Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Two Kinds of Prayer

         Prayer is like so many other things:  There’s more than one way to do it well.
         For example, you might ask God for a particular outcome, but ask it humbly because your life with Him has taught you that, whether He says yes or no, He knows best.  So you attach to your prayer the proviso added by Jesus when He prayed so ardently in the Garden that His Father find some other way to save the world than by His crucifixion and death: “Nevertheless, not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22: 42).
         You ask in this deferential fashion because you have seen for yourself how God has declined some of your requests in the past and how those refusals worked out better than getting your most fervent desire.  You’ve learned by experience that He sometimes withholds one gift in order to give you another, one that, after the fact, you can see was even better for you than the thing for which you hoped and asked.  You’ve learned what a mess your life would be if somehow you got whatever you asked for.  So, when you pray, you ask God for what you want, but you acknowledge that your request might be misguided.
         In short, (1) you praybecause you recall James saying that sometimes you lack a particular blessing because you have not prayed.  (2) You pray humbly because you recall him saying that sometimes God says no because you are asking for the wrong thing (James 4: 2, 3).  In that light, you ask, but you ask deferentially:  “Lord, if it be your will, please grant X.”  You want X, but you admit that X might not be what God wants for you, so you defer.
         Of course, you might well approach God more boldly, this time not so much in humble deference as in confident faith that you have been led by God Himself to make this particular request.  Perhaps you have been.  If so, you can approach Him with holy boldness, confident of His leading and His grace, confident that He will give you what you seek.  You approach Him confidently because you know He delights in being trusted.  You trust Him for all your needs, and especially this one, the one that is your chief concern at the moment.
         Indeed, perhaps He has led you to this request and will grant it request in exactly the way you have asked.  Prayer of this sort is not necessarily presumptuous, though it can be.  When a prayer request stems from a strong faith in God, in His leading, in His provision, and in His promises, that prayer honors God, even if, for whatever reason, you might have been wrong about it and He did not actually lead you to ask it and does not grant your request.
         For fallen hearts like ours, it is easy to think God is speaking and leading us when He is not.  It is easy to mistake our desires for His guidance.  But because you know that every good and perfect gift comes down to you from the Father of Lights, you turn to Him in confident faith (James 1: 17).  You approach Him boldly, knowing that He who spared not His own Son shall give you, along with that Son, all good things (Rom. 8: 32).  If grace of such magnitude does not inspire you to ask confidently, then perhaps nothing will.
         But either way, whether by the humble prayer or the bold one, you bring your heart’s desires to God because you are convinced that the Judge of all the world will do right (Gen. 18: 25).   

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