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God Can Rebuild Your Life of Prayer

  • 2021 Aug 26

Kanye West filed court documents Tuesday to legally change his name to “Ye.” He wants to get rid of his full name—Kanye Omari West—in favor of his longtime nickname with no middle or last name. His parents gave him the name he has carried for his forty-four years of life, but now he wants to rename himself.

In other news, researchers evaluated more than 5,800 foods and their impact on human health and the environment. Among their discoveries: eating a serving of nuts could add twenty-six minutes to your lifespan. However, eating a single hot dog could cost you thirty-six minutes of life.

By contrast, prayer has been demonstrated clinically to lower depression and anxiety and reduce anger and aggression. Studies also show that prayer can foster a sense of connection with God and others and strengthen marriages.

However, to pray in transformative ways, we need to “name” ourselves as our Father sees us.

As we continue our weeklong series on the Holy Spirit, let’s explore today some practical steps we can take to pray in the Spirit in ways that change our lives and our world.

A woman has an emotional affair with a chimpanzee

A woman in Belgium has been banned from the Antwerp Zoo after her four-year-long emotional affair with a chimpanzee. Their relationship through the glass surrounding the ape’s enclosure has become so close that it is adversely affecting the primate’s relationships with the zoo’s other chimpanzees.

We were created for intimacy with our Creator. When we seek intimacy outside his intention for us, the results can be damaging to us and others.

Seeking such intimacy with the Almighty is urgent, for tomorrow is promised to no one.

Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts made headlines with his death Tuesday at the age of eighty. A beloved Anglican pastor in Tennessee, the Rev. Thomas McKenzie, was killed with his daughter Charlie in a car crash Monday morning. The wreck occurred just thirty minutes after he announced on social media that he was driving her to her senior year of college.

The good news is that our Father is as close as our next prayer. We are taught to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) because God listens “without ceasing.” He is not bound by the space-time continuum in which we exist, which means he has all of eternity to hear your next prayer.

And he wants to: “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is meeting with US President Joe Biden later today. Even though I have been to Israel more than thirty times and am a lifelong citizen of the US, I could not meet with either of them. The heads of some of the world’s biggest tech companies met yesterday with President Biden. I was not invited; nor were you, I suspect.

But you and I can meet with the King of the universe right now.

Praying on the Temple Mount

Israel made headlines this week when it began allowing Jews to pray on the Temple Mount, an area previously reserved for prayer only for Muslims. I have prayed at the Western Wall more than thirty times and have visited the Temple Mount numerous times as well. However, due to coronavirus issues, I have not been back to the Holy Land in nearly two years.

The good news is that I don’t need to be near the site of the ancient temple to meet God in prayer. He is as close as my knees.

In fact, he’s even closer.

Paul asks, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16). Not only does the Spirit live in believers—when “we do not know what to pray for as we ought,” the good news is that “the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Romans 8:26). What’s more, “the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” (v. 27).

When you and I pray, God’s Spirit prays for us and through us. We don’t need to worry that we don’t know what to pray, because he does. He knows “the will of God” and will always pray effectively as a result.

In fact, the Spirit’s role in prayer redefines our role. Eugene Peterson observed, “If the Holy Spirit—God’s way of being with us, working through us, and speaking to us—is the way in which continuity is maintained between the life of Jesus and the life of Jesus’ community, prayer is the primary way in which the community actively receives and participates in that presence and working and speaking. Prayer is our way of being attentively present to God who is present to us in the Holy Spirit.”

In response, Kristen Deede Johnson notes: “Scripture is promising that the Spirit himself is interceding for us all the time! We never fully know what we ought to pray for, and that’s all right. The Spirit will take whatever we offer, however rich or impoverished our words are, however present or distracted we feel, and intercede for us in accordance with God’s will. Thanks be to God!” (her italics).

"God rebuilt my life of prayer"

In addition, God’s Son is praying to his Father for us: “Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us” (Romans 8:34). Since he “always lives to make intercession” for us (Hebrews 7:25), you can know that Jesus is praying for you right now.

