Jul 30, 2012

‘Something has gone wrong in our reasoning if our reasoning leads us away from prayer’ – lessons in prayer

A section from yesterday’s sermon on 2 Thessalonians 3 where we took some time to consider the purpose of praying to a sovereign God:

A lot of 2 Thessalonians is prayer. For Paul the key to holding on to the end is a growing confidence in God’s ability to keep us – even in the face of suffering. Look at v.3-4.

Paul’s confidence for the Thessalonians future rests in God’s faithfulness. All the way through 2 Thess. we have seen that God’s sovereignty over evil is crucial to our ability to endure and prayer is where we show that we know God is in control.

Prayer isn’t like a tug-of-war: I used to do a summer camp with a sports day that ended in a tug of war – the leaders on one side and the teenagers on the other. We were stronger but they were twice as many and so every year it was touch and go who would win but we shouldn’t think of prayer as  grabbing the rope to pull with  God’s team to try and win victory. All the way through 2 Thessalonians Paul has stressed that Christ’s victory over evil is certain (see 1:8-11, 2:8)

Prayer is where we show we know that God is in control.

But that makes prayer a bit of a mystery to many people including many Christians.  We can’t quite see the purpose of prayer, after all if God has it all under control, if he is working things out, how is that an incentive to prayer?

Why pray to a sovereign God?

Two reasons.

a) Prayer changes us.

Prayer is God’s means of helping us hold on to him. All the great prayers of the Bible are prays for God to do what he has promised to do and so through prayer we grow in trust that God will do what he has promised to do.

I wonder whether you are ever struck by the fact that Paul was a man who absolutely believed in the unstoppable plan of God was a man who prayed and he didn’t just pray occasionally he prayed  constantly for the Thessalonians (1v11).

Why should you and I pray? We pray because it changes us….

John Bunyan said Prayer opens the heart to God, and it is the means by which the soul, though empty is filled by God. As we pray we practise putting our trust in God and so our confidence in him begins to grow.

Bunyan again: The truths that I know best I have learned on my knees. I never know a thing well, till it burned into my heart by prayer.  Prayer will change you. Will you let it? Will you give yourself to prayer.

Persecuted Christians pray and they pray because they very thing God has promised to do is the very thing they most need him to do , to deliver on his promises to keep his people and then to vindicate them on Christ’s return. Maybe the reason we don’t pray is because we don’t think we need God – not to live today or tomorrow.

We’ve said in this short series in 2 Thessalonians that suffering works for us and not against us and one of the ways that works is that at times of suffering we more quickly turn to God. Abraham Lincoln said I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had absolutely no other place to go.

We also pray because

2) Prayer changes things

Paul prayed because he knew God’s plans includes our prayers. God takes our prayers and uses them.

God is sovereign but he’s not a computer programme, he’s not a machine. We need to understand that God is sovereign but he is also personal and because he’s personal he chooses to achieve his purposes through his people.

Imagine I want to wash my car I could take my sons and drive the car into the machine at the petrol station. The key when you wash your car with a machine is that you need to sit still, stay in the car and let it wash over you, literally! But I could wash my car by filling three buckets full of  soapy water and saying to my sons let’s wash it together.

God wants us to pray because he wants us to achieve his purposes together.

Don Carson says in his excellent book on Paul’s prayers A Call to Spiritual Reformation Something has gone wrong in our reasoning if our reasoning leads us away from prayer; something is amiss in our theology if you theology becomes a disincentive to pray.

Prayer changes us and prayer changes things, God calls on us to be people of prayer.

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