Sunday, February 24, 2008

Back to School... Part 6

We've learned that our primary concern With Christ in the School of Prayer is to be for our Father - His name, His glory, His honor, His will and His purpose. How different this is from the prayers we hear so frequently, which focus on our needs and concerns!

We've also learned that God is concerned about us as well - He is our Father. We understand a father's love and concern from their children, and the more we realize that God is the Father of those whom He has chosen, the greater our confidence to come into His presence - to take up His concerns, and to bring our concerns to Him as well. And how much He loves and cares for us! How He meets every one of our needs - He knows them before we even ask, and He has resource sufficient for all!

We learn in this portion of the lesson that our needs include not only physical provision, but relational provision as well. We were made to be in community - remember, after all, that God's one "negative" comment PRIOR to the fall was this: "It is not good that the man should be alone..." (Genesis 2:18). We were made for communion with God Himself, and to be in right relationship with those around us. And the barrier to that communion is, of course, our own sinfulness.

How appropriate, then, that we are given a way to address this great need in the Model Prayer - the first provision which requires us to do anything! (By the way, it's the subject for another day's post, but think about Jesus' parable tying our forgiveness with that which we extend to others in Matthew 18: Assume that a day's wages were $10 - the King forgave a debt of $780,000,000 (!) while the servant would not forgive a debt of $1,000! Aren't the things we're asked to forgive our brothers also disproportionately small compared to what we've been forgiven?)

So today's questions: In light of who God is and His provision for you, will you own your fault - your sin - which is the cause of your estrangement from Him? And in receiving His pardon - and considering its generosity, will you forgive those around you?


"And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.’ As bread is the first need of the body, so forgiveness for the soul. And the provision for the one is as sure as for the other.

We are children but sinners too
; our right of access to the Father’s presence we owe to the precious blood and the forgiveness it has won for us.
Let us beware of the prayer for forgiveness becoming a formality: only what is really confessed is really forgiven.

Let us in faith accept the forgiveness as promised: as a spiritual reality, an actual transaction between God and us, it is the entrance into all the Father’s love and all the privileges of children.

Such forgiveness, as a living experience, is impossible without a forgiving spirit to others
: as forgiven expresses the heavenward, so forgiving the earthward, relation of God’s child. In each prayer to the Father I must be able to say that I know of no one whom I do not heartily love."

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Back to School... Part 5

We're learning With Christ in the School of Prayer that prayer is first and foremost about God, and not about us. It's about our Father in Heaven, who's whole being and character, who's very name is Holy. It's about His agenda - His will - His plan and purpose being accomplished in our world... especially in us. Prayer is our opportunity to personally enter into what is most concerning to bringing glory, honor and obedience to God. This is the great purpose of life, our highest calling, our greatest joy.

And it is totally consistent that a life focused this way enjoys great confidence in relationship with God. Murray's point here ought not be missed: Do you wonder whether God understands your needs? Whether He knows or cares? If you are His child, you have direct assurance from the Word on this point (Matthew 6:32-33), and our assurance is tied directly to our correct understanding of this Divine priority.

But understanding that, Our Teacher wants us to understand, feel... enjoy confidence in knowing that our Father will provide for our needs. Where ever you are today, God knows your need... and if He is your Father, you can have confidence and assurance that He will provide all that is needed for you. When you think about how little we rely in practice on this truth, it is astonishing!

If you are His child, do you doubt His willingness or ability to take care of you? " first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you."

"‘Give us this day our daily bread.’

When first the child has yielded himself to the Father in the care for His Name, His Kingdom, and His Will, he has full liberty to ask for his daily bread. A master cares for the food of his servant, a general of his soldiers, a father of his child.

And will not the Father in heaven care for the child who has in prayer given himself up to His interests?

We may indeed in full confidence say: Father, I live for Thy honour and Thy work; I know Thou carest for me.

Consecration to God and His will gives wonderful liberty in prayer for temporal things: the whole earthly life is given to the Father’s loving care."

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Back to School... Part 4

It is a challenging place, to be With Christ in the School of Prayer. The School calls us away from our comfort zones, and out of ourselves and our interests and concerns. It calls us to something much bigger... and better.

For us, prayer can often be self-centered... self-focused. Like little kids coming to dad to right a wrong or fix a problem, so we often come to our Heavenly Father only when there is an injustice, an injury or a problem. And if this only when we think of prayer, how completely it misses the point - the real reason God calls us to pray!

We've been called into relationship with the God of the Universe! The One who has created all things, sustains all things, knows all things... who is Perfect in every way, infinitely More than anything we can imagine. While He loves us and knows (and cares!) about even the smallest details of our lives, His will and purpose is FAR more important than ours. When we think about it, even when our difficulties and concerns are overwhelming to us, we understand that God is already aware of them (Matthew 6:31-32), more than able to take care of them (Matthew 7:11) and that He is calling us to care about His concerns. What a privilege! What an honor! What a responsibility!

