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Posts Tagged ‘With Christ in the School of Prayer’

“And although sin has for a time frustrated God’s plans, prayer still remains what it would have been if man had never fallen: the proof of man’s Godlikeness, the vehicle of his intercourse with the Infinite Unseen One, the power that is allowed to hold the hand that holds the destinies of the universe. Prayer is not merely the cry of the suppliant for mercy; it is the highest forth-putting of his will by man, knowing himself to be of Divine origin, created for and capable of being, in king-like liberty, the executor of the counsels of the Eternal.
“What sin destroyed, grace has restored. What the first Adam lost, the second has won back. In Christ man regains his original position, and the Church, abiding in Christ, inherits the promise: ‘Ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.’ Such a promise does by no means, in the first place, refer to the grace or blessing we need for ourselves. It has reference to our position as the fruit-bearing branches of the Heavenly Vine, who, like Him, only live for the work and glory of the Father. It is for those who abide in Him, who have forsaken self to take up their abode in Him with His life of obedience and self-sacrifice, who have lost their life and found it in Him, who are now entirely given up to the interests of the Father and His kingdom. These are they who understand how their new creation has brought them back to their original destiny, has restored God’s image and likeness, and with it the power to have dominion. Such have indeed the power, each in their own circle, to obtain and dispense the powers of heaven here on earth. With holy boldness they
may make known what they will: they live as priests in God’s presence; as kings the powers of the world to come begin to be at their disposal. They enter upon the fulfilment of the promise: ‘Ask whatsoever ye will, it shall be done unto you.’”

Prayer is part of what it means to be created in God’s image.  His grace removes the sin that distorts the image allowing us to fulfill part of the purpose for our creation through prayer.

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Andrew Murray dealt with the importance of a right understanding of God and His nature as we pray. He particularly dealt with the seeming conflict between God’s perfection and sovereignty and the influence of our prayers.

In the New Testament we find a distinction made between faith and knowledge. ‘To one is given, through the Spirit, the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge, according to the same Spirit; to another faith, in the same Spirit.’ In a child or a simple-minded Christian there may be much faith with little knowledge. Childlike simplicity accepts the truth without difficulty, and often cares little to give itself or others any reason for its faith but this: God has said. But it is the will of God that we should love and serve Him, not only with all the heart but also with all the mind; that we should grow up into an insight into the Divine wisdom and beauty of all His ways and words and works. It is only thus that the believer will be able fully to approach and rightly to adore the glory of God’s grace; and only thus that our heart can intelligently apprehend the treasures of wisdom and knowledge there are in redemption, and be prepared to enter fully into the highest note of the song that rises before the throne: ‘O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!’

He writes letter on in the lesson, “This perfect harmony and union of Divine Sovereignty and human liberty is to us an unfathomable mystery, because God as THE ETERNAL ONE transcends all our thoughts. But let it be our comfort and strength to be assured that in the eternal fellowship of the Father and the Son, the power of prayer has its origin and certainty, and that through our union with the Son, our prayer is taken up and can have its influence in the inner life of the Blessed Trinity. God’s decrees are no iron framework against which man’s liberty would vainly seek to struggle. No. God Himself is the Living Love, who in His Son as man has entered into the tenderest relation with all that is human, who through the Holy Spirit takes up all that is human into the Divine life of love, and keeps Himself free to give every human prayer its place in His government of the world.

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I’m finally posting again on With Christ in the School of Prayer.  It is not unusual for me to start a book, lay it aside, and then pick it up again.  This one has not been an exception to my habit.

In Lesson 16 Murray writes about the power of persevering prayer.  God may delay answers to prayers for a few reasons.  He may want to see us mature before He gives the answer.  He may desire to prepare us better for the blessing that will be given in answer.  There may also be many areas and spheres in which He is actively working to bring the answer about.  As we wait, we are to pray rejoicing as if the answer is a present reality.

Murray writes, “And so we see combined what at first sight appears so contradictory; the faith that rejoices in the answer of the unseen God as a present possession, with the patience that cries day and night until it be revealed. The speedily long-suffering is met by the triumphant but patient faith of His waiting child. Our great danger in this school of the answer delayed, is the temptation to think that, after all, it may not be God’s will to give us what we ask. If our prayer be according to God’s word, and under the leading of the Spirit, let us not give way to these fears. Let us learn to give God time. God needs time with us. If we only give Him time, that is, time in the daily fellowship with Himself, for Him to exercise the full influence of His presence on us, and time, day by day, in the course of our being kept waiting, for faith to prove its reality and to fill our whole being, He Himself will lead us from faith to vision; we shall see the glory of God. Let no delay shake our faith.”

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“Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”
(Matthew 18:19-20 NASB)

Andrew Murray identified three marks of effective corporate prayer: agreement about what is asked, gathering in name of Jesus and a sure answer.  I want to focus on the idea of agreement on the thing asked.  I do not think that I personally have given this enough attention when I have lead in a prayer gathering be it in the church or with my wife and children.  We often take request but give little thought as to what we should ask regarding the matter.  I hope that the next time that I have the opportunity to take time to lead the group to think on what we are asking.  Do we agree together about it?  Perhaps the unity of churches or families would be greater if we take time to just agree as to what we are to pray.

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“Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions.
(Mark 11:25 NASB)

This is a very interesting lesson in Andrew Murray’s book. My brief post will not do justice to its content.

