Monthly Archives: February 2010

Thomas Brooks on Prayer

“Christ choosing solitude for private prayer, doth not only hint to us the danger of distraction and deviation of thoughts in prayer, but how necessary it is for us to choose the most convenient places we can for private prayer.  Our own fickleness and Satan’s restlessness call upon us to get into such places where we may freely pour out our soul into the bosom of God [Mark 1:35].”

“God’s hearing our prayers doth not depend upon sanctification, but upon Christ’s intercession; not upon what we are in ourselves, but what we are in the Lord Jesus; both our persons and our prayers are acceptable in the Beloved [Eph. 1:6].”

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Edwards on Prayer

Jonathan Edwards was a man of persistent prayer, and for that reason, he was a man of profound influence.  God graciously used him in the Great Awakening, a season of revival throughout the eastern portion of colonial America. He knew, both in theory and in practice, that God is a God who hears and answers prayer (Psalm 65:2).  In fact, he preached an excellent sermon on prayer entitled “The Most High: A Prayer-Hearing God,” that elaborates on this topic.

Edwards believed that God not only hears, but answers prayer because it is consistent with His character.  Since He is immeasurably gracious, He allows His creatures to come to Him so that He may receive the prayers of His people.  Here are some tasty morsels of Edwards’ thoughts on prayer:

“God manifests his acceptance of their prayers, by doing for them agreeably to their needs and supplications.  He not only inwardly and spiritually discovers his mercy to their souls by his Spirit, but outwardly by dealing mercifully with them in his providence, in consequence of their prayers, and by causing an agreeableness between his providence and their prayers.”

God demonstrates His mercy toward His children through the inner working of the Spirit and the outward provision of their needs through the gracious gifts of His providence.  And both of these point to the richness of His promises.

He allows us free access to His presence so that we “may come with boldness… [He] indulges all kinds of persons, of all nations… the most vile and unworthy: the greatest sinners are allowed to come through Christ.”  Beyond that, “He not only allows, but encourages and frequently invites them, yea, manifests himself as delighting in being sought to by prayer.”

It is the grace of God that makes us able to come before Him, and it is His grace that causes Him to delight in our coming.  He often gives good gifts that are far more gracious than we ever wanted or imagined.

God is, “as it were, overcome by prayer… In such cases, God is, speaking after the manner of men, overcome by humble and fervent prayer.  ‘The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much,’ James 5;16.  It has a great power in it: such a prayer-hearing God is the Most High, that he graciously manifests himself as conquered by it.”

God has promised to be “moved” by our prayers.  This does not mean that God is persuaded by us, but rather He speaks in human terms that portray our prayers as the means by which He has chosen to deliver mercy to us.  Our prayers do not obligate God to us, but they demonstrate our dependence on Him and our willingness to submit to the kind intention of His heart. Whatever He has determined for us will come to pass, but He has promised to hear and answer our prayers according to our needs.  Thus, God is “overcome” by our prayers, in that He plants desires within us that He intends to provide for since He knows what we want and need before we even ask.  The struggle is knowing whether our desires are actually best for us (or simply tainted by sin), and in that regard we must submit to the One who knows all things infinitely more perfectly than we do.

God’s character is seen by the greatness of the things He has done in response to prayer.  When Jacob prayed, Esau’s heart was turned from vengeance (Gen. 32).  When Moses prayed, God brought terrible plagues on Egypt.  When Samson prayed, his strength was returned to him so that he was able to pull down the temple of Dagon on the Philistines.  When Joshua prayed, the sun stood still.  When Elijah prayed, it did not rain for three and a half years.  Then when Elijah prayed again, rain came.  When Asa prayed, God confounded the army of Zerah the Ethiopian (2 Chron. 14:9-12).  When Hezekiah prayed, God sent an angel to kill 185,000 of Sennacharib’s army (2 Kings 19:14-16, 19, 35).  God’s power has been demonstrated in many miraculous works in response to the prayers of His people.  God not only hears the cry of His people, but He hears their silent longings, as in the case of Hannah (1 Sam. 1:13) whose prayer was but in her heart.

