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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Thursday, June 22, 2006
The Missing Link
I recall in my earlier walk with the Lord, how I didn't really believe that prayer worked.

<Gasp!>

I prayed and prayed, and it seemed the only prayers that were answered were the ones that would have happened anyway, "Dear God, please let there be a tomorrow - in Jesus name, Amen." You know the sort of prayers.

Because I didn't want to seem less spiritual than others, and because I fully anticipated God ignoring my requests, my public prayers were carefully crafted in such a way that God could fail to answer my prayer and that would be "okay." You know the prayer I am talking about - the one where you say, "Dear Lord/God/Father in heaven, if it please you/if it is your will/if there be glory for you in/ etc. do such and such..."

Clearly, if God failed to come through on my prayer request it had nothing to do with my lack of faith, the absence of God, or the caliber of my request - always and ever it was simply "not the will of God" - and butta-bing, I was off the hook as it were.

I wish I could say that this only went on for the first few weeks of my walk with the Lord, and that I quickly learned the error of my way - but I cannot say that. Truly, it was my little dark Christian secret, and I didn't want anyone to know that for some reason God wasn't answering my prayers. So I continued to pray like that, and as I did, I became more comfortable with praying like that - until prayer was an empty habit, a formal ritual that I did because I belonged to this religion that did that sort of thing.

I thank God (however) that through all that - His witness within me continued to prod me with the certainly knowledge that something was horribly wrong about the way I was praying.

You know, cracks in sidewalks usually start with dirt getting into a chip or a catching and clumping around a bump, so that eventually there is enough dirt there that some weed or grass seed can take root. Day after day, the roots press into the concrete - and maybe they don't get too far in one season - but then moisture works its way into that tiny impression and on a cold night the moisture freezes and in expandanding it makes the impression larger. The next year, the root comes to life again, and the cycle continues, until eventually the sidewalk is cracked clean through and these roots are free to dig down.

It has worked like that in my life - the Spirit wearing down my heart until eventually I am willing to submit. It isn't as if I don't want to "submit" per se, but rather that I don't want to submit entirely - so I submit as much as doesn't really matter to me, and the Spirit of God deals with my hard heart as described.

Now, in the matter of prayer, while I had always known on some level that I had been a big prayer phony - eventually I wanted to do something about it enough to actually do something about it. Disgusted with my own despondency in the matter, I began to really talk to God about it, and study specifically from scripture how I ought to be praying.

My studies brought me to 2 Corinthians 6:14 where Paul asks, "what communion has light with darkness?" He asks this by way of demonstrating a truism he applies to unequally yoking oneself with an unbeliever - but the question expects a negative response - that is, Paul is saying just as light has no communion with darkness, so too the believer ought not to yoke himself with the unbeliever.

It is interesting that the word "communion" is used. We typically hijack that word and give it a spiritually technical meaning - that is, while it means communication, we tend to pigeon hole it so that it only ever talks about the Lord's table - so we want to be careful not to do that here. The question was what communication is there between light and darkness - anticipating the answer that there is none.

The implication is that if we walk in darkness, we cannot have communion with God. Not that we suddenly stop being justified if we were saved by Christ - but that being "saved" doesn't auto-magically mean we are walking in the light; we may know about the light, but unless we walk in obedience to the light we possess, we are not walking in the light - and we are not going to be in fellowship with God, nor will we be in communion with God.

It is a terribly simple formula, but perhaps it is the simplicity of it that I missed when I first began to walk with the Lord. Scripture teaches that in the same way we received the Lord Jesus (through repentance towards God and trusting in Jesus Christ) even so we must continue to walk - that is, we must continue to repent (determine to follow God no matter what) and trust in Jesus.

Beloved - if your prayer life is empty - you need not wonder why - it is because you have become slack in your repenting. God doesn't answer prayers because your faith is greater than the guy beside you - he answers prayers because you are in communion with him through your continued willingness to obey. God isn't fooled by lip service - so we have to be truly willing (the sort of willing that produces action and not just conversation about action).

Look back brothers and sisters to the times when your prayers were marvelously answered - such as the prayer you prayed even to be saved - didn't your heart commit itself to obey? Didn't you have a smaller faith than you do now?

It isn't the mega-faith that receives answered prayers - but the obedient faith. Faith only grows when it is rewarded, and only obedient faith is rewarded. The math is simple enough.

