Wednesday, November 02, 2011

The Transforming Power of Prayer (Part 5)

"And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matt. 6:13). Prayer reminds you that your biggest life struggles exist inside, not outside, of you. Real prayer always leaves you humbled because real prayer requires you to admit who you really are. We would all like to think we’re fundamentally good people whose biggest struggles in life exist outside, not inside, of us. But prayer confronts us with a humbling reality: we’re only hooked by the evil outside of us because of the evil inside of us.

Prayer requires us to face the fact that no matter what we suffer, the deepest, most abiding dilemma of our life exists inside, not outside, of us. Prayer requires us to face the dark and devastating reality of our sin and how it distorts what we think, desire, say, and do. Prayer requires us to acknowledge that we need rescue and protection because we carry around something inside ourselves that tempts us away from what is right toward what is wrong. Prayer humbles us as it welcomes us to admit that we carry around something inside that is self-focused and antisocial and therefore destructive to ourselves and to our relationships.

Prayer requires us to confess that the biggest problem in our lives, the one thing we cannot escape by change of situation and location, is ourselves! It’s our sin that seduces, deceives, and entraps us again and again. It’s our sin that causes us to want things we shouldn’t want, to think things we shouldn’t think, to say things we shouldn’t say, and to do things we shouldn’t do. Prayer calls us to quit blaming our circumstances and relationships for our words and actions. Prayer welcomes us to accept responsibility for our behavior and, as we do, to receive forgiveness and help.

Prayer destroys the finger-pointing, it’s-your-fault, blame game that paralyzes us. When you’re deeply persuaded that your hope in life is to get everything around you fixed, and the people around you are deeply persuaded of the same, you can be sure that nothing will get fixed. It’s only when you and your neighbor both confess that it’s the sin inside that leads you both to do what’s wrong—not the failure of the other—that each hungers for growth and change and then reaches out for God’s help.

Change always begins with looking within, and that’s exactly where prayer calls us to look. The celebration of a Savior, which lies at the heart of prayer, makes sense only when we acknowledge that we can’t escape from the sin inside us. When we acknowledge our sin, we quit blaming people, places and situations and begin getting serious about getting help. Prayer reminds you again and again that your biggest, most abiding problem is you.

“For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” Prayer reminds you that the key to real life is found in an allegiance to God’s kingdom and not your own. True heartfelt prayer ends as it begins—with recognition of God’s kingship and his glory. Prayer reminds you that life isn’t about you. Prayer reminds you that the center of your universe is a place reserved for God and God alone. Prayer reminds you that real peace, satisfaction, and contentment come when you live for a greater glory than your own. Prayer reminds you that hope in life isn’t found in building your own kingdom but in submitting to the wisdom and rule of a better King. Prayer calls you away from the kingdom of self, which is so destructive to everything life is intended to be, and welcomes you to the kingdom of God, where a God of love rules in wisdom and love.