"So," they say, "nobody's perfect!"
But the Vinedresser won't buy that.
Given the opportunity, He will trim the unproductive suckers and shape the branches so each one will bask in Sonlight.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Pray Without Seeking

The casual reader might glance over the above title and think, “Just another piece about prayer,” and continue scanning titles, or grab a snack, go to the bathroom, and then switch on the TV. Hopefully, the TV isn’t in the bathroom, ‘cause that would bespeak a serious addiction—a topic for another time.
Said title can’t be a typo, ‘cause ceasing and seeking aren’t remotely similar, and even my fingers couldn’t go that far wrong. It isn’t even due to my faulty grasp of the Bible—this time.
Pray Without Seeking is what I often do when I’m attempting to obey 1 Thessalonians 5:17. The reader won't find a formula for prayer here, nor even rules for prayer, but simply the mindset one needs for prayer.

Confession Time

I plead guilty to the charge of not maintaining an excellent, or even an adequate, prayer-life. Oh, I often think about God, frequently in terms of praise and thanksgiving. In fact, I’ve never gotten over marveling at the infinite privilege of knowing and talking to God through my Lord Jesus.
My personal prayer-failure lies in consistently resisting the urge to barrage heaven with intercession for my own needs, or those of others. And in that failure, I miss the most excellent blessing of loving others, and even myself, through obeying God’s command to intercede in prayer.
It’s not that I don’t care enough, or even that my hectic schedule(right!) prevents me from doing it. While it’s no excuse for failing to intercede, my reason for that failure is my unquenchable thought process analyzes prayer to death—literally! So now you know one of my most pressing prayer requests, that I will pray with the faith of a child, in full confidence of my Lord’s love and faithfulness.
But please, do not pray without seeking, which yanks me back to my original topic.

What Is Prayer Without Seeking?

Most of us can rattle off a prayer when we need to. Some of us can even do it with style. However, what fraction of our selves do we actually put into the prayer? And, do we really know whom we hope to bestir with our praying?
Big Ears
First, God actually listens to our prayers. But how can that be, with all the millions of folks who might approach the Throne of Grace at any one moment?
If that question concerns you, it’s safe to conclude you don’t truly know God. And that’s something that should concern you. It’s also something you can remedy right now, by admitting you don’t know him, and that you are a sinner with no hope of impressing God with your most excellent personhood. God’s prophet Isaiah said it best:
We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. (Isaiah 64:6 ESV)
If that includes all of us, what’s the big deal? He won’t send us all to hell, will he? Since God established the laws of the spirit, he will apply them without bias. And one of his first spiritual laws is,
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23 ESV)
We all love gifts, but as we sing at Christmas time, he knows when we’ve been naughty or nice(God, not Santa), and everyone outside of Christ is on the naughty list.
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it-- the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:21-24 ESV)
While God listens to our prayers, he also pays attention to the authority with which we pray. Jesus told us,
Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.  (John 14:12-14 ESV)
Tragically, some Christians believe the above words of Christ give them authority to ask for anything. That is, after all, what Jesus said. But that isn’t all he said, and God’s truth lies not in excerpts from Scripture, but in the whole of Scripture. So, to give a better idea of God’s teachings about prayer, take a look at some other passages that involve prayer. You will, of course, take each one at face value—initially, as that is our human way. Then read it again, praying over it, for the Author’s unique truth for you. If he doesn’t speak to you through it, you’re not listening. So do it again...
Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be taken up and thrown into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. (Mark 11:23-25 ESV)
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7 ESV)
Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. (Colossians 4:2 ESV)
Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. For "Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil. (1 Peter 3:8-12 ESV)
Please be assured, you already have God’s full attention.

So then, why seek?

We fallen human beings naturally keep ourselves firmly affixed to the throne at the center of our lives. When we give our lives to God through Christ Jesus, we graciously invite him to have a seat next to us, so we can screen his input and assign it the proper priority. If we try to pray with that attitude, we assure ourselves the sensation of our entreaties bouncing off the ceiling to no effect.
Approach the Throne of Grace? Yeah, right! More like reproach the Throne of Grace. If a friend invites you over and then sits glued to the computer or TV’s entertainments, how welcome do you feel? Sure, you try to understand his preoccupation. After all, you’re an entertainment addict as well. But Jesus died for you, accepting the Jews’ ridicule and the Romans’ torture, shedding his pure blood to fully restore you to his Father.

Time now for reflection.

We must ask ourselves if what we really seek, above all else, is peace with God. If that is not the case, sitting in church and Sunday school, dropping money into the offering plate, and talking all religious-like is purely a waste of time, both for ourselves and for God’s people who are trying to minister to us.
Hitching ourselves to Christ-followers only drags them down without lifting us up. There is no second-hand salvation or heaven by osmosis; each of us must personally invest our lives in Christ’s holiness, for when we stand before him at the Judgment, only his holiness will shield us from God’s wrath.
Pray, yes! But pray first for one mind and heart with Christ Jesus. Then, if we still want all that stuff we ask for, seek again!

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