Anyway - don't play games with prayer - that is, don't tell yourself that God doesn't answer prayer anymore just because the only repentant prayer you ever prayed was for your own salvation. Move on in your faith - continue to submit yourself to God - renew your efforts to obey. God doesn't demand perfection as a prerequisite to communion - but He is rightly aloof from those too proud or lazy to continue in obedience.

If you find your prayer life dead - chances are it isn't a faith problem, it is an obedience problem - you don't want to obey. God will deal with it if you identify it as something that is genuinely destroying your walk with God, and ask and believe God to deal with it as you continue to submit yourself to Him.

It has become fashionable to say that God answers all prayers either Yes, No, Wait, or My grace is sufficient. I think that is a wrong way to look at it. God answers prayer "Yes" - and when God doesn't answer prayer it is because either the prayer was inappropriate (according to your own desires), or because you were out of communion with God when you prayed it making your prayer "abominable" "No" isn't really an answer to prayer, it is the divine way of saying, your prayer was not right. Even Paul prayed according to his own desire that Christ would take away the thorn in his flesh - and his prayer was not answered because Christ's grace was all that Paul needed. So I say God answers prayer with "Yes" - sometimes the Yes takes a while to get here, but it is a yes none the less. I don't think "No" or "My grace is sufficient" are answers to prayer at all, but rather indications that our prayers are not answered.

The idea that God answers "no" to prayer is misleading. The truth is that Spirit filled people have their prayers answered all the time - like clockwork. Read about men like George Mueller or even John Wesley - amazing answers to prayer by men who were just like you and me, except that they were willing to obey God, and that kept them in communion with God - just as you were when God saved you.

posted by Daniel @ 11:24 AM  
4 Comments:
  • At 5:14 PM, June 22, 2006, Blogger Even So... said…

    I like what you say in this post, Daniel; I say it this way, that we must act in accordance with what God has told us, we see the indicative, we do the imperative, that is how we abide, and why we have power in prayer.

    The Book of Daniel pictures this. Daniel sees where Jeremiah says seventy years, Daniel knows the time is almost up, but does he sit back and relax? No, he acts in accordance with the decree, that is to also say, he shows his faith in the promise by acting in accordance with it. People who do not act accordingly don't actually believe, thereby proving they didn't actually have faith. It may look as if the promise didn't come true or that they lost something, but they never really posessed it at all.

    If God were to come and tell you that you were going to be a major league baseball player, and you actually believed it, you would act accordingly. To do so would not be by sitting on your rear end drinking beer and eating potato chips. You would act accordingly by getting out there and giving it all you've got, by practicing and staying in shape and such. Sure, if you were promised you might still make the big leagues, but where the lazy one would ride the bench, the other, who acted as if he believed it, he would make the Hall of Fame. In this we see that belief is no mere mental assent, but an understanding and fidelity to the vision God has placed in us by the Holy Spirit. I am not talking mystical, but OBEDIENCE!!!!!!!

     
  • At 10:31 AM, June 23, 2006, Blogger Joe said…

    I'm not sure that this is at all comforting - like pure obedience is so much easier than faith. It also doesn't reflect those who do act in much better obedience than most of us, but still receive a tremendous amount of hardship. Consider Paul's prayer to have the "Thorn in his flesh" removed. I don't know much about George Mueller, but I'm pretty sure that John Wesley said quite a few prayers asking God to keep his wife from following him around, calling him a liar and a cheat.

    I had started the post with a bit of hope that this would be a bit more honest than the usual sermons explaining the apparent contradiction between "whatsoever you ask in my name" and the very obvious reality of that whatsoever usually being utterly denied or ignorred.

    What degree of obedience is necessary to receive an answer to prayers? It can't be perfect obedience. Even Wesley - who believed in the possibility of a purely sanctified life - didn't believe he had reached perfect obedience. What level is necessary and how do we gauge that?

    The previous comment mentioned, "If God were to come and tell you...." Isn't that a big part of the issue? God doesn't come and tell us these things. He doesn't say anything. Most of us seeking direction would die to receive a scroll from the prophet Jeremiah or the voice of God saying we're to become a professional athlete. All of us want to know something that specific that applies to our lives - that we, personally, can follow in obedience seeking fulfillment. Most prayers - like in Wesley's situation - relate back to trying to figure out God's very intention. "Does God want me to marry girl 1 or girl 2 or girl 3? Evangelize America or England? Leave the Anglicans?".

