The last two days we’ve talked through two major pillars supporting “the old way of the written code” – seeking God, and trying to get closer to him. Today we’ll hit pillar #3: If you want to enjoy the blessing of God (like answers to prayer) you have to claim them and pray until you get them.
Persevere in prayer. Pound the gates of heaven. P.U.S.H… which means, “Pray Until Something Happens.” All of this is built on an assumption: God must be badgered if you expect to get anywhere in the Christian life. The parable of the persistent widow is used to support this view. James 4:2 says, “You do not have, because you do not ask God.” Which means, we’re told, you don’t get anything without praying. Quotes I’ve heard over the years: “Prayer moves the hand of God.” or, “History belongs to the intercessors,” or “I believe in the power or prayer.” I hear this one often from people in crisis: “I really felt people’s prayers this past week.”
It’s warped, people. Seriously screwed up.
The point of Jesus’ teaching on prayer is that God is NOT like the godless judge who had to be badgered by the widow to do the right thing. He’s NOT the kind of father to give a stone when you ask for bread. He knows what you need before you ask. And he gives you what you need not because you ask, but because he loves you! Imagine that! Jesus’ point is that you DON’T have to badger God: “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be given you. This is to my father’s glory…” (john 15:7,8). What kind of father only feeds their child if they ask for it? What kind of father only protects, blesses, and affirms their child if the child asks? A neglectful, abusive parent, that’s who. So unlike God!
Hear me: There is no power in prayer. The power is in God, and we are only asking. And James does not say, “You do not have because you do not pray.” He says that we don’t have because when we pray, we’re demanding and commanding and claiming and manipulating and not ASKING (Read James 4:1-2, you’ll see). When you feel uplifted, don’t thank the prayers, thank God. That’s not prayer upholding you, it’s HIM! Prayer does not move God’s hand. He is not a puppet or a marionette. Prayer is God at work, inviting us into what he is doing — not the other way around. History belongs to him, not to intercessors. We’ve got to get this right, folks.
Prayer is not an arrangement, it’s a conversation. A relationship. With Someone madly in love with us who has already given us Jesus to prove he’s holding nothing back in his heart from us. Don’t insult him with “old way” prayer. Yes, there are things he’d like us to ask for. But not because he’s playing hard to get. I mean, really!!
TO BE CONTINUED… and by the way, my new book unpacks all of this stuff in a way I can’t possibly do here. Check it out!