Saturday, December 29, 2007

Prayer Is Not Enough

"If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land." (2 Chron 7:14)

Not Enough To Pray
At Prayer College we emphasis the fundamental importance of prayer in the Christian life, but it is good to remind ourselves that prayer alone does not fulfill God's requirements for our needs to be met. We must never fall into the "vending machine" mentality where we simply offer our prayer and wait for the answer to be dispensed.

This verse in Chronicles presents us with a process by which we are transformed into the kind of people that can receive answers to prayer.

Firstly, we are to humble ourselves. It is no good even beginning to pray if we have not first acknowledged the difference between ourselves and God. It is not simply that He is a superior being, that His power & understanding are beyond ours, but that He is the Creator and we are His creatures. We owe our very existence to Him and we should remember that as our Creator He has the absolute right to deal with us in any way He chooses.

Secondly, we should pray. This should be obvious, but I often catch myself wishing, hoping or trying to solve a problem on my own instead of turning to God and asking Him for the answer. It seems to be part of the human condition for James had to remind his readers, "you do not have because you do not ask," (Jms 4:2). Part of the Problem is undoubtedly pride and our belief that we can do things on our own without the help of the Lord. Addressing the issue of humility before God will go a long way towards alleviating this problem.

Thirdly, we must seek God's face. There is an important and significant difference between seeking God's face and seeking His blessing. Often when we pray we are asking the Lord to intervene in our lives or in the lives of others. This is not seeking God's face. At other times we may be seeking to experience fellowship with the Lord. Neither is this seeking God's face. To seek God's face is to lay aside our own desires and simply come to Him in worship. We are to be passionate about God but, as I once heard Christine Caine (Hillsong) say, we must not make the mistake of lusting after God. If we have had an encounter with God where we have experienced His love, comfort or power, we may be tempted to seek Him again simply for that experience. But He calls us to seek His face, not the experience.

Finally, we are instructed to turn from our wicked ways. As Isaiah discovered (Is 6:1-5) when our seeking leads to an encounter with God we cannot help but become conscious of our sin. Anyone who claims to be a Christian but is not being transformed "from one degree of glory to another" is not regularly meeting with God. Of course we are fallible human beings who often make progress only to slip back again but, if we are consistently seeking God's face and being convicted of our sin, we will see long term progression towards holiness.

The wonder of Your presence, Lord,
And Your overwhelming grace,
And the mercy of Your mighty hand
Are mine
As I gaze into Your face.

This process described in 2 Chron 7:14 is not a linear one. We do not start at humility, work through prayer & seeking God's face, ending at repentance. The recognition of sin & subsequent repentance will bring us to a place of deeper humility. A cycle develops which leads us to deeper and more intimate communion with God so that our prayers conform more closely to His will and are consequently answered in increasing fullness.

Prayer College AssignmentTake time this week to meditate on the awesomeness of the God who is the creator of the entire universe but who also made & knows you in all your intricate detail. Consider how vast is the difference between you & El Shaddai, Almighty God, and consciously take this awareness into your times of prayer. Determine to seek Him for who He is, not just for what He can give you.

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