Monday, October 24, 2011

The Transforming Power of Prayer (Part 2)

In life, prayer pushes us in all the right directions. It reminds us of the kinds of things we’ve said are so important to life with God and with others. Daily prayer reinforces all the commitments we’re tempted to forsake but that are vital to maintain. Prayer opens our eyes and our heart. Prayer is a necessary ingredient of healthy life and relationships. On our knees is the best posture for living life.

Using the Lord’s Prayer as a model, here are some things that prayer does in you and will do through you in the heart of others.

Our Father in heaven . . .” (Matt. 6:9). Prayer reminds you that you are never left alone to the resources of your own strength and wisdom. Many of us not only lose sight of one another and the commitments we've made to daily, active love, but we've forgotten the Lord as well. Yes, we continue to go to church, and we wouldn’t think of forsaking our faith, but in the hallways, bedrooms, and family rooms of everyday life, we’ve begun to feel that it was all up to US, all on our shoulders. Part of the slow devolution of our spiritual lives was a view of the responsibilities, opportunities, struggles, and blessings of marriage that tends to forget God. Here is why this is so devastating to many of us: when you forget God’s presence, promises, and provisions, either you tend to get overwhelmed and give up, or you try to do God’s job. Neither is a workable option.

Perhaps the most powerful way in which daily prayer for yourself has the power to transform you is this: prayer reminds you that you are never alone. Prayer reminds you that you are never left to your own righteousness, wisdom, and strength. Prayer reminds you that each location or situation where you exist is not only inhabited by God but, even more encouragingly, that each is ruled by him. The one who controls the situations in your life is not only a God of awesome power but is the definition of everything wise, true, faithful, gracious, loving, forgiving, good, and kind.

But there is even more that the Lord’s Prayer confronts you with. It’s that this God who is powerful and near is your Father by grace. If you are God’s child, there is never a moment when you are outside the circle of his fathering care. Like a father, he loves you and is committed to faithfully providing what is best for you. When you’re facing those disappointing moments of life, when you’re not sure what to think, let alone what to do, prayer can rescue you from hopelessness and alienation. Prayer encourages you to say, “I’m not sure how we got here, and I’m not sure what we are being called to do, but there is one thing I am sure of—I’m never, ever alone because I have a Father in heaven who is always with me.”

Acknowledging God will protect you from yourself. It will protect you from discouragement and fear and the passivity that always follows. It will protect you from the pride of self-reliance and self-sovereignty. If you are ever to live life as God designed it to be lived, you must begin with this humble admission: you have no ability whatsoever to produce the most important things that make for a wonderful life. The changes of thought, desire, word, and action that re-create, rebuild, mature, and protect you are always gifts of God’s grace. As you choose to do things God’s way, he progressively rescues you from your own self-interest and forms you into a person who really does find joy in loving him and others. It’s only a God of love who will ever be able to change a fundamentally self-oriented, impatient, demanding human being into a person who not only desires to love but actually does it. There is a word for this in the Bible—grace.

Prayer reminds you that you’ve been graced with a Father’s love and that love will not let you go until it has changed you in every way that is needed.

“Hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:9–10). Prayer reminds you that God’s purpose for you is always bigger than you. You’ll never understand your life or be content in it until you understand that it’s part of something bigger that’s meant to define and shape how you respond to it. Remember people lose their way because they have no bigger vision for their lives than the establishment of their own little kingdoms. When there’s no larger kingdom to capture my allegiance, my life sadly becomes a war between my kingdom purposes and the kingdom purposes of others. Whether I and they know it or not, each is working in the mundane moments of life to realize their dream for their life.

Prayer reminds you that real life is found only when you forsake your little kingdom of one for the bigger and better call of the kingdom of God. Prayer reminds you that God gives you his grace, not so much for the purpose of making your kingdom work but to welcome you to a better kingdom. Every time you pray, you’re acknowledging God’s rule over you and your life. Prayer is an act of submitting your purposes to God’s. Prayer is all about confessing the self-focus and self-sovereignty of sin. Prayer is a willing offering of your life and all it contains to the loving and wise authority of God. Prayer is an active part of what it means to live for a bigger kingdom than your own.

Real life begins when we quit trying to be sovereign over our lives. Real life begins when we quit trying to set the agenda for our lives and begin, in practical everyday ways, to pursue God’s agenda. Real life begins when we quit being kings and begin to willingly and joyfully submit to and serve the King of kings. Prayer reminds you of a King greater than you and a kingdom better than your own.


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