Thursday, 6 November 2008

Prayer: digging up God's promised treasures

We often pray for things that God hasn't promised to give us. They may not be bad things - they're usually good things - like health & jobs & guidance & things like that. The problem is - God hasn't promised to give them to us.
Calvin reminds us that in the Bible, God has promised us all kinds of blessings. But here's the amazing thing: "Nothing is promised, which we are not also bidden to ask of him in prayers" (Institutes, 3.20.2). That is, God promises us blessings, then commands us to pray for these blessings, that we may receive them from him.
But who needs Calvin? Check out this Biblical pattern:
  • 2 Sam 7:11-16: God promises David a dynasty; 2 Sam 7:25-29: David asks God to fulfil his word and give him a dynasty.
  • Daniel 9: Daniel, in response to God's promise that the desolation of Jerusalem will only last seventy years, prays a prayer of repentance and asks God to restore Jerusalem.
  • Philippians 1:6: Paul is confident that God will complete his work in the Philippians; so he prays in Php 1:9-11 that God will complete his work in the Philippians!
When we have so many Biblical promises to pray for, why are we so obsessed with our own needs? I wonder if it sometimes stems from sin. We don't value God's promises enough; we want God to give us what we demand, not what he has promised. That is, we want to be God, and we want God to be our servant.
On the other hand, it's not sinful to ask for good things. And our heavenly Father knows what we need before we ask; so we can confidently petition him, and leave it up to him to decide whether he's going to give it to us or not!
Either way, let's stop only praying for our requests. Let's shape our prayers by the things God has promised us. In our prayers, let's deliberately & joyfully take hold of God's promises in Christ.

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