Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Week Twenty - Praying Through

Beside the Well
            One of the most beautiful ways I have found to pray is to slowly and deliberately pray through each phrase of the Lord’s Prayer and meditate the meaning.  For example,
            “Our Father” – He is my father.  A perfect Father.  A good, good Father.  A Father full of love and understanding.  A protector.  A guide.  And, he is your Father, too.
            “Which art in Heaven” – He makes the heavens His dwelling place.  He is high and lifted up.  Heaven seems a long, long way away, but His name, Immanuel, means God with us.  He is in Heaven, but also with me.  He can do that because He is God.
            “Hallowed be thy name” – Not my name.  Not me, but Him.  He is hallowed.  He is holy.  It is all about Him.  His name is to be praised.
            I love to pray that way through Scripture.
            I was reading John Wesley’s writings when he addressed the phrase found just before the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:8 saying; “Your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before you ask him”—we do not pray to inform God of our wants.  Omniscient as He is, He cannot be informed of any thing which He did not know before…The chief thing lacking is a proper disposition on our part to receive His grace and blessing.  Consequently, one great function of prayer is to produce such a disposition in us: to exercise our dependence on God; to increase our desire of the things we ask for; to make us so sensible of our needs that we may never cease wrestling till we have prevailed for the blessing.”
            Prevailing for a blessing?  Praying through?  That is an old thing I heard my grandparents talk about.  I don’t hear it spoken about today. Praying through is the sense of having been heard by God as well as a sense of being finished with that particular prayer.  There are many examples in Scripture.  One is Paul’s prayer about his thorn in the flesh.  He prayed three times that it might depart.  That might not mean a simple matter of three prayers, but a matter of three seasons of prayer.  He held on in prayer and God answered, “No.”
            Imagine that!  We think if we pray and pray we will get what we want.  Like a child in the grocery store begging for candy, we think we will prevail.  But God’s answer does not come because we beg and cry.  It comes for our benefit.  God knew for Paul’s benefit, the thorn was necessary.  Hence, we read Paul’s accepting reply, “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Cor. 12:9-10).
            Moses prayed through and God changed his mind. (Numbers 14:11-20).  Elijah prayed several times for rain and it finally came. (I Kings 18:41-44)   The woman in Matthew 15 kept on calling to Jesus until she was given the crumbs from the Master’s table and her daughter was healed.  The man in Luke 11 persisted until his friend gave him bread.  In Luke 18 the judge finally listened to the persistent widow’s plea.  It is called importune praying, which by definition is to bother someone insistently.
            The secret to importune praying is to be willing to accept God’s answer, but to also hold out long for it.  His answer will not come the first time, or the second, or the third.  Sometimes it may take many times at the throne before you know you have the answer.  But, once you have it, you can go away knowing God will be as good as His word.
            Like the centurion who was certain Jesus’ word would be done, he went away confident he had been heard and his request granted.  “But speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed”(Matthew 8:8).  This man’s prayer was short, but his answer was certain.

            And here is the thing I find about praying through; I go away with such joy knowing God heard my prayer and has given me His word of promise to my request.  It gives me hope and faith to wait.  Psalm 130:5 “I wait for the LORD, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope.”
            I have a few prayers that are like that.  Some for lost souls, who I am still waiting to see saved.  Some for personal needs that only God knows, but I am sure He has told me to leave the solution with Him.  And that is enough.  Once I have His answer, there is no more need for importune prayer, just the need to rest confidently in His word and, like the centurion, by faith, watch for the blessing of His promise.

Psalm 119:49-50

“Remember the word unto thy servant, upon which thou hast caused me to hope.  This is my comfort in my affliction: for thy word hath quickened me.”

Wesley, John, The Essential Works of John Wesley, The Lords’ Prayer, Barbour Press, 2011

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