"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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Thursday, July 4, 2013

My Abundant Source of Lack

Unsought blessing is a definite component of God's program of grace.  Do unrepentant sinners continue to draw breath, often for a lifetime, untroubled for a time by the fetters of eternal, divine fury?  Are such as these sometimes granted an inexplicable understanding and acceptance of the need for Christ's salvation, such that they seek it with earnest repentance?  Does God preserve His children in salvation, even when they foray deep into sin?  Unsought blessing is all around us - without it, we would not last for even a moment in this world, much less taste the joy of salvation.

There is also, however, such a thing as sought blessing - those articles of grace which God chooses to withhold until we ask Him for them.  If we know something of the priority God places upon the demonstration of His glory (and we really should), this only makes sense; we perceive a lack of some sort, and our pervasive inability to satiate it compels us toward the throne.  By making us active participants in the communion of grace, God helps us to see more fully just how we need Him (in a quiet piece of irony).

This certainly places a high premium on prayer, does it not?  James says to the scattered Jewish elements of the church, "You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask." (James 4:2) Let us approach this from the opposite direction:  because I do not ask, I do not have, and the vacuum created by my prayerlessness draws in temptation - a sad substitute. 

It is tempting to fool ourselves into the notion that a period of prayerlessness does not truly affect our spiritual state - we feel that just as a healthy eater can eat the occasional Crunchwrap Supreme without adverse corollary, the spiritual believer can coast along for a day or two without prayer.  What blessings, though, are we missing on these off days?  The gifts of the Lord that fall upon us are not optional graces sent for our amusement; they are blessings intended to equip us for godly worship and kingdom work.  Similarly, the gifts of the Lord that befall others when we pray are for God's purposes of good and glory.  Do we, as children of the Most High, truly desire to ignore these opportunities from our kind and powerful Father?  Pray, friend.  Pray often, and pray for the kingdom; dress your prayers in quality and quantity alike.

We must go further than supplication, of course.  James certainly does:  "You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures." (James 4:3) He maintains, with divinely-supported clarity, that we lack because we ask with wrong motives; that is, our hearts are not right in prayer.  For this reason, the other elements of prayer - praise of God, confession of sin, and thanksgiving for past blessings - take a crucial role in shaping our hearts into what God desires.  In this frame, we find contentedness in the work and character of God.  We ask with a different attitude, and for (sometimes very) different things in this state, but indeed this is vital work whether we open our mouths to ask for anything or not. 

We are led, then, to two simple questions we might ask if we find ourselves in a state of dissatisfaction or want:  Am I in prayer?  Is my heart in line with the Lord?  Perhaps the answer is that I have not brought my cares to my loving Father, or maybe I have been selfish in my supplications, and am thus unfitted for His answer or undeserving of a present resolution.  God does not always remove the thorns from our flesh, but He always stands ready to give us the grace to persevere - a powerful answer to prayer indeed, if we are exhibiting steadfastness of prayer and unity of purpose with Him.

There is always, always an answer to our present lack to be found in prayer.  He is faithful, and He is sufficient!  How then do we not pray, brothers and sisters?  How is it that I can muddle through a day apart from my Father, whom I know in my very bones to be gracious and sovereign and near?  He stands by with grace in His keeping, and He desires for us to embrace our utter need for Him (remember this?).  May prayer be to the soul even as breathing is to the body.


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