"He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything."
Colossians 1:18

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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Partial Partiality: A Hindrance for Powerful Prayer

You pray.  You pray often, and you pray for those things fitting for the kingdom.  You earnestly ask for salvation for those around you.  You seek the spiritual growth of your church in your prayers - just let more disciples come, Father, and help us all to grow in our zeal.   Morning, noon, and night, you pray.  Sleep robs the final thought of your whispered prayer into the dark quiet.  As you awaken, prayer begins afresh - Lord, this is Your day.  You pray.

And yet, for all this, you seem to miss out on these big-ticket items that saturate your prayers.  The people around you remain unsaved.  Your church continues in its - you almost say "rut," but you quickly change it to "present trajectory."  Everything remains status quo ante votum.  Does this sound at all familiar?  I cannot pretend this is not well-traced territory for myself; I have trodden it before, and perhaps you have as well.  What do we do in such instances?

The oft-quoted recourse to "unanswered prayer" (a misnomer if ever there was one) points to a lack of faith as the chief culprit:  "Had you more faith," proclaim the head-shakers, "the Lord would respond more faithfully to your prayers."  What they mean is that you must get it through your head that the Lord can truly do the very thing for which you are asking.  Indeed, there is something unsavory about a prayer laced with the poison of insincerity and doubt, but many times, it seems as though this comment misses the mark.  We ask of the Lord with every faithfulness of understanding:  "Of course You can do these things, omnipotent Lord.  It would profit me nothing to ask it, otherwise."

I would like to propose another reason, then.  Sometimes, I think, my faith in the Lord is sufficient to believe His omnipotence, but my heart is not prepared to be gladdened by His glory.  Christ could work tremendous wonders, both in and for His church, such that my every prayer were brought into rapturous bloom, and still I would manage to mar its effect on my own joy, with a quiet application of indifference or impatience.  "Of course you can do these things, omnipotent Lord.  What else would You do?" 

2 Chronicles 16:9a teaches, "For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His."  Divine and powerful aid is the gift to the ones who are devoted wholly to the all-seeing God.  This devotion brushes aside the sort of indifference that would ignore or even scoff His glory, and the reward for that devotion is the "strong support" of God Himself.  Where God gives strong support, there is sure to be glory in it.  And a blameless devotion to the Lord on our part will surely contain obedient work and fervent prayer for Christ's kingdom, so the end result is that the kind support of the Lord will be gloriously directed toward these righteous endeavors - which are the focus of our effort and prayer. 

It makes sense, then - if we desire to see God work through prayers, it is indispensible that we prepare ourselves to desire and value His glory (and thus His established, steadfast kingdom).  It is a sobering thought to suppose that God does not move powerfully to respond to our prayers, in part, because our hunger for Him is too small - that God withholds the strong manifestations of His glory because that glory would be wasted on us.  May these things not be so, brothers and sisters.

Rejecting this sort of partial partiality toward God demonstrates an earnest, intent sort of focus upon the Lord.  Now, here is the truly marvelous part - not only does this sort of righteous longing for God invite Him to respond to our prayers, but it also poises us to revel in the glory that we are able to see, even when God's longstanding counsel prompts Him to do something other than that for which we have prayed.  If we hunger for God's glory and yearn to see it unleashed in this world, then we will certainly not fail to notice that He radiates glory in the contradiction of our prayers, as He accords with His perfect will, just as much as He demonstrates glory in the affirmation of our prayers.  In the light of such revelation, how could we then be choosy about which glory we see and enjoy?  So our joy remains whole, and our devotion intact, even in those occasions when our prayers are confounded by the far, far greater plans of the Lord. 

Be not unmoved, unfeeling heart of mine.  Find your joy in the Lord's glory, and He will never disappoint.  The more we seek it, the more we will desire it, and the more we will see it.


Anonymous said...

Good words Josh - I need to be reminded of this regularly. Thanks.

Josh said...

As do I, MIL. God is truly patient with us all, is He not?

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