    This is a much more difficult theological problem than the simplicity of "obedience" as an answer. Consider the passages refering to prayer in the NT. How many of them say you must live in perfect obedience to receive? Don't they rather say things like, "if... in my name" or "whatsoever you ask..." or "pray in this way..." or "if your earthly Father knows..." or "believe and not doubt". And if it is a choice between faith and obedience, isn't faith more supported by a statement such as "IF you had faith as a mustard seed..."?

    Perhaps I'm being too critical because I wonder about faith and obedience and prayer and why life tends to seem rather unchanged by prayer. Why is it that the faithful (obedient) and unfaithful get cancer and die in the same portions? Why is that the faithful and unfaithful can't find jobs or starve or lose their children to a reckless drunk? Statistically, there is little to say that the obedient and unobedient have remarkably different lives.

    The question is too complex and the truth too difficult to wrap up with a simple statement about obedience. I'm not attacking the importance of obedience, but that usually follows once a prayer is answered or wisdom (which, follows prayer according to James) is given. What about that first prayer? What about that weak pleading for help, life, direction, deliverance. Afterall, isn't the one prayer we can be sure of being answered - that prayer for the grace of God in Jesus Christ - delivered from shaky faith and a life of disobedience and emnity with God?

    Really, are your prayers being answered all the time now that you are obedient? I'm not being sarcastic or mean. I'm pleading. I'm sad and troubled, as someone who has prayed throughout the day, throughout the years for some simple wisdom and insight. I have not lived in perfect obedience, nor perfect faith (I don't believe that's possible apart from the Resurrection). So is there any hope for me? Is there any hope for the thousands like me? And what about all that stuff Jesus said about asking and recieving? Is that just for the 12 or does that really apply to people like me?

     
  • At 11:21 AM, June 27, 2006, Blogger Daniel said…

    Joe - welcome to my blog, and I apologize for the tardiness of my reply.

    You ask, What degree of obedience is necessary to receive an answer to prayers?

    I think a good place to start is 1 John 3:22, which says, "and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him." [ESV]

    We want to be careful to take the phrase "his commandments" in context - John defines exactly what he means by "his commandments" in the context - so we don't want to look at that verse and substitute, say, the ten commandments, or the whole of the Mosaic law. In the very next verse John explains - "And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us." [ESV]

    There are two ways to be obedient, but only one way pleases God. The first way is to be motivated by fear and attempting to placate God by our obedience in the hopes that said obedience will earn something for us, either answered prayers, or even "maintaining" our own salvation. The proper way (however) is motivated by love; consider 1 John 4:16, "So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him." [ESV]

    The thing about obedience is that it demonstrates a reality - but it cannot produce that reality. That is, I obey because I love God, and -not- that I obey in order to produce a love for God. If I see that I don't really have a love for God, it is indicative of pride in my life. Recall how Luke says in the seventh chapter of his gospel in the latter half of verse forty seven, "But he who is forgiven little, loves little."

    Now, it isn't that the people who sin the most love the most - rather it is the one who agrees with God that they are truly sinful - that they deserve wrath - that they require deliverance - the one who hungers and thirsts after righteousness because he or she recognizes the utter lack of it in their own life- this one who begins to understand the magnitude of their sinfulness will love more than the one who is cavalier about it.

    This is what Christ meant in John 14:15 when He said, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments. " It is diagnostic - the one who loves Christ is willing to obey.

    I agree, this is a "much more difficult theological problem than the simplicity of 'obedience' as an answer." Obedience doesn't produce righteousness - look at the Pharisees! Yet that truth doesn't mean we can ignore where scripture teaches, "Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness will find life, righteousness, and honor." and "The way of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, but he loves him who pursues righteousness. "

    Here we must understand that the pursuit of righteousness isn't the pursuit of obedience, such that we seek to obey until we are righteous; no, we learn from Abraham that the righteousness accounted to him was not because of his obedience, but because of his faith in God.

    You ask a good question, asking, "Why is it that the faithful (obedient) and unfaithful get cancer and die in the same portions? I am personally unfamiliar with any statistics on the matter, but in my own church we have seen people healed from cancer (on more than one occasion), from crippling, life-long arthritis, etc. God is certainly at work - but God isn't answering prayers in order to glorify man, but to glorify Himself. My expectation is that these sorts of things are -not- happening outside the church.

