‘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?
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.
Don Carson has said ‘we don’t pray because we don’t plan to pray’. The same can be said of reading. In a culture saturated with more immediate forms of amusement we find it so much easier to be entertained than educated. Reading takes effort, reading requires energy,reading means discipline, reading is never achieved without organisation. But reading is essential to our spiritual lives.
In a short series of posts I want to ask Why read? What to read? How to read?
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.
2 Timothy 2:15
The number of theological books should…be reduced, and a selection should be made of the best of them; for many books do not make men learned, nor does much reading. But reading something good, and reading it frequently, however little it may be, is the practice that makes men learned in the Scripture and makes them pious besides.
Just think how reading can change you!
- Read to be inspired Continue reading »
I’m a facebook fan as I pointed out in my earlier post but there are reasons to be cautious. Here are 13 factors that we need to bear in mind if we want to use this technology for the glory of God.
Don’t waste your life.
Procrastination. How much time is eaten up when we could be getting on with doing other, better things. Work, praying, hanging out with ‘real’ people.
Ill-discipline. How easy is it to stay up late into the night messing around – ‘just one more click’ we say to ourselves – even when friends have gone to bed we can continue ‘virtual friendships’.
Poor priorities. Fifty percent of Facebook users visit the site every day. I wonder whether even fifty percent of Christians read their Bible and pray every day. C.f. Psalm 1.
Addiction. As human beings we have sinful natures that are prone to addictive weaknesses. The very nature of certain technologies may make them harder to Continue reading »
Earlier this week I attended an event organised by Church leaders and attended by over 2000 Christians. The meeting was a call for Christians to step up and play our part in serving our city; working with other agencies to redeem our communities.
What was striking was that at a gathering of Christians not once was the name of Jesus mentioned by any of the hosts and when it came to songs all we were invited to sing were soul classics such as James Brown’s ‘I feel good’.
Did those who organised the event love Jesus? I’m sure they did. Do they desire that many would come to share their faith? Absolutely. So what was it that most troubled me? Simply that the call to Christians to engage in social action was made without Continue reading »
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