in God’s sight, but failed to remove the pagan shrines, from which they received serious ramifications. Can there be a parallel? Are we “doing” the things that are pleasing in God’s sight, but yet our hearts are filled with “pagan shrines” that hinder God working in and among us? It pleases God when we fellowship, pray, give, take communion, etc. but are these things devoid of a heart that is rightly motivated. As we learn in our Spiritual formation class, the disciplines of the faith can be acts of “works righteousness” rather than transforming moments of grace birthed out of our humility and surrender that Holy Spirit uses to bring transformation in our life. We have not because we ask not and when we do ask, we have wrong motivations. (James 4:2) So we don’t receive.
One of the prayer team gave an analogy of an electric cord that needs to be “plugged into” the power (God). An electrical contractor was present that said even though the cord is plugged in, if the wrong thing is plugged into the other end of the cord, the breaker could flip and literally “break” the power flow. We may be plugged in technically or it may appear that we are plugged in, but if our hearts are filled with ‘pagan shrines’, the flow will be broken, and the power will stop. What could these pagan shrines be? It can only be SELF…SELF WILL; SELF DESIRE; SELF AMBITION; SELF HONOR; SELF GRATIFICATION…. ETC. These are the things in our lives that have taken the place of God in our hearts and the things we bow to in deference to God alone. These are “power breakers” that make our lives and our prayers ineffective. These are the things that occupy our time, our affection, our money, our energy and push God out of first place in our lives. These things prevent us from hearing the voice of God and understanding what He is speaking to us. When we pray, we filter our prayers though these “SELF-lens” causing a distortion of what God really wants, because it must first meet the approval of SELF. We use words like “inconvenience” rather than “bearing our cross”. We have thoughts like “God’s ok with this” rather than “our iniquities separate us from God”. The Bible becomes contextualized in the background of our culture, rather than the culture conforming to the Bible. We pretend that God has changed His mind today and He would certainly understand why a particular Scripture must be considered archaic and irrelevant. Surely, He understands and agrees with us! Not so!
What God understands is that He is Holy, Righteous and Unchangeable. He understands that His Word always accomplishes what it has intended (Isaiah 55:11) and that it is forever settled in the heavens. (Psalm 119:89) He understands that His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts than our thoughts. (Isa 55:9)
Prayer cannot be something we just do, but it must be something we are! In Robert Mulholland’s words, “Prayer then becomes the offering of who we are to God: the giving of that broken, unclean, grasping, manipulative self to God for the work of God’s grace in our lives. This is a yearning, hungering, wrestling prayer that enters into the painful struggle between what we are and the crucifying desire to become what God wants us to be.” (Invitation to a Journey p.161)
God promises to withhold no good thing to those who walk uprightly. (Psalm 84:11)
God promises that when we call upon Him, He will answer. (Jer. 33:3; Psalm 91:15)
God promises us that we can ask Him anything according to His will and He hears and answers us. (1 John 5:14-15)