Thursday, June 3, 2010

Praying As We Ought

It has been said that prayer is ignorance that trusts in God. As Christians, we are so ignorant, we have no choice but to trust in God as we lean on Him in prayer.

The Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 8:26 that “we know not what we should pray for as we ought.” That comes from the mouth of a man who was saved more than 25 years when he spoke it. You would think that after a good amount of time and experience, we would get to the point where we at least know for what to ask our heavenly Father in accordance with His will. But the truth is, we are helpless and ignorant children when it comes to the mind of God in many areas. How often have prayer requests been heard regarding unpaid bills, sick children, lost jobs, and countless other serious circumstances that put us on our knees before
Him, only to be at a loss for words? We are absolutely sure for what to ask as far as our will is concerned, but what about what His wishes are? What about what He sees? We are unable to see around today’s corner and, therefore, have no idea what results would come from a “Yes” answer to these requests.

In Numbers 21, the children of Israel are out in their wilderness journey, doing what they do best--complaining about the Lord’s lack of provision and Moses’ lack of leadership. The Lord sends fiery serpents among the people, and they begin to die as they are bitten. The natural request is: “pray unto the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us” (Num. 21:7). If answered, it would have doomed every bitten Israelite to certain death. In His mercy, the Lord ignores their request and provides something much better: a cure. Moses is told to make a serpent and hold it high on a pole for the smitten to see and live. That is “exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20).

Just removing the serpents was not the right request. Maybe just removing the cancer, just healing that sick child, just paying that insurmountable bill, etc., isn’t what the Lord has in mind. I realize how hard this is to swallow, but the Lord has a lot more in mind than just our desires. He is dealing with a myriad of consequences that come with each request, about which we know nothing.

So we approach Him in ignorant faith. Oftentimes unable to fathom what He has in mind, we must kneel before Him and just wait; wait for the right things to say and wait for the Holy Spirit to help with our infirmities (Rom. 8:26). Waiting for something more than just what we want.

Any Christian who has been saved for a number of years can look back on some requests that they are glad the Lord did not answer with a “yes,” though that is what they wished for at the time. In hindsight, it is easy to clearly see that He who is “rich in mercy” (Eph. 2:4), sometimes says “No,” not in anger, but in love.

James and John once came to Jesus Christ and asked to sit at His right and left hands in His glory (Mark 10:35-37). Jesus answered that they did not even know what they were asking. Of course they didn’t. Like ourselves, they only had in mind what surely was an admirable request. What they could not know was that they were actually begging to be put into a position to have themselves beheaded by the Antichrist in the Tribulation. The right and left hand spots were already reserved for the “two olive trees” of Zechariah 4:3, the two witnesses who must be killed after preaching before the Antichrist (Rev. 11:3-9). James and John only saw a pretty good position in the kingdom, and what could possibly be wrong with that?

Thank God for ignorant faith. In our weak and sinful condition, we can come boldly before Him on His throne and wait for help from the Holy Spirit of God with all these infirmities (Heb. 4:16); especially the infirmity of selfishness that cannot see more than an inch in front of our faces and no further, an infirmity that hinders us from seeing clearly. Yet ignorant faith can help us to see, though “through a glass darkly” (1 Cor. 13:12). A sympathetic Holy Spirit helps us to see beyond ourselves. He reminds us of examples of those He has helped in their infirmities before us: like Esther, with both parents dead, living in an idolatrous foreign land, yet able to see past her own life and say, “If I perish, I perish” (Esth. 4:16); and like Ruth, a widow, outside of the promises of God and without hope in this world (Eph. 2:12), yet able to see past her Moabite gods and say, “Whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God” (Ruth 1:16).

The Apostle Paul, after being saved many years and seeing the hand of God in his life, realized that “we know not what we should pray for as we ought.” But that does not mean that we do not pray. That does not mean we grovel in our infirmities and fear to make a single move. Instead, in ignorant faith, we kneel and ask the Lord to remember “that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14). In spite of the sins and infirmities, we look to lean on Him as we make our “requests . . . known unto God” (Phil. 4:6).

Prayer is ignorance that trusts in God. We pray for more faith and He gives darkness. We pray for peace and we get more struggles. We pray for a chance to serve, and He gives a corner in which to wait. We pray for fire to burn in our hearts, and we get more coldness. So in ignorant faith, with examples who have gone before us, we continue to believe that “He hath done all things well” (Mark 7:37), even when the answer is “No.”