Friday, October 28, 2005

2. presumption or dependence?

"He who seeks to burn out for God will have to go deeper than sentence prayers and occasional wishful thinking."--Vance Havner

As I post this blog, my mind is filled with inadequate illustrations that have bubbled to the surface--I can't seem to find the way to say what is on my mind and heart. The irony of this is this very experience begins to describe what I want to express here--just add in the concept of the "contempt of familiarity" and you have it! I know, you must think I've lost it, so read on . . . or don't. It's my blog and I can cogitate if I want to.

It has been suggested that Isaiah's response to God ("Woe is me! For I am undone; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, Jehovah of Hosts." Is 6:5) is a model of reverence when face-to-face with God. I have to disagree. I think Isaiah's response is much closer to watching a person come within a hair's breadth of total devastation and live to tell about it. I think a better model for reverence is seen after God provides cleansing for Isaiah through the inferred offering and the coals and asks, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" to which Isaiah responds, "Here am I; send me!" I am inclined to believe that a "trait of reverence" is very much related to the attitude of gratitude.

Reverence is to be fearful, not familiar. Familiarity forgets grace and mercy. While it is true the OT saints enjoyed access to God, they were also to remember how that access came with a price. One did not simply burst into God's presence. Isaiah found that out when God's presence burst in on him.

Here is a good point for discussion: Should we really be so excited to start a prayer with "daddy..." if we have not reflected on what was done to make the conversation possible? I see like this: I tell my kids that when they want to talk to me, they had better look and listen to see if I am either in the middle of doing something, or if I am already talking to someone else. I will gladly stop what I am doing, or (if I am alady in mid-conversation, they may wait quietly until I am ready. The illustration may be weak, but the principle is close--one does not simply barge into the open throne room of heaven. God is not a man and all He has done in making Himself accessible is worth our review. Another way to look at it could be like this: do we presume on or depend on His grace?

Praise? Yes!
Gratitude? Yes!
Patient obedience? Yes!
Confession? Yes!
Unselishness? Yes! Prayer is about Christ.

Any Jew knows that there is a unity that describe who he or she is within national identity, and the same unity makes that description within the context of God's activity. Most of us today do not have the same solidarity--sure we are "American," but we also let that title give us liscense to use our freedoms against each other so we can be individuals--American individuals, that is. We are selfish and this is an element that greatly affects our praying.

Not too long ago, I was candidating for a church. In the interview I asked the committee what activity or ministry would accurately describe their church, to which they replied, "we are a praying church." I asked them to tell me areas they felt they could use more training, to which one very sincere man replied, "evangelism." But imagine my surprise when I learned their only involvement with missions was "prayer" and that they would support missionary work as long as it did not follow the pastor home. See, they have a problem with people--"help us grow, but make sure they are 'our kind'".

One of the most significant lessons I have learned about prayer came through a preaching class I had in college. Mr. Murphree said something like this, "when as a pulpiteer you lead a congregation in prayer, eliminate from your vocabulary words such as, 'I', 'we', 'us'--because you are not talking to yourself or to your congregation. Use words like, 'You' as you are bringing your people to God."

Interestingly, these have been the most difficult prayers to pray because they are humiliating and require perseverance.

I need words
As wide as sky
I need a language large as
This longing inside
And I need a voice
Bigger than mine
And I need a song to sing you
That I've yet to find
I need you, oh
I need you
I need you, oh
I need you
To be here now
To be here now
To hear me now
To hear me now
(David Crowder Band)

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