Monday, November 14, 2011

Prayer: It's Beyond Our Ability

There are times when we find ourselves utterly unable to cope, to even do the simplest of things, like talking to God. This can be terrifying. Not only do we feel cut off from God at such times, but it even feels as if we are bereft of any spirituality or even salvation! The more we try to reassure ourselves that we are spiritual people, the more this assurance seems to totally escape us, leaving us with the sense that there must be something horribly wrong.

However, these experiences instead serve as opportunities to lead us into a deeper level of trust. It’s so hard for us to believe that we are utterly helpless, like sheep who can’t even get off the ground on our own. Even though Scripture warns us of our complete inability, it just doesn’t sink in until we encounter it head on. Paul referred to his utter inadequacy as a minister of the Gospel:

• Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. (2 Cor. 3:5)

In other words, what feels like a curse – our inadequacy to even pray on our own – actually is a blessing, an opportunity to find another area to remove remaining vestiges self-trust and to trust in our God exclusively, giving Him all the thanks and praise, as He deserves.

There is always a great risk that our good will turn putrid. Boasting in our good works is a great threat to not only fellowship with the brethren but even fellowship with our Savior. For this reason, He ordained salvation as purely a gift, lest any should boast (Eph 2:8-9).

There is also a danger that we can take credit for our time in intercession and think, “Look how spiritual I am! I spend more unselfish time in prayer than others do!” Of course, such an attitude is an abomination before God (Luke 16:15), who purposely chose this world’s rejects so that none of His elect could boast (1 Cor. 1:29).

Therefore, Jesus taught His disciples that it’s all about Him – His grace, His righteousness, His sanctification. And there’s only one way that we can learn this lesson – we need to constantly be pruned back so that we can bear more fruit (John 15:2). This pruning will then teach us that He alone is our hope:

• Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:4-5)

I used to think that I could keep my own faith. I proudly reassured myself that I would never turn my back on Him. However, He taught me through many painful lessons that I can’t even keep my own faith. Instead, He must keep my faith for me:

• [We] through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:5)

So let me suggest to you a model for your prayer:

• “Lord, I can’t do the slightest thing without You. Therefore, it is You who must keep my faith; it is You who must enable me to pray and to meditate on Your Scriptures. Without You, I am helpless, but You have purchased me and it’s no longer about me (Gal. 2:20). You’re going to have to enable me to stand (Romans 14:4-5), because without you I can’t even stand.”

Psalm 62 says it much better than me:

• My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken…Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.

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