    But it does bring up a good question - why do bad things happen to good people, and more specifically, why is it that we cannot pray them away every time?

    Jesus allowed Lazarus to die. He was aware that Lazarus' illness would result in his demise, and he could have asked God to heal him, and it would have been done - yet Jesus didn't do that. might ask "Why not?" The answer we find in scripture is that God had a purpose in the demise of Lazarus. It wasn't some random thing as though God were not in control of the universe - but just as the scriptures say, "...it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment" - God's sovereignty extends to our death, and most assuredly to even our illness - and such things do not happen willy-nilly, but just as with Lazarus, all things have a purpose.

    Now, "we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose."

    If our thinking is always earthwards - that is, we call God down to influence worldly affairs to our benefit or the benefit of others, we are walking a way that might seem right to us, but its way doesn't lead to God. It is right to expect God to equip us for His service, and wrong to expect God to service us for our own good pleasure. That is, we look at something like illness and understand that God's hand is in it. Perhaps the illness comes as a result of unrepentance. Perhaps it is there for God's glory.

    How many of the apostles died quiet peaceful deaths? Did God love them any less? No. Had they died after a comfortable and wealthy retirement, we might doubt that they message they preached was genuine. But knowing that they were willing to die horrible deaths to proclaim the truth gives us hope - and our hope brings glory to God.

    Seriously, when I talk about answered prayer, I am not talking about making God do my will - I am talking about knowing God's will and praying for it - just as Christ prayed - "Your will be done" - that is how we need to pray.

    Repentance is a big word. It means to change your mind about what you are truly going to do. That is, if you don't follow through and do it, you haven't really changed your mind about what you were going to do - and so you haven't repented, but have only paid lipservice - that is, we whine about how miserable we are but we never determined to do everything in our power to change. We read, "it is God who works in you to will and to do His good pleasure" - but we forget the verse before it that says, "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling."

    Repentance is required for communion with God. We cannot hope to have our prayers heard if in our hearts we are secretly saying, "I will not have God rule over me!" - God won't hear us because our prayer is abominable.

    You ask, "Really, are your prayers being answered all the time now that you are obedient?" - I would say, my prayers are not answered "because of my obedience" - as though the obedient Pharisees were heard because of their obedience - rather, my prayers -do- get answered -when- I am utterly submitted to do God's will - and my prayers -do not- get answered when I am deceived into trying to get God to do my will.

    There is hope for you, the same hope as there is for all of us. Humble yourself under God's hand, and He -will- lift you up. But humility comes before grace.

    No one who is submitted to God can pray for anything selfish - it is a contradiction.

    Let me know if that answers your queries. I know that some of your questions were directed at JD, but I felt inclined to stab at them. Let me know.

    Dan
    <><

     
  • At 10:47 AM, June 28, 2006, Blogger Joe said…

    Dan,

    Thanks for your response. I don't have much to add, only that I wanted clarification. I'm one of those strange Southern Baptists and it's very common in our denomination to use a fair bit of manipulation - especially the manipulation of obedience. I probably projected some of that onto your comments.

    As in many things in the Christian faith, it isn't about content, but order. For example, we hold that works follow faith (or baptism follows faith) and not that works or baptism produce faith. Likewise, I agree with your comment on the right order: obedience follows love/gratitude. It does not produce it.

    In some ways, I would suggest that prayer seems to be similar. The answers to prayer follow our agreement with what God would have us pray - the "Not my will, but thy will." The difficulty, of course, is getting there.

    Perhaps the most humbling thing to remember is that Jesus' heartfelt prayer (i.e. non-sinful and very sincere) about deliverance in the garden was not in accordance with the will of the Father and, thus, unanswered (or met with a no). Instead the Father answered Jesus' other prayers, most notably those that included his desire to follow the will of God and those that would be on behalf of other people's salvation.

    I remember Barbara Bush once saying she was glad that God didn't grant all her prayers or else she would have married about 5 other guys before meeting George. The same is true with me (not the marrying guys part). There have been so many denied requests and most of them were obviously wrong. Still, it's that prayer for wisdom that James encourages us to pray, that I've turned to more often. Like Paul says in Romans, we don't even know what we should pray for.

    It's a whole lot easier if God's just a genie in a bottle. But then, who's really God?

     
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