I need to say, though, that this privilege is reserved for His children - and we are NOT "all God's children" though, no matter how popular the thought remains. We are, by nature, children of the devil (John 8:42-44) - alienated from God, dead to God and objects of His wrath (Ephesians 2:1-3). But by His grace and apart from anything we do, He has chosen some to be His children (Ephesians 1:3)! And God will call them to Himself, make them right before Him, and ultimately, glorify them along with His Son, Jesus (Romans 8:30). If you don't know God this way... seek Him while you have time and opportunity. He may be found! None of us deserve it, but God is rich in mercy. And what could be more important than to be apart of God's plan and purpose?

Today's Question: Do you want God's will to be done - in your life? May it be so for each of us... and if you have not come to know Him, this is a good time to be concerned about it!

"‘Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth.’ This petition is too frequently applied alone to the suffering of the will of God. In heaven God’s will is done, and the Master teaches the child to ask that the will may be done on earth just as in heaven: in the spirit of adoring submission and ready obedience.

Because the will of God is the glory of heaven, the doing of it is the blessedness of heaven.

As the will is done, the kingdom of heaven comes into the heart.

And wherever faith has accepted the Father’s love, obedience accepts the Father’s will.

The surrender to, and the prayer for a life of heaven-like obedience, is the spirit of childlike prayer."

Monday, February 18, 2008

Back to School... Part 3

Back to With Christ in the School of Prayer again... One of the things I love about this book is that it doesn't primarily teach me about prayer, it encourages me to pray. I trust that perhaps you're thinking that way as well. Most people have a sense that prayer is a good thing. It's frequently mentioned, especially in times of difficulty - that is as it should be, because it is in when we realize our woeful inability to meet the need of the hour that our ordinary sentiments seems so, well, shallow and hollow.

Perhaps you were listening to the news this last week when the NIU shootings happened. I live in northern Illinois, and we have connections to NIU... and as parents of a college student, I can only begin to start to imagine what happens in the mind of a parent during a tragedy of that magnitude. So when someone, meaning well, says "You're in my thoughts," I appreciate the sentiment but it doesn't really do much to meet the need.

If, on the other hand, though, someone says "I'm praying for you," consider the audacity of that statement: They are saying that they have access to the God of the Universe, that they are daring to enter His presence and are speaking to Him (the author of time, space and the keeper of all eternity, the judge of the entire world, the one with whom ALL must ultimately deal) about this very circumstance! WOW! If it really is that (and I understand that it is EXACTLY that), prayer is a HUGE deal and an INCREDIBLE privilege.

In this "Model Prayer" Murray has pointed out - so far - that it isn't just that all powerful deity that invites us into conversation... He is our Father, and we are loved as dearly loved children if we've been adopted into His family. Oh, and just in case the "familial relationship" leads one of His children to an inappropriate familiarity, we are reminded that Our Father is Holy and that His Glory is to be our Primary priority.

He is Our Father, so we can approach Him. Who could have more access to someone than their child? We are family, so we can draw near.

He is Holy - it is His Name and Character - so we understand Him as He really is. This One we pray to isn't a god of our imagination... we must come to Him as He is. And He is Awesome! But when we pray, do we share our Father's agenda, or are we just all about what we want from Him?

Here's the question for today: Does God's agenda grip you? When was the last time you prayed from God's perspective? That's the subject of today's portion of the lesson. (By the way, this is the shortest of the sections, but if you think about it, perhaps the most challenging. Consider what life would be like when God answers this request - Hey, that's a great place for a comment, so weigh in!)


"‘Thy kingdom come.’ The Father is a King and has a kingdom. The son and heir of a king has no higher ambition than the glory of his father’s kingdom.

In time of war or danger this becomes his passion; he can think of nothing else. The children of the Father are here in the enemy’s territory, where the kingdom, which is in heaven, is not yet fully manifested. What more natural than that, when they learn to hallow the Father-name, they should long and cry with deep enthusiasm: ‘Thy kingdom come.’

The coming of the kingdom is the one great event on which
    • the revelation of the Father’s glory,
    • the blessedness of His children, and
    • the salvation of the world
depends. On our prayers too the coming of the kingdom waits. Shall we not join in the deep longing cry of the redeemed: ‘Thy kingdom come’? Let us learn it in the school of Jesus."

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Back to School... Part 2

We're back to school with Andrew Murray again.... If you haven't read yesterday's portion, go ahead and do that first - the rest of us will wait for you!

Murray's fourth lesson in the book With Christ in the School of Prayer is discussing "The Model Prayer" given by Jesus in Matthew 6. (By the way, before this one he's discussed Jesus (Luke 11:1) as "The Only Teacher" for prayer , those who worship in Spirit and Truth (John 4:23-24) as "The True Worshippers" and the only people of prayer and being "Alone with God" (Matthew 6:6) as the beginning place - the school - of prayer. Great stuff, and all worth a place in your devotional thinking.

So here's the question for today: When we pray, what is primarily on our mind? The answer to that question reveals a lot about our heart. Are you willing to learn from Jesus about what is important in prayer? The truth here is not new, but if you've ever attended a public prayer meeting, you'll likely realize how sadly lacking this truth is in application. How often our concerns are the first (and sadly, even often the only) things that are mentioned in prayer!

