Marked by Prayer (Part 4 – Ready for Prayer)

praying handsThe first consideration when approaching prayer is to have a heart ready to pray.  This means being comfortable enough in a meeting with the Creator of the universe to feel free to express whatever is in your heart.  These words are carefully chosen.

A “meeting with the Creator” is not something to enter into lightly.  If you were meeting a mayor or prime minister, you would likely not go in glib and unconcerned with his/her impression of you.  You would not go in thoughtlessly or act like you do when you are clowning around with friends.  When you pray, you are meeting with the most important mind in existence.

But “comfortable” means that this meeting is not with a mayor or prime minister or some cold official.  It is a meeting to which He welcomes you, and His invitation is for you to come to Him as to a loving Father, even calling Him “Daddy” as opposed to those formal and resonating titles, “O Thou Righteous and Holy God Most High, blah, blah, blah.”  He is your loving Father, and that’s why we can even come into His presence.

As I mentioned before ( Marked By Prayer) “we are free to express whatever is in our hearts,” because He already knows!  There is no getting past this.  He KNOWS.  Whether you are willing to meet Him or not, whether you are willing to be honest to God or not, whatever posture or covering you wear, we are all naked souls before Him.  No fig leaves can cover our sin (Genesis 3:7), no hiding can obscure His understanding (Psalm 139:7-12), no excuses can make us right before Him (Romans 3:10-12).  “He KNOWS. (Psalm 139:1-6).

Steve Elliott says, “A man is not what he thinks he is; he is what he hides.”  But whatever we have hidden from the eyes of family and friends is not hidden from Him, and He loves us anyway (Romans 8:38-39), though not our sinfulness or selfishness.  Just as a father loves a misbehaving son, though he detests the son’s behavior, he will still love his child, and work to teach and guide his son into proper living.

This brings us to how to become comfortable with a Holy God who detests our sinfulness, yet loves us: We must repent.  Repentance is a “turning away.”  He promises to remove our sins from us “as far as the east is from the west.” (Psalm 104:11-12).  Disneys worldSo how far is the east from the west?  Look toward where the sun comes up at your home.  Now turn around and look at where it goes down!  You have just turned “from the east to the west,” and this is how far He removes your sinfulness from you.  However recent or great your sin may be, He only asks that you turn the other way, into His loving care and let Him take over.

“We can never figure it out ourselves … we are too broken in our fallen state to understand God without His miraculous and loving intervention and revelation. It’s like trying to lift yourself up out of quicksand by pulling up on your own hair…it doesn’t help. God has to reach down and lift you out of the muck.” (Neil Cole).  And He does just that when we begin to turn to Him.

In turning to Him, one other aspect of our hearts must be dealt with when we begin to pray, and this is a difficult task.  We must forgive those who are offensive or hurtful against us.  This is perhaps so difficult because we do not understand the extent of His forgiveness of our sinfulness.  But Jesus stated it in very clear terms: “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14-15).  Do not expect any answers to prayer if you harbor bitterness or hatred in your heart, even if it seems to be justified by how evil an enemy is!

This is how helpless we are to even approach His grace.  We cannot in our own strength forgive those who most need forgiveness, but as Cole has said, God Himself is here to reach down and lift us, to make us more like Him in His love for us.  Lewis said in The Weight of Glory, “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”  The issue then becomes understanding just how great His love and forgiveness is for us, in order for us to offer that same forgiveness to others.

We can make all the excuses we want: well, I’m not as bad as that guy; I’m not as evil as she is; I did not intend to hurt someone like he does; I would never do what she did!  But James 4:10-11 says, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For He who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.”  We could paraphrase this to say, “if you do not murder, but hate in your heart, you have become a lawbreaker;” or “if you say you do not hate in your heart, but envy another . . ., or lust, or hold greed, or are lazy, or are unjustly proud, or gluttonous . . .” you have sin in your life that is horrible to Him and breaks the relationship Father wants with you.  And yet He loves us, so we must love and forgive even those who offend us, even if the offense is severe.

Then we will be ready to pray, comfortable in a meeting with the Creator, not with doubt or wondering if He will hear us, but with confidence that this Heavenly Father loves us so much that He will not withhold any good that He can do or provide for us . . . even if it appears to be less than loving at the moment.  After all, what child undergoing correction or instruction from a father focuses on the parental love.  Our reactions tend to emphasize our own comfort or ease, and we resist any discomfort as though this cannot be what our Father wants for us.  But He is less interested in our comfort than in our relationship with Him, which may be difficult to develop until we learn to fully trust.

So next week, March 22, 2015, in Marked by Prayer, Knowing the God Who Is There, let’s look at what it means to “trust’ or “believe” in Him and how He has revealed Himself .

2 thoughts on “Marked by Prayer (Part 4 – Ready for Prayer)

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