Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Praying According to God's Will

And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him. 1 John 5.14-15

"Prayer to God is the chief part, yea, the the main thing in religion. For the design of the whole truth respecting salvation, is to teach us that our life depends on God, and that whatever belongs to eternal life must be hoped for and expected from him." John Calvin

One of the great privileges and responsibilities I have as a licentiate is to lead the congregation in prayer during worship. Prayer is a means of grace that aids the believer to set his heart and mind on the things of God for the encouragement of faith. The gospel itself promises that God hears us when we pray. Faith rests in communing with God, while at the same time is encouraged in that communion.

And what is even more remarkable to me, is that in addition to having the great promise and comfort that God hears me when I pray--there is the even greater promise that he acts on behalf of those whom he hears. He does more than just listen--he acts. He provides the things we need for faith and life. In fact, apart from his acting, we would not have what we need, for we are completely and utterly dependent upon God for everything that pertains to eternal life and communion with him. So prayer encourages our faith and is an expression of our communion with and dependence on God.

Yet, there is an important condition to be met, in order to lay hold of the great promise that God will hear us and grant our requests--prayer must be offered according to his will. God guards us against our idolatrous tendencies (even in prayer) to make ourselves the focus of our prayers. Instead, our prayers are to be God-centered, they should be focused on his will not our own. In fact the very dependence that underlies prayer comes to expression when we seek to align ourselves and our plans and purposes with his plans and purposes.

Therefore, given the great promises of prayer, as well as, the condition of praying according to God's will, I seek to fill my prayers with the revealed will of God as found in the scriptures. To do this well when I lead the congregation in prayer in Sabbath worship, I spend time during the week preparing myself for prayer. One thing I have begun to do in the past several months is to write out prayers that are based on and filled with scripture. For example, here is the first paragraph of a prayer that is based upon Peter's first epistle:
O Holy and Gracious Father; Faithful and Righteous Son; Regenerating and Sanctifying Holy Spirit, you are our God, most high and exalted, the creator and sustainer of all that exists. May we bless your name forever for the wondrous salvation you have procured for your people. We praise and thank you that you have regenerated us to a living hope. That in your sovereignty and for your glory, you have caused us to be born again to a heavenly inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading--an inheritance that is kept for us in heaven and that you in your magnificient power are keeping us for it--guarding us in our faith until our salvation is revealed in its fullness at the revelation of Jesus Christ, to the praise, glory and honor of his name.
You can read/pray the rest here.

There are great and amazing promises that God extends to us in his word, we would do well to do the work of unearthing them and making his word our words to him, for he knows what we need more than we ourselves, and he promises to hear us and answer us when we pray according to his will. So don't just read the scriptures--pray them.

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