Monday, December 7, 2009

Develop~Chapter 3

Develop ~

God’s Promises in Prayer

“That we lie on earth poor and famished and almost destitute of spiritual blessings, while Christ sits in glory at the right hand of the Father, clothed with the highest majesty of empire, must be imputed to our slothfulness and the narrowness of our faith.”---John Calvin

Sovereign Grace believes we should commit to develop in love for God’s promises in prayer.

Are you ever overwhelmed by the distress in this fallen world and your inability to do anything about it? Have you ever looked at the state of our culture, or a friend’s heart, and thought it is hopeless? Do you ever live with the sense that everything is “going to hell in a hand basket”? Think of the numerous problems we encounter which can make us feel hopeless:

  • Our culture is increasingly becoming godless and is suffering massive moral degradation.
  • The Evangelical church is becoming increasingly weak in its holiness, evangelism, and commitment to rigorous study of the Word.
  • There are billions of people who don’t know Christ.
  • You have a family member, or friend, who is stuck in the same sin pattern and who refuses to heed your advice.
  • You see people you know walking away from Christ and there is nothing you can do to convince them otherwise.

What is our natural inclination in these scenarios? My inclination is often to think of a new strategy or to work harder. My response is often not to pray! Prayer is necessary to accomplish God’s ends and I don’t think we believe it. I believe we need to get our minds around something fundamental---God is sovereign over all things! His sovereignty includes the ends and the means to those ends! One of the primary means God uses to bring about his ends is prayer.

In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus gives his disciples the Great Commission. Jesus teaches us that the church is commanded to take the gospel to every people, tribe, tongue, and nation. Jesus states the Great Commission this way:

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in* the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Jesus tells us the means of seeing men and women from every nation worshipping God. The means is that the church preaches the Gospel in every nation. What is glorious is that we also learn the outcome of this command. When we read Revelation 5:9-12, we learn that not only has God given the means to his end, but he has even told us the ends before they have come to pass! How can he tell us the ends before the ends have even come to be? He can do so because he is sovereign over the ends. Look at what John shows us as he rends the curtain of heaven so we will see what is to come in the eternal state:

And they sang a new song, saying,

“Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals,

for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God

from every tribe and language and people and nation,

and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,

and they shall reign on the earth.”

Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”

Jesus gave his church a command showing he is sovereign over the means and he showed us the fulfillment of that command showing he is sovereign over the ends. We have in writing the guarantee that the Great Commission is going to be fulfilled thousands of years before it is. Jesus gave his disciples a command that he knew the result of.

I suppose some people might say, “then what is the point of obeying the Great Commission if it is guaranteed to be fulfilled?” Why preach or pray if it is already determined and written down that God will be glorified by all nations? We should do so because God has commanded us to obey the Great Commission. He has commanded us to preach and pray as the means by which the ends will be accomplished! God has also told us to pray, “Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven,” and then shows us it will be so in Revelation 21-22. Is there any doubt that “God’s will” will be done on earth? So, why pray?

We should pray because God has told us this is the means through which he will bring His glorious ends. God has not superintended the writing of his Word in such a way that we are just playing an empty game. It isn’t just an exercise in psychology as God uses prayer to change us. God really, in fact, uses our prayers as the means to accomplish his ends. Our prayers are effectual; they are answered and the hearts of men and women are opened to the Word as a result. In fact, our praying and our preaching are not only helpful, but are necessary.

It is true that the Word of God is the sword of the Spirit in our fight against the Devil. The Word of God is what is sharper than any two edged sword, dividing joint and marrow. The Word of God is what is useful for teaching, correcting, rebuking, and training in righteousness. It is the Word of God through which the mind is renewed, and which is effective in taking captive every thought to the obedience of Christ! However, this sword of God’s Word is a weapon that man is powerless to wield without prayer. This is why Paul tells the Ephesians that when they put on the full armor of God and wield the sword of the Spirit they need to be praying continuously. We need our people to pray so our preaching of the Word to one another and to unbelievers will be powerful to change hearts. As John Piper has said, “Prayer is the power that wields the weapon of the Word, and the Word is the weapon by which the nations will be brought to faith and obedience.” We need to pick up the sword of God’s Spirit trusting him to provide what he requires and promises.

Prayer at Sovereign Grace

This is why Sovereign Grace encourages prayer in every context of our church. We want God to work powerfully in our church and know that he promises to do so if his people would only ask him. When a group of Americans visited London last century to see the famous pastors, C.H. Spurgeon, they asked him what was the secret of his great congregation. He took them to the boiler room, downstairs, where a large group of over a hundred men and women were gathered lifting up the services in prayer. He said, “There is the secret, corporate prayer.” Sovereign Grace Church, likewise, believes that prayer both corporate and individual is necessary to effective ministry. We have nothing to offer people but God’s Word, and we can do nothing to change their hearts so they repent before it, rejoice in it, and are obedient to it. Only the Holy Spirit can do this heart changing work. Thus, we are utterly dependent on Him in prayer.

We believe prayer should trust in God’s character and provision, should be continuous, thankful, in accordance with God’s revealed will, and for God’s glory. We believe prayer should manifest itself in the following contexts:

1. Private Devotion: Both as a matter of time set aside and as frequent ejaculatory prayers.

2. Family Devotion: Before meals, in the morning, before bed, during family worship times, and in family decisions.

3. Corporate Devotion: At all events, during corporate worship, as separate meetings, and during small groups.

How Do I Pray as Jesus Taught in the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13)?[1]

The Address: We need to start by recognizing the God whom we are addressing. We need to recognize he is the transcendent (above us and greater than us) and holy God. We also need to recognize he is imminent (near us) and cares for us as children. We need to recognize our right to be children of God is a gift of the Gospel.

The First 3 Petitions: God is God-centered and we also should be. We need to pray God’s name will be set apart as holy and glorious. He should be known here and in all nations for the majesty of his character. We also need to pray that God’s kingdom of grace will spread in our own hearts and the hearts of men in all nations, culminating in his glorious return in which his kingdom of glory will be established. Finally, we need to pray God’s will be done in our lives and in the lives of others. We need to pray that his Word will be obeyed and rejoiced in.

The Second 3 Petitions: God has provided for all our needs before we have even asked him. As a Trinitarian God, the Father created us and will providentially provide for our physical needs, the Son atoned for our sins and will provide us with our ultimate spiritual need of forgiveness and reconciliation with the Father, the Holy Spirit indwells us and will provide for our moral needs of resisting the devil’s temptations. We should trust God for these things and ask him to provide them.

Recommended Books:

The Prayer of the Lord, by RC Sproul

The Valley of Vision, edited by Arthur G. Bennett

[1] For a short model on Biblical prayer based off the Lord’s Prayer, please see Appendix #4.

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