Monday, September 22, 2014

Pray, Ask, Get.... Or Not

image used under Public Domain license, photo obtained from pixabay
1Timothy 2:8  I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.

James 5:13-15  Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.  Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.

Those verses say a lot about prayer.  It's a subject that's been on my mind a lot, lately.  I'm a member of several online prayer groups, as well as talking to people with prayer need as I make followup calls for our church.  And several of my fellow Christian bloggers have been led to blog about prayer, particularly in the ways it's personal to them.  In that, we're not going to be much different.

That verse in 1 Timothy says all men should pray, no anger involved, no doubts.  I get the anger part right.  But I can sometimes fail with doubting.  Not while thinking of praying.  Not while actually praying.  But, during those in between times....

I mentioned the online prayer groups.  Those, along with knowing a lot of people around the world, has me praying for multiple requests each day, most of them serious.  And most are even more serious to me because I know the people involved.  "And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not."  That's Galatians 6:9.  The problem comes in those "down time" moments.

No matter what we do that moves the kingdom of God forward, no matter how little we may have to do with that being successful, it'll draw Satan's attention.  Anything that's positive for God is something the devil wants to shut down.  No surprise, right?  But there are times when that gets subtle but personal.  And that's when it can get interesting.

Every time that happens to me, I don't see it coming and I'm always surprised.  The surprise comes from the fact that the attack comes in the same way, under the same circumstances, and I still fall for it.  Satan always comes along when I'm busiest and tired from doing a variety of things, often all of which have some kind of deadline, real or perceived.  Oddly enough, it's not the things that get attacked.  Maybe because Satan thinks he can get me relying on my works.  The target is my prayer life.

The attack says, "You don't pray often enough, you don't pray long enough for each need, you're not sincere enough, God's never going to answer that kind of prayer.".  See where that one goes?  The focus becomes me instead of those I'm praying for and God.  Satan knows several things:

  1. By myself, I'm going to fall short.  Which means
  2. He will try to cut out Bible reading, devotions, and prayer.  Satan knows
  3. Ideally, we have great communication between God and us, but even bad communication is better than none.  So Satan will try to eliminate it completely.  Because
  4. Cutting the connection between God and man has us not recognizing God at work.  We then see
  5. Doubting God becomes reality.  We doubt His power, His interest, His love.  That all
  6. Separates us from God, which takes us back to #1.
If you've read our posts on sin, you'll recall that we said the "little white lie" is only smaller than murder in our eyes, not God's.  That's not saying that murder is unimportant.  Rather, that little white lie is more heinous than we're willing to admit.  We begin determining good and bad and degrees of severity by our standard instead of God's standard.  That sounds a lot like the personal battle Satan is having with God.

And we've just hit on the crux of the problem.  Satan wants company in his misery and he wants us separated from God.  Our prayer life is the perfect place to focus his attack.  Besides those six steps, attacking it engenders a sense of aloneness that not all of us successfully battle.  I sometimes wonder if that state of being isn't at least a subconscious prod for those wanting to believe God would never create a Hell as described in the Bible.  Getting back to prayer:

James 4:3  Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.

We all know that one.  And Satan will try to use it to put our focus on ourselves as the pray-er instead of God as the answerer.  What Satan wants is for us to focus on ourselves and our involvement in that prayer life.  God wants us resting in our partnership.  And James 4 has another verse for us.

James 4:2  Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.

How often do we quote those verses to make a point, but rarely together.  In application, they can be taken apart to highlight separate points.  But the real lesson is with the two verses together.  Not asking and asking amiss are pretty much the same thing.  Not asking what God wants asked, asking what we think ought to be asked.

Pam Enderby expressed it this way, yesterday: "One bible scholar puts it, 'as we pray, the Spirit says, ‘let Me grab the other end. Let me help you by picking up your burden and taking it before the Father’s throne. I know what to pray for when you don’t.'”.  That partnership between us and God is essential.  And it requires us to focus on Him, not ourselves.

After each of those attacks on my prayer life, I get to repent  and I get to grow.  The neat part is that, as I grow, those moments of repentance and growth start coming in the midst of the attack instead of after it's all over.  And my focus is on something other than myself., because there's a partnership between God and ourselves as the source of prayer, and between God and ourselves as the objects of prayer.

All of that brought me to some interesting insights on prayer itself.  And why God had 1Thessalonians 5:17 say, "Pray without ceasing.".  Perhaps we'll start with that verse and discuss it on Friday.  In the meantime....  How's your partnership, today?


  1. Great post Bill - It seems just about all the prayers (especially those in the NT) were rather short yet we try and make it complicated. "I didn't get the answer I wanted so I have to fix something" We need to pray and trust. There is so much we don't understand about God - but that is where the faith comes in.

  2. Thanks, Jon. More coming on Friday.