God’s faithfulness to His covenant people, both corporately and individually, ought to be inspiring to us.  It ought to encourage and strengthen our faith, and it should compel us to ask for things that are in the interest of His kingdom. When God blesses His people individually, it is always in line with His plan of advancing His kingdom through the blessing of His people at large.  As God gives mercy to us, He intends for us to use it, not only for our own pleasure, but for the purpose of His greater glory. God gives us good gifts so that we might better worship Him, serve His church, and reflect His love to a lost and dying world.  He receives glory as we take satisfaction in giving Him that glory.

Prayer has two purposes, one with respect to God and the other with respect to us: “First, with respect to God, prayer is but a sensible acknowledgement of our dependence on him to his glory.” God’s people gain the opportunity to come to him in order to express their faith in His faithfulness.  “Second, with respect to ourselves, God requires prayer of us in order to the bestowment of mercy, because it tends to prepare us for its inception… Fervent prayer many ways tends to prepare the heart.  Hereby is excited a sense of our need, and of the value of the mercy which we seek, and at the same time earnest desires for it, whereby the mind is more prepared to prize it, to rejoice in it when bestowed, and to be thankful for it.  Prayer, with suitable confession, may excite a sense of our unworthiness of the mercy we seek.  And the placing of ourselves in the immediate presence of God, may make us sensible of his majesty, and in a sense fit to receive mercy of him.  Our prayer to God may excite in us a suitable sense and consideration of our dependence on God for the mercy we ask, and a suitable exercise of faith in God’s sufficiency, that so we may be prepared to glorify his name when the mercy is received.”

God uses prayer to draw us to Himself, and for that end He sometimes withholds provision for a season.  It deepens our trust in Him, and fuels our desire to receive that for which we pray.  It prepares our hearts in humility and dependence so that when the mercy is given, unending gratitude will flow from our hearts.  When a petition has been agonized over long enough, the provision of that petition leaves an indelible mark of gratitude impressed upon the petitioner’s heart. Such an attitude of thanksgiving in the light of mercy will lead our hearts toward an extravagant procession of praise and worship every time that object of mercy reminds us of God’s lovingkindness toward us.  Persistent prayer prepares our hearts for persistent praise.

Let us, therefore, continue to pray as we prepare our hearts to receive the things that God has so faithfully prepared in advance to give us.  He is merciful and has promised to bless His children in their time of need.  He does so more abundantly than we could ever ask or imagine, but He calls us to prayer as a demonstration of our dependence and faith. We must simply trust Him and be prepared to continue seeking His will above our own, and praise Him even when He provides in a way different than we desired.

Thomas Watson wrote from his own experience, “We aim at God’s glory when we are content that God’s will should take place though it may cross our own.” Prayer brings us into position to bow before the Sovereign Lordship of God so that He may do whatever He pleases in and through us for our greatest good and His ultimate glory.

Lord willing, the next post will consider a few reasons why God doesn’t always answer prayer in the manner that we desire, and how it often serves to bring more glory to His Namesake.  Until then, let us be men and women of prayer.

{1} Excerpts from Edwards were taken from Glenn Kreider’s “Jonathan Edwards’s Theology of Prayer” in Bibliotheca Sacra (Oct-Dec 2003).  Anything in quote boxes is either from Edwards or Kreider, and all other comments and conclusions are mine.

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Taking Sin Seriously

Maurice Roberts:

“It is the besetting sin of our age to trivialize sin.  The remedy is to meditate on the holiness and righteousness of God himself, on the strictness and perfection of his laws, on the agonies of the damned in hell and, above all, on the sufferings of our blessed Redeemer on the cross of Calvary.  The Christian stops making spiritual progress as soon as he stops repenting.  The modern fashion is to skip through a few words of confession as though sin were no more serious to God than the omission of some detail of etiquette or the infringement of table-manners.  Let us recall that sin is the contradiction of God.”

May we not be those who “take sin lightly,” and therefore “take Christ lightly.”* May God grant us genuine repentance as we daily confess our sin and turn from it. May we entrust ourselves to the Holy One who powerfully saves and sanctifies all who put their faith in Him.  We offended God by our sin, and yet He offered up His only Son for us.  Might we run to the Cross whenever we see our sin and cry out for the mercy of God to change us.  He loves us and He will transform us, and that transformation includes no longer trivializing sin because minimizing sin means minimizing God’s holiness and minimizing the Cross.

