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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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Daniel's posts are almost always pastoral and God centered. I appreciate and am challenged by them frequently. He has a great sense of humor as well.
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[He has] good posts, both the serious like this one, and the humorous like yesterday. [He is] the reason that I have restrained myself from making Canadian jokes in my posts.
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Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Why Can't I Pray For Others?
I will tell you why. Because you don't love them.

You say, "No, but I do love them."

But that is only because you have confused affection and familiarity with love. Paul describes love in 1 Corinthians 13, and frankly, it isn't described as a feeling. Did you never notice that? Love is this, says Paul, Love is that. Love does not do this, nor that, but does this and that. Love it seems, like faith, is not dormant or useless, but produces works that demonstrate its presence.

Now, as I have said, it isn't that you are incapable of love, or even that you don't want to be someone who loves - you are capable of it, and you probably want to be someone who loves, the problem, as Paul writes, is that you can't seem to find a way to do what you know to be right; You want to do good, but end up failing, you want to avoid evil, but in the end you end up indulging yourself.

It's a cycle you have never really escaped, for all your religion, and it manifests itself in all kinds of ways, though prayerlessness is probably the most obvious.

What should you do?

Well, here is where the advice comes.

First of all, you won't find a verse in scripture that says, God commands you to pray for six hours ever day. Or God commands you to pray in the mornings. Or God commands you to hold a green handkerchief when you pray, or kneel, or face north, or whatever. What scripture does say however is that you are to love your neighbor as yourself. The prophet Samuel understood this, which is why he could say, "far be it from me to sin in not praying for you" - that is, he recognized that failure to pray for others was sinful, not because the eleventh commandment ("though shalt pray for others, lest I smite thee") obliged him, but rather he understood what is said in Leviticus 19:18 ("you shall love your neighbor as yourself"), that you are to love one another. A thought that is echoed in the New Testament both verbatim, and in parallel thoughts, such as Paul writes in Romans 12:10, "Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; " [NASB].

Let's be fair too. Affection makes love pretty easy. I mean, I love my children, not just because I am commanded to in scripture, but because I have a deep affection for them. Loving them is easy. In fact, even wicked and godless people are able to love their own children. Thank God for that grace, but remember that it isn't an obligation on God's part, as though God is obliged to provide you with affection for those you are commanded to love.

That's a bizarre thought for most people. We tend to think of love growing out of affection, rather than affection growing out of love. We think this way because we are typically responde to infatuation with affection, be it the infatuation that leads to friendship (brotherly love) or the infatuation that leads to marriage (romantic love), whatever the case, infatuation typically precedes affection, and affection love. We presume therefore that in order to love someone we must first be infatuated, or at least gifted with some divine affection for them. When this is what we expect, we feel justified in our lovelessness since affection hasn't fallen out of the sky in our direction. Who can blame us? We don't want to be insincere in our love do we? We don't want to be merely pretenders do we?

We have to be very careful and precise here. You have likely heard sermon #277, you know the "Love is a verb" sermon. The one where you are exhorted to demonstrate love to people you don't love, and this because you are a Christian. You typically ignore the whole sermon as ridiculous, since it would make you a hypocrite to go out and pretend to love, when you don't really love.

That reaction however is only there because the pastor forgot to preach sermon #277B. The part where he explains that the reason you will ignore others is because you have a settled habit of denying the life of Christ within you. The reason you refuse to love others is because you are preoccupied with yourself. You resent any obligation, you recoil from any inconvenience, and you zealously guard your "right" to personal inertia and comfort. He misses the part where he reminds you what exactly it means to follow Christ - it doesn't mean that He has given something of Himself to you, something that is only visible when you deny yourself. The command to take up your cross is the same as the command to walk in the Spirit.

Why on earth are we commanded to walk (i.e. conduct ourselves) in the Spirit?

We are commanded to walk in the Spirit because our inclination will be to walk in the flesh. That is, we will be inclined to follow (and cater to) our own desires and interests. Unless we deny this inclination, and instead do as we are instructed, we will only ever live and walk in the flesh.

If (and when) however, we walk in the Spirit, we are not doing so simply as an act of obedience, we do so with this hope: that in drawing near to God, He will draw near to us, and make His home in us. That is, when we deny ourselves and obey the words of Christ, we are allowing the life of Christ to live in and through us, and in doing so we are drawing near to God, looking to draw strength in our duty from the fellowship we find as we draw near.

How many flounderers would gain footing if they knew that obedience actually paid off in fellowship? How many would pursue God if they understood that God can be both found and known? How many, I wonder?

Anyway, it all boils down to this: you don't pray for others because you either don't want to draw near to God (whether that's because you think it is pointless, or useless or maybe you are ashamed, maybe you don't want to repent, whatever it is), or you are ignorant of why you ought to draw near. Whatever the case, love demands that you pray for those you know, and failure to do so is simply robbing you of joy.

The crazy thing is, some (most?) of you will read this, and agree, but after nodding your head, you will just continue on as you have, perhaps with some new tidbit to chew on until you forget it and move on to the next thing.
posted by Daniel @ 7:31 AM  
  • At 10:52 AM, May 11, 2010, Blogger David said…

    Oh, Daniel! If I believed in present day prophets, I would picture you lying naked somewhere, cooking your food over dung. Thank God I don't believe in continuing prophesy!

    You nailed it, and once again are the cause of discomfort.

  • At 11:41 AM, May 11, 2010, Blogger Daniel said…

    Thank God indeed! I can't work a barbecue, much less cook over burning dung.

  • At 12:54 PM, May 11, 2010, Blogger Jim said…

    One of the hardest things to do is pray in the power of the flesh. It is exhausting and unrewarding...and I think the main reason so many believers neglect prayer. True intercession can only come from a heart pressed into dependence on Christ and genuine love that flows from a daily walk with Him.

    I have experienced moments and times like that but I cannot confess it to be my constant practice yet. I believe it is this spiritual reality which makes all scripture relevant and practical.

  • At 7:23 AM, May 15, 2010, Blogger Sabeian said…

    You have sewn great seed this day, let us hope we have all cleared the weeds and rocks from the soils of our hearts so that it may bare fruit and harvest this knowledge.
    Thanks Daniel! .... You can't work a BBQ?? You make awesome lazagna though so God blesses us all with different gifts.

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