May that not be true with us. Our Heavenly Father is waiting for those who put His priorities first, and our churches need the example of a few who will learn to pray in accordance with the Father's priorities... will you be one who prays this way?

"‘Hallowed be Thy name.’ There is something here that strikes us at once. While we ordinarily first bring our own needs to God in prayer, and then think of what belongs to God and His interests, the Master reverses the order.

First, Thy name, Thy kingdom, Thy will; then, give us, forgive us, lead us, deliver us. The lesson is of more importance than we think. In true worship
the Father must be first, must be all. The sooner I learn to forget myself in the desire that HE may be glorified, the richer will the blessing be that prayer will bring to myself. No one ever loses by what he sacrifices for the Father. This must influence all our prayer. There are two sorts of prayer: personal and intercessory. The latter ordinarily occupies the lesser part of our time and energy. This may not be.
  • Christ has opened the school of prayer specially to train intercessors for the great work of bringing down, by their faith and prayer, the blessings of His work and love on the world around. There can be no deep growth in prayer unless this be made our aim.
  • The little child may ask of the father only what it needs for itself; and yet it soon learns to say, Give some for sister too. But the grown-up son, who only lives for the father’s interest and takes charge of the father’s business, asks more largely, and gets all that is asked.
  • And Jesus would train us to the blessed life of consecration and service, in which our interests are all subordinate to the Name, and the Kingdom, and the Will of the Father.
O let us live for this, and let, on each act of adoration, Our Father! there follow in the same breath Thy Name, Thy Kingdom, Thy Will;—for this we look up and long."

‘Hallowed be Thy name.’
What name? This new name of Father. The word Holy is the central word of the Old Testament; the name Father of the New. In this name of Love all the holiness and glory of God are now to be revealed. And how is the name to be hallowed? By God Himself:
I will hallow My great name which ye have profaned.’
Our prayer must be that in ourselves, in all God’s children, in presence of the world, God Himself would reveal the holiness, the Divine power, the hidden glory of the name of Father. The Spirit of the Father is the Holy Spirit: it is only when we yield ourselves to be led of Him, that the name will be hallowed in our prayers and our lives. Let us learn the prayer: ‘Our Father, hallowed be Thy name.’"

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Back to School... Part 1

I've been reading lately again Andrew Murray's wonderful book With Christ in the School of Prayer, and am reminded again of the simplicity and power of our Lord's teaching... and that His teaching is so simple that even a child can understand it, and yet it possesses a depth which takes His disciples deeper and deeper in its meaning each time they hear His words. Murray reminds me of this with his brilliant devotional exposition of the Lord's Prayer in his Fourth Lesson in the book. (By the way, if you haven't read this, you really ought to do so... it's one of the few books about prayer which not only inspires me to think and talk about prayer, but to actually pray!)

One of the great tragedies of today's evangelical movement is the sad lack of personal and corporate prayer. You know the old saying:

"Much prayer, much power... little prayer, little power... no prayer, no power."

This is a great summary of a core problem with a self-sufficient culture (even an evangelical sub-culture), and a reason for the selfish focus of many who name the name of Christ in these days. And what a tragedy it is to claim to follow Christ, but at such a distance that we miss His will and purpose by failing in this fundamental privilege of actual communion and fellowship with the Father. I want to share over the next few days just this one lesson... by the way, have you considered recently what an unbelievable privilege it is to have the direct, specific teaching from Jesus on this subject? How incredibly important it must be for us to understand - and to follow in practice.

Today, I'm going to let Murray speak for himself without any further distraction from me. Perhaps you will renewed encouragement, and may God grant to each of us the reality of His presence in prayer.

"‘Our Father which art in heaven!’ To appreciate this word of adoration aright, I must remember that none of the saints had in Scripture ever ventured to address God as their Father. The invocation places us at once in the centre of the wonderful revelation the Son came to make of His Father as our Father too.

  • It comprehends the mystery of redemption—Christ delivering us from the curse that we might become the children of God.
  • The mystery of regeneration—the Spirit in the new birth giving us the new life.
  • And the mystery of faith—ere yet the redemption is accomplished or understood, the word is given on the lips of the disciples to prepare them for the blessed experience still to come.
The words are the key to the whole prayer, to all prayer. It takes time, it takes life to study them; it will take eternity to understand them fully. The knowledge of God’s Father-love is the first and simplest, but also the last and highest lesson in the school of prayer.

  • It is in the personal relation to the living God, and the personal conscious fellowship of love with Himself, that prayer begins.
  • It is in the knowledge of God’s Fatherliness, revealed by the Holy Spirit, that the power of prayer will be found to root and grow.
  • In the infinite tenderness and pity and patience of the infinite Father, in His loving readiness to hear and to help, the life of prayer has its joy.
O let us take time, until the Spirit has made these words to us spirit and truth, filling heart and life: ‘Our Father which art in heaven.’ Then we are indeed within the veil, in the secret place of power where prayer always prevails. "