One more factor: God’s word helps us pray.

Johnson quotes Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s statement in Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible: “God’s speech in Jesus Christ meets us in the Holy Scriptures. If we wish to pray with confidence and gladness, then the words of Holy Scripture will have to be the solid basis of our prayer.”

Johnson responds: “Praying with the borrowed words of the Bible was one way God rebuilt my life of prayer on a more solid basis, reminding me that prayer is answering God, not generating my relationship with God.”

Here’s what we’ve learned so far:

  • God the Father is listening for your next prayer.
  • God the Son is praying for you right now.
  • God the Spirit is praying through you.
  • God’s word will guide your words as you pray its promises and truths.

As a result, prayer is about positioning ourselves to experience the triune God in the guidance of his word. We need not worry about praying correctly—if we truly seek him, we will find him (Jeremiah 29:13; cf. Proverbs 8:17). If we will make time to listen before we speak, we will hear his voice through his word, worship, and world.

What’s more, through our time of intimacy with our Father, his Spirit will mold us into the character of his Son (Romans 8:29). As a carpenter must touch the wood he shapes and a painter must touch the canvas she paints, so the Lord must “touch” us to sanctify us (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:23). He does this most fully and powerfully through prayer.

"They end up less than human"

Here’s our problem and our opportunity: you and I will experience the Spirit’s transforming power to the degree that we are yielded to the Spirit’s transforming power.

As we have noted all week, we are commanded by God to be “filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18), surrendering daily to his cleansing, leading, and empowering. Have you taken the steps necessary to be filled by him today? If not, why not?

One way the Enemy tempts us to resist being filled by the Spirit is to deceive us into believing that we don’t need what the Spirit can do in our lives. He knows that self-sufficiency is the enemy of the Spirit’s power. That’s why self-reliance is trumpeted every day by our fallen culture.

According to author Thomas B. Smith, “If it is to be, it’s up to me.” Albert Camus claimed, “In the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.” William Ernest Henley testified, “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.”

In The Magna Carta of Humanity: Sinai’s Revolutionary Faith and the Future of Freedomcultural commentator Os Guinness points to the postmodern “hermeneutics of suspicion” by which generations of college students have been taught that “all relations are negotiated solely by power.” Thus, “the best protection against the unwanted power of others is to approach everyone with suspicion. ... The outcome is an aging society fueled by pervasive suspicion, mistrust, rumor, conspiracy theories, and cynicism. Nothing is what it appears to be and no one can be trusted, so suspicion is the best insurance against the mounting menace of manipulation by the power of others.”

While we are taught to be suspicious of the “power motives” of everyone else, we are ironically encouraged to embrace our own. Guinness cites Yuval Noah Harari’s Homo Deus, which claims that humans will become “godlings” due to the fruits of artificial intelligence and biogenetic engineering.

Guinness responds by quoting Rabbi Jonathan Sacks: “When humans try to be more than human, they end up less than human.”

"Only God can make a tree"

By contrast, you and I can experience today the transformational power of the One who made humans and everything else in our remarkable universe. Joyce Kilmer testified:

I think that I shall never see / A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest / Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day, / And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear / A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain; Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me, / But only God can make a tree.

Now God is waiting on your next prayer. 

Let’s sum up what we’ve discovered today:

  • You were made for intimacy with our Maker.
  • He longs for such intimacy with you.
  • God the Father is listening for your next prayer.
  • God the Son is praying for you right now.
  • God the Spirit is praying through you right now.
  • God’s word will guide your words as you pray its promises and truths.
  • However, you must reject the culture’s insistence on self-reliance.
  • If you submit your mind and life to God’s Spirit right now in prayer, you will experience his transforming presence and grace.

Robert Robinson prayed these now-famous words:

Oh, to grace how great a debtor

Daily I’m constrained to be!

Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,

Bind my wandering heart to Thee.

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,

Prone to leave the Lord I love.

Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,

Seal it for Thy courts above.

Have you given your heart to Jesus yet today?

Publication date: August 26, 2021

Photo courtesy: ©GettyImages/Lemon_tm

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