________________

*Charles Spurgeon: “Those who think lightly of sin will think lightly of Christ.”

Maurice Roberts, The Thought of God (Carlisle: Banner of Truth Trust, 1993), 12.

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Finding A Wife…

Last year (on Valentine’s Day), Kate Harmon emailed Mueller and I this list of biblical ways to find a wife.  Apparently she thought we needed to start proactively pursuing some young ladies.  I won’t tell you which of the following ways I actually tried, though I will say it was a little alarming to have 200 angry men running me out of town.  🙂  Happy reading…



THE TOP 15 BIBLICAL WAYS TO ACQUIRE A WIFE

~ Find an attractive prisoner of war, bring her home, shave her head, trim her nails, and give her new clothes. Then she’s yours. (Deuteronomy 21:11-13)

~ Find a prostitute and marry her. (Hosea 1:1-3)

~ Find a man with seven daughters, and impress him by watering his flock. (Moses–Exodus 2:16-21)

~ Purchase a piece of property, and get a woman as part of the deal. (Boaz–Ruth 4:5-10)

~ Go to a party and hide. When the women come out to dance, grab one and carry her off to be your wife. (Benjaminites–Judges 21:19-25)

~ Have God create a wife for you while you sleep. Note: this will cost you. (Adam–Genesis 2:19-24)

~ Agree to work seven years in exchange for a woman’s hand in marriage. Get tricked into marrying the wrong woman. Then work another seven years for the woman you wanted to marry in the first place. That’s right. Fourteen years of toil for a wife. (Jacob–Genesis 29:15-30)

~ Cut 200 foreskins off of your future father-in-law’s enemies and get his daughter for a wife. (David–1 Samuel 18:27)

~ Even if no one is out there, just wander around a bit and you’ll definitely find someone. (It’s all relative, of course.) (Cain–Genesis 4:16-17)

~ Become the emperor of a huge nation and hold a beauty contest. (Xerxes or Ahasuerus–Esther 2:3-4)

~ When you see someone you like, go home and tell your parents, “I have seen a … woman; now get her for me.” If your parents question your decision, simply say, “Get her for me. She’s the one for me.” (Samson–Judges 14:1-3)

~ Kill any husband and take HIS wife (Prepare to lose four sons, though).
(David–2 Samuel 11)

~ Wait for your brother to die. Take his widow. (It’s not just a good idea; it’s the law.) (Onana and Boaz–Deuteronomy or Leviticus, example in Ruth)

~ Don’t be so picky. Make up for quality with quantity. (Solomon–1 Kings 11:1-3)

~ A wife?…NOT (Paul–1 Corinthians 7:32-35)

**I’m not sure where it originated or who to give credit to for creating it, but I share it since that lover’s holiday is soon approaching…  Maybe some of you guys can get a head-start on finding that soul-mate.  🙂

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Useful Quotes

Thomas Watson:

“We aim at God’s glory when we are content that God’s will should take place, though it may cross our own.”

“Thus to love God is to glorify Him.  That which is the chief of our happiness has the chief of our affections.”

Artrichus of Dreshaan:*

“God created the universe to glorify Him.  Thus, if I have not glorified God today, then I have failed in my purpose for existing.”

Thomas Wilcox:

“Untried faith is uncertain faith.”

Thomas a Kempis:

“It is by gradual advances, rather than impetuous efforts, that victory is obtained; rather by patient suffering, that looks to God for support, than by impatient solicitude and rigorous austerity.”

Jonathan Edwards:

“Humility is often found connected with long-suffering.”

Richard Baxter:

“It is a mercy to have a faithful friend that loveth you entirely… to whom you may open your mind and communicate your affairs… And it is a mercy to have so near a friend to be a helper to your soul and… to stir up in you the grace of God.”

*I came across this quote as attributed to Artrichus of Dreshaan; however, I’ve never been able to confirm the name or the quote.  Yet, I find it worth sharing despite my inability to find any legitimate citation.

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