Going back to Prayer.

So on Sunday we went to the new , well new for my family, Church. It was a good day, and promising in the mode and for of worship for our family. We will definitely be returning so as to get a better overall feel for the church, but the Pastor made me think about prayer again. Honestly the more that I think about it the more I feel like I need to spend a lot more time on the topic, if for no other reason as that it seems to me, at least in modern society, that prayer is possibly the thing we all tend to skip on the most. I know that I certainly fall into that category. But in any case the Pastor made reference to the Larger Catechism in passing, so I figured I would dig a little deeper:

Question 178.

Question: What is Prayer?

Answer:

Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God,a in the name of Christ,b by the help of his Spirit;c with confession of our sins,d and thankful acknowledgment of his mercies.e

So that is how the WLC defines it. WHat about the Heidelberg Catechism?

Question 116. Why is prayer necessary for christians?

Answer: Because it is the chief part of thankfulness which God requires of us: and also, because God will give his grace and Holy Spirit to those only, who with sincere desires continually ask them of him, and are thankful for them.

So looking at both helps give us a complete view of why a Christian should pray, and what prayer really is. As an aside this also points to why it is useful to have both the Heidelberg and the Westminster Catechisms and Confessions of Faith, because both have a different view on the same pieces. I like to equate the Westminster Catechism to the equivalent of a document written by a technical write for engineers, where the Heidelberg Catechism is the equivalent of a document written by an English major.
Back to the subject at hand, now that we have the definition of pray and why we should pray, next post on this topic I will look at the scriptural references.

Morning and Evenings, a good Place to start.

Morning and Evenings is a wonderful daily devotion. It was written by C.H. Spurgeon and is so often focused on renewing our faith each day, or reminding us to focus on Faith. I was reading the evening portion tonight and was reminded so much of how it is important to pray for the Lord to strengthen our faith in Him. Today’s passage was from teh gospel of Mark, Chapter 9, verse 23, though I will quote the entire passage:

14 And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and scribes arguing with them. 15 And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed and ran up to him and greeted him. 16 And he asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?” 17 And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. 18 And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” 19 And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” 20 And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. 21 And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” 23 And Jesus said to him, “ ‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” 25 And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” 26 And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. 28 And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” 29 And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”

As you can see the father of the child had to pray that the Lord would heal his son. He needed to ask for help with his own unbelief or lack of faith. All to often we forget to ask that the Lord would renew our belief, our strength , in Him. The five points of Calvinism speak to the Perseverance of the Saints, and that means that often we will have times where we need that renewing. None to whom Christ has called will ever turn away, but that doesn’t mean that there won’t be times where you faith is tested, and that you might even question your own Faith in the Lord. I pray that the Lord will ever renew my faith, yeah my blief in him. May I cry out like the father in this passage ” I believe; help my unbelief!”, because I do need that so very often.

Basics #2 Daily Devotions, or Bible study.

I don’t know about you, but I have such a hard time with this one. I mean the first thing I talked about was prayer, and while I certainly still need to pray more and pray more in the right manner, at least I prayed some. Alas unlike prayer, I often just drop Devotions out of the repertoire altogether. And yet think of Psalm 1. I’ve made my stepson memorize it, though I’m sure he’s forgotten it by now, and will may my two younger children memorize it as well.

1 Blessed is the man

who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,

nor stands in the way of sinners,

nor sits in the seat of scoffers;

2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord,

and on his law he meditates day and night.

3 He is like a tree

planted by streams of water

that yields its fruit in its season,

and its leaf does not wither.

In all that he does, he prospers.

4 The wicked are not so,

but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,

nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;

6 for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,

but the way of the wicked will perish.

Notice that entire Psalm is about having devotions, a Bible study, and not just every so often, or once in a while, but every day. If God commands it in Psalm 1, and let’s be honest I could throw out a slew full of other passages, then how can we not find ourselves living in Laodicea when we aren’t serious about our studies in the word of God. At the moment I’m using these blog entries as is to remind me to read some of the Lord’s word, and while this is helpful it is only part of the solution. I mean even if someone did exactly what I am doing now, it would only be for a short while. Truth is you have to have a plan, a daily plan at the very least, and quite honestly a much longer range goal than just daily.

A devotional is great, and I’m not against them. I love things like “Morning and Evening’s” by C.H. Spurgeon, but that is only the beginning. You only need the Bible itself, but if you have access to a computer and other books as well I do recommend you start with 3 things:

  1. A plan/reader in order to read the Bible in a year. Honestly I would hope you get multiples of these. Because you will want to mix up reading passages each year.
  2. A devotional or 10, again this is a build up over time, but if you only have the aforementioned devotional by Spurgeon it will eventually get boring, and you will stop reading, which gets you back to where I am now.
  3. A tool or plan to use the above. It could be something as simple as a notepad, or something as complicated as a whole software suite. Ultimately it doesn’t matter so long as you stick to the tool you are using.

I will really only speak to point number 3 and that’s because I’m a layman and a software guy to boot. When computers are your living, directly or indirectly, that’s what you focus on so often. So next time, for better or for worse you will get my look at Bible Software, and believe me I’ve tried a bunch of them.

Yours in Christ,

Mark

Back to prayer.

