We’ve spent the last several days circling around a big topic related to prayer: How does the importance of prayer coexist with the sovereignty of God? As we’ve put the pieces together, my hope and prayer for you is that the sovereignty of God won’t undermine your determination to pray. Rather, I’m praying that it will be just the opposite: because God is in complete control, and in his sovereignty he graciously chooses to act in response to the prayers of his people, we should be moved to give prayer a far greater place in our lives, both individually and corporately. Continue reading
There’s a beautiful line I heard some years ago. I’ve never verified its accuracy because, frankly, if it’s not true, I don’t want to know. But it fits with the life and character of the man who supposedly said it – a Bishop in the Anglican Diocese of Sydney, a wonderful man who died some years ago now. This Bishop is supposed to have told his ministers: “If you spend two hours every morning praying for your church and praying for your people, you can have the rest of the day off.” Continue reading
“And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel.” (Rev 8:3-4)
Over the last couple of days, we’ve been thinking through the question of how prayer relates to the complete sovereignty of God. If God is really in charge, why pray? Do our prayers really change anything (other than us and our wills)? We introduced the question on Day 19, and yesterday we looked at the example of Moses praying to God in Exodus 32.
Today, we’ll try to bring some more clarity to this question by looking at Revelation 8 (yep, you read that right – clarity by looking at the book of Revelation!). Continue reading
If you’re going to think about prayer, and if you’re reading your Bible carefully, sooner or later there’s an important question that might rub up against you: Does prayer really make a difference to a sovereign God?
It’s hard to read your Bible and come to any conclusion other than God is totally and utterly sovereign. He is in control of all things, everywhere. Moreover, his plan for salvation has been in place since ‘before the foundation of the world’ (Eph 1:4). He’s not sitting up in heaven, nervously wondering if things will turn out okay. Everything proceeds just as he planned. God is not a human being, that he should change his mind (1 Sam 15:29). Continue reading
I find there’s something strangely comforting about getting anxious. When I start to worry about the pressures of life that are weighing on me – relationships, money, workload, whether the Rabbitohs will win the Grand Final – retreating into the safe space of personal anxiety is a cosy little coping mechanism.
But you know what I don’t like to admit but I’ve realised is true? Anxiety isn’t just a coping mechanism or a safe place. Anxiety is sin. Anxiety is sin because anxiety is the opposite of actively trusting in God. Continue reading
Here in New Zealand, we’re just over a month away from our latest national election (September 20). It’s a strange thing – I’m not exactly excited about the election, but I should be. How many people in the world would give anything – how many people down through the years have given everything – for the right to vote as freely as I can? (That’s if I can be bothered, in a land of non-compulsory voting.) Continue reading
It may seem a bit mean-spirited and curmudgeonly to talk about prayer by being negative. After all, there are so many positive things to say. But sometimes, talking about the negative – refuting popular but unbiblical (mis)understandings of prayer – can help us to understand more of the truth about prayer.
In the last 15 years, one book on prayer has been more influential in mainstream Christian circles than any other: The Prayer of Jabez by Bruce Wilkinson.
The book was released in 2000, so its moment has passed. But its influence remains, and it continues to sell around the world (it’s now passed 10 million copies). Continue reading
Over the years, whenever I’ve heard a prayer meeting of any kind being advertised, it’s usually introduced with this kind of caveat: “By the way, you don’t have to pray out loud or anything – just saying ‘Amen’ at the end of other people’s prayers is fine.”
‘You don’t have to pray out loud.’ Why do we say this? Continue reading
One of the most confusing – and sometimes the most painful – aspects of prayer can be the reality of our ‘unanswered prayers’.
Put together some of the pieces that we’ve seen already in this series of brief reflections:
- God is all-powerful – he can do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine. Nothing is too hard for him.
- God is perfectly loving, and he welcomes the prayers of his children. Through Jesus’ death for us, we have access to God and a relationship with him as Father, so we can approach with boldness and confidence.
- God is not just like a good earthly father. He is the perfect Father, and he delights to give good things to his children when they ask.
Yesterday, thanks to Tim Chester’s new book on prayer, we began looking at what it means for us to pray to God as Father. We focused on the simplicity that comes from knowing we can approach God in this way: “Prayer is a child asking her father for help – nothing more, nothing less” (You Can Pray, p. 16).
Today, I want us to think about the sense of intimacy and boldness that calling on God as Father allows us to have.
I’m the father of three small children. And like most parents of little ones, it’s not uncommon for our night’s sleep to be interrupted with a tap on the shoulder, a few tears, or a persistent whisper in the ear of ‘Dad, Dad!’ Maybe they’ve had a bad dream, or they’ve been woken up by a bump in the night and can’t get back to sleep. Continue reading