Murray wrote regarding the verse above, ” We have already seen how the words that preceded that promise, ‘Have faith in God,’ taught us that in prayer all depends upon our relation to God being clear; these words that follow on it remind us that our relation with fellow-men must be clear too. Love to God and love to our neighbour are inseparable: the prayer from a heart, that is either not right with God on the one side, or with men on the other, cannot prevail. Faith and love are essential to each other.”

Murray saw three lessons from this teaching on forgiveness. First, we are to have a forgiving disposition reflecting the nature of our Heavenly Father. His words here are particularly convicting: God’s forgiving disposition, revealed in His love to us, becomes a disposition in us; as the power of His forgiving love shed abroad and dwelling within us, we forgive even as He forgives. If there be great and grievous injury or injustice done us, we seek first of all to possess a Godlike disposition; to be kept from a sense of wounded honour, from a desire to maintain our rights, or from rewarding the offender as he has deserved. In the little annoyances of daily life, we are watchful not to excuse the hasty temper, the sharp word, the quick judgment, with the thought that we mean no harm, that we do not keep the anger long, or that it would be too much to expect from feeble human nature, that we should really forgive the way God and Christ do. No, we take the command literally, ‘Even as Christ forgave, so also do ye.’ The blood that cleanses the conscience from dead works, cleanses from selfishness too; the love it reveals is pardoning love, that takes possession of us and flows through us to others. Our forgiving love to men is the evidence of the reality of God’s forgiving love in us, and so the condition of the prayer of faith.

The second lesson that Murray saw was the connection between our daily life in the world and our prayer-life. He wrote, “Not the feeling that I call up, but the tone of my life during the day, is God’s criterion of what I really am and desire.”

The third lesson is that “…in our life with men the one thing on which everything depends is love.” Our service depends on our love for others. As Murray wrote, “We sometimes give ourselves to work for Christ, from zeal for His cause, as we call it, or for our own spiritual health, without giving ourselves in personal self-sacrificing love for those whose souls we seek. No wonder that our faith is feeble and does not conquer. To look on each wretched one, however unloveable he be, in the light of the tender love of Jesus the Shepherd seeking the lost; to see Jesus Christ in him, and to take him up, for Jesus’ sake, in a heart that really loves, —this, this is the secret of believing prayer and successful effort.”

Reading through With Christ in the School of Prayer, I have been reminded of the need to be God-focused and not man focused. Still, I cannot escape that my relationships with others reflect my relationship with God. A quick-tempered, unforgiving, grudge-holding spirit is far from the likeness of God. Working myself into an emotional frame to pray when my moment-to-moment living is far from God is hypocrisy. Service without love is hypocrisy as well. What is more: my prayer-life will be poor if my relationship with others is poor. Being heavenly minded requires that we do earthly good and that our earthly relationships be a reflection of God’s eternal love and forgiveness.

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Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not drive it out?” And He said to them, “Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you. But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.” (Matthew 17:19-21 NASB)

The disciples could not drive out a demon from a boy because of their lack of faith. Jesus told them that only by prayer and fasting could they have driven out the demon. Andrew Murray saw the connection between faith and prayer and fasting.

He wrote, “This faith depends entirely upon the state of the spiritual life; only when this is strong and in full health, when the Spirit of God has full sway in our life, is there the power of faith to do its mighty deeds. And therefore Jesus adds: ‘Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by fasting and prayer.’ The faith that can overcome such stubborn resistance as you have just seen in this evil spirit, Jesus tells them, is not possible except to men living in very close fellowship with God, and in very special separation from the world—in prayer and fasting. And so He teaches us two lessons in regard to prayer of deep importance. The one, that faith needs a life of prayer in which to grow and keep strong. The other, that prayer needs fasting for its full and perfect development.”

The greatest cure for unbelief is prayer. Though one may not feel like it, one must keep praying. Murray described prayer as the hand by which we take hold of God and the unseen and the eternal. He wrote that fasting is the hand with which we cast off the seen and the temporal. Fasting cures us of the world’s distractions and enables us to focus on the task of prayer.

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And Jesus answered saying to them, “Have faith in God. “Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him. Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you.” (Mark 11:22-24 NASB)

Of all the lessons thus far, this one had the greatest impact on me. This lesson pointed to the mistake people make of having faith in God’s promises rather than in God Himself.

Andrew Murray wrote, “It is because very many of God’s children do not understand this connection between the life
of faith and the prayer of faith that their experience of the power of prayer is so limited. When they desire earnestly to obtain an answer from God, they fix their whole heart upon the promise, and try their utmost to grasp that promise in faith. When they do not succeed, they are ready to give up hope; the promise is true, but it is beyond their power to take hold of it in faith. Listen to the lesson Jesus teaches us this day: HAVE FAITH IN GOD, the Living God: let faith look to
God more than the thing promised: it is His love, His power, His living presence will waken and work the faith. A physician would say to one asking for some means to get more strength in his arms and hands to seize and hold, that his whole constitution must be built up and strengthened. So the cure of a feeble faith is alone to be found in the invigoration of our whole spiritual life by intercourse with God. Learn to believe in God, to take hold of God, to let God take possession of thy life, and it will be easy to take hold of the promise. He that knows and trusts God finds it easy to trust the promise too.”

Faith in the promises of God flows from faith in God Himself. Faith in God grows from hearing His Word as flowing from His mouth and seeing Him for Who He is. It flows from a close, growing relationship with Him. It takes time just as any relationship takes time to build.

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