OK, so I’m obviously focused on prayer,it’s one of the basics I’ve listed and have talked about, but while taking advantage of using Logos 4 today, and it’s awesome home page feature, I was reminded of an area of prayer  we, as the Church universal, so often forget. We forget to talk to the Lord about the bad things happening, especially those bad things not in our lives. And we often do ask the Lord to do anything about them. The funny thing about that is that the Bible is chock full of examples of what we should do . Today I was reading Psalm 79:1-9

1 O God, the nations have come into your inheritance;

they have defiled your holy temple;

they have laid Jerusalem in ruins.

2 They have given the bodies of your servants

to the birds of the heavens for food,

the flesh of your faithful to the beasts of the earth.

3 They have poured out their blood like water

all around Jerusalem,

and there was no one to bury them.

4 We have become a taunt to our neighbors,

mocked and derided by those around us.

5 How long, O Lord? Will you be angry forever?

Will your jealousy burn like fire?

6 Pour out your anger on the nations

that do not know you,

and on the kingdoms

that do not call upon your name!

7 For they have devoured Jacob

and laid waste his habitation.

8 Do not remember against us our former iniquities;

let your compassion come speedily to meet us,

for we are brought very low.

9 Help us, O God of our salvation,

for the glory of your name;

deliver us, and atone for our sins,

for your name’s sake!

The above is obviously a prayer, Asaph is telling God of the troubles he is seeing and both calling on God to judge the nations and delivering Israel, God’s people. How often do we pray about just the general problems in the world and request God’s intervention? Let’s say you don’t  like the direction the courts have been taken with respect to the definition of marriage? Have you prayed that they Lord God would change the hearts of those who are making these judicial decision? Have you prayed that the Lord would punish them for their Godless deeds. If you haven’t prayed these things, then why should you be surprised with the direction the world has been going in.

Note that while often prayer requires action, remember too that you are not the hand of God, nor shall you ever knowingly be such. That means if you pray for judgement on the wicked , which you should, that doesn’t give you the right to execute judgement on the wicked. Vengeance is the Lord’s, and the Lord’s alone. Deuteronomy 32:35 makes this clear:

35 Vengeance is mine, and recompense,

for the time when their foot shall slip;

for the day of their calamity is at hand,

and their doom comes swiftly.’

Potential answer for prayer.

Just wanted to say thanks to any who read and prayed about our church dilemma. We still have one, but there appears to be a church nearby that is still close in theology but appears, on the surface at least, to be what we are looking for in terms of Worship. We won’t get to go until next sunday as my 2 years old is sick and running a mild fever, and my wife has to do nursery duty. But again thanks.

Speaking of Prayer a Request.

Part of my problems with Laodicea, and part of living there, is Church/Worship. Basically I believe that all the praise music , and attempts to curry favor within our current culture is wrong. I believe the need to worship in spirit and in truth, and to approach worship with reverence that our Lord God deserves, and demands. The church my wife and I belong to has been creeping more and more away from reverence, and more towards banal songs and sort of an indifference to what we are doing as a church. If we sing hymns now a days , the music is so changed that it is either different, or might as well be. If we have special music during the offertory, it sounds more like an outake session from American Idol than something worshipful. I’m am praying about what to do, but I also ask that anyone reading this blog to pray for my family as well. What brings it up now is our Church has announced that they will be ditching evening services at least half the time in favor of “small groups”

Now don’t get me wrong here, I have nothing against the concept of small groups, in fact I love the idea of a group of people having a small group Bible study during the week.  A small group in that scenario is not only a good way to reset your mind on God during the week, but it is a great opportunity for encouraging yourself and other Christians. Alas this is not what my local elders have in mind, it is not to add to worship services, no sir, it is instead to replace worship services half of the time.

Small groups should not replace Worship, but should instead augment worship.

Now in a larger population, I could just easily look for a Church with a higher opinion of worship, alas I live in Northwest Arkansas, and there isn’t exactly a lot of options, honestly I’m not sure there are any other options. The closest church doctrinally is about 30 minutes away and it too has the same if not more low view of worship.

So pray for me, as I pray about this. It is a burden on my heart. And pray for my Church that it should seek again to find a true heart for worshiping God and not ourselves.

-Mark

My first Basic in the Christian walk: Prayer

18 With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints

Ephesians 6:18

Prayer, it is so easy to write this one off, at least until we are in real trouble. Then the old canard  gets used, namely “even an Atheist is praying in a foxhole”, and when things are bad that canard is far truer than many realize. In order to stop living in Laodicea, though I know I need more and more to remember to actually pray all the time, and I mean real prayer, real heart to heart time with the Lord. I mean I pray at every meal, and I pray with my kids, and I pray at church, and I pray often for fmaily issue, but I all to often dont’ just pray to God about my life, I don’t pour out my soul nearly often enough.

24 A man of too many friends comes to ruin,

But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

Proverbs 18:24

Jesus Christ is that friend that the Author of proverbs was truly talking about here, and yet if you are like me you don’t take the time to speak to that great friend except maybe to do the equivalent of talking about the weather. I have started reading for the first time in a very long time The Necessity of Prayer by E.M. Bounds. I would encourage every Christian who can get a copy of this book, in any format, to read it. I warn you though this is a dangerous road if you think things are fine in your life, because prayer will change you. I am reminded of the scene in the Movie Shadowlands where Anthony Hopkins as C.S. Lewis says the following:

That’s not why I pray, Harry. I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God, it changes me.

I pray in all sincerity that I, and truly all in the Church can say the same as we grow in our relationship with the Lord God Almighty and his Son and our Savior Jesus Christ.

In Christ,

Mark