Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Crucifying our prayers: being thankful, not whinging & demanding

This continues my series on the cross of Christ and prayer. The cross of Christ gives us access to God in prayer. Praying cross-shaped prayers means we will pray for others over ourselves, and for the glory of God over our our own comfort.

Finally, the cross shows us that in our prayers we need to be thankful, not whinge or demand. Three things will help us do that.

First, remember Christ crucified and risen. God’s love for us does not depend on our visible, palpable human circumstances. “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8). The empty cross motivates us to always thank God, despite our circumstances.

Second, we must expect hardship and suffering. If we’re ready for it, we won’t be surprised when it happens, and we’ll be less likely to become bitter and resentful.
Suffering comes to us two ways. In a sin-stained world, life is going to be difficult (Gen 3:14-19; Rom 8:19-22). We’re going to get sick; people will let us down; unfair things will happen. As Christians, we’re not exempt from this ordinary suffering of life.

What’s more, as Christians, we should expect persecution. People will mock us & gossip about us; we won’t get the recognition we deserve; it’ll all be totally unfair & irrational. That’s just part of ordinary Christian discipleship – which is to take up our cross & follow Jesus (Matt 16:24-28 & parallels). “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim 3:12). See also Luke 6:22-23; John 15:18-25; Rom 12:14, 17, 19-21; 1 Pet 2:12, 15, 19-25; 3:9-, 14-17, and numerous other passages.

Thirdly, we must remember that God uses these hardships for our good. God does not pamper and indulge us. He disciplines us, to grow Christ-like character within us (Rom 8:28-30; Heb 12:3-11). Non-Christians demand the good life now. They run around stuffing their faces with as much of the good things of this world that they can (Matt 6:31-32), and ignoring the God who gave it to them. If they do believe in a god, they want a god who will pamper and indulge them – who will serve their needs and give them everything they want – which isn’t really a god, it’s just a genie from a magic lamp. That is not the God of the cross.

If we keep these in mind, our prayers will not be self-pitying and resentful. Rather, we will thank God for all our circumstances – pleasing and painful – and ask him to use these circumstances to grow Christ-like character in us. And we will ask the same for others.

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That's the end of my notes on prayer and the cross of Christ. In our prayer workshop at Mid Year Conference, the workshop participants wrote some prayers based on significant Biblical prayers. I'll post some of them in the days to come.

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