The most compelling answers to the question, “Why should we pray?” are: 1) Jesus did and 2) The Holy Spirit does. So familiar we almost miss the point, the words of Romans 8 declare that, “the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings too deep for words”. I don’t know whether this means that He prays for me ( in my place, when I cannot because I am so confused or discouraged), or that he prays for me (for God’s will and my benefit). Either way the fact that the Holy Spirit prays is significant. With an infinite number of things that He could do, it is amazing to me that His ministry is prayer. He cries out! No wonder that we who are “filled” with His life learn to do the same.
One of the things that I cannot do is to generate LIFE. I woke yesterday to find that the nagging and negative parts of my soul were “already up”. These parts of me are not strangers, but not friends, either. As I prayed, I remembered that God has power. He has LIFE. Infinite. Clean. Flowing from His heart into mine. Ezekiel pictures a river that gets wider and deeper as it goes. Jesus promised the woman at the well “a fountain springing up” within her. When Jesus taught us to pray “Thine is the power”, He was insisting that I look at God rather than self, think about His plan rather than my circumstances. How grateful I am that prayer is part of His new path for me. “Those who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength”.
“Let him who thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12). Part of God’s wisdom in having me pray daily about sin and temptation is to remind me of my weakness. The Israelites at Ai thought that the victory at Jericho would make the next battle easier, that somehow they would get stronger and stronger as they went along. Christians, sometime, think that years of faithfulness to God will take away the danger of real failure toward God. The truth is that all of us are still vulnerable and always will be. The longer I follow, the more I realize that “no good thing dwells in me” and that I can never grow overconfident about my desperate weakness and daily need for his guidance and protection. Lord, lead me not into temptation!
Christians are very aware of a battle within ourselves. “The Spirit wars with the flesh and the flesh wars with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:17). The child of God is caught in the conflict. When we pray, “lead us not into temptation” we bring the things that tempt us “out into the open”. Rather than waiting until we have failed again, we speak in advance, honestly, sincerely about the “sins that so easily beset us” (Hebrews 11:1). Doing so fortifies us! It involves Him in the equation and leads to a victory that was impossible when we relied on our own strength. Friend, are you being open and honest with yourself and with your Father on this subject? How wise of God to teach us to talk about temptation.
When Jesus said, “lead us not into temptation”, He was teaching a healthy fear of sin. “Not only are we sinners, but we are desperately afraid that we should be even more sinful”–Alan Redpath. Today, ask God for His leadership! Confess your attraction to things and people that are contrary to His will. Ask Him to guide you in a path that avoids contact with the things that drag you down. “Make NO allowance for the flesh” Roman 13:14. Don’t “get as close as you can without stepping over the line”. If sin is the enemy, treat it as such! This prayer teaches us to be honest with the Father (and with ourselves) about the need for a new intentionally innocent path. Lead me, Lord! I will follow.
At first glance, lead us not into temptation seems like an unnecessary prayer. The Bible says that God never tempts us. Isn’t this a given? It helps me to remember that the word for temptation is the same for trial and God does lead us on a path that tests and purifies our faith. “If we are to share His glory we must also share His suffering” (Romans 8). “He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil” ( Matthew 4:1). So, our attitude toward problems and pressure should be, “Lord when I can and should avoid a situation( ie when it is a temptation) help me to do so. When I can and should face a situation (ie when it is a trial), give me the family courage to do so with dignity and uncomplaining joy”. When I pray to be spared, it is because this is the default position that God wants for me. When I get something else, I realize that I am in one of those situations when what I asked for is not what is best. Either way, it is an answer to this prayer.
I’m thinking this morning about thinking. Time-consuming, life-giving, the secret work of the mind. Pondering, questioning, understanding, feeling. Who has time? Who doesn’t? “As I mused, the fire burned” (Psalm 39:3). “Mary pondered these things in her heart” (Luke 2:19). I am grateful that you are joining me in thinking about the Lord’s prayer. It gives me joy to think about you thinking about the words of Christ. Thank you for your comments too! I believe that correct thinking, deep thinking is one of the Lord’s ways of fueling our passionate love for Him and for others. Sunday night I will lecture on the words of Jesus in His prayer. God willing, it will give us alot to think about. “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord” (Psalm 19:14)
“Do not squander time, for that is the stuff that life is made of” — Ben Franklin . I was praying this morning, thinking about this day. How God made it the basic unit of time. (“there was evening, there was morning, one day”, Genesis 1) I was thinking how satisfying it would be if I could focus my expectations and energies on just the next 24 hours. What would happen if tomorrow I could report to the Lord that today I looked up, didn’t worrry, served others, was generous with my time and my words. And isn’t life, ultimately, just the aggregate of many days? When I pray the Lord’s prayer, I ask Him to give me what I need. I am wondering what life would be like if I gave Him what He deserved . . .just for today.
If the Jesus prayer begins in Adoration (Our Father, Thy Kingdom, Thy will), it moves eventually to Asking (Give us, Forgive us) and I am not sure which takes more faith. Asking is hard for me. It feels selfish. It opens the possibility of rejection. So sometimes, I don’t (unless you count complaining and hoping that the Lord takes the hint). BIG MISTAKE! Yesterday, I was driving home. Traffic was stalled on 281. I needed to change lanes for my exit. Rather that “force my way” into some opening, I put on my blinker. Ok, it’s a mild ask, but still an ask. The result? Some kind soul paused and let me move on. It really does work! “If you being evil know how to give good gifts. . .how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him” (Matt.7:11) Keep praying, dear friend. We still have much to learn.
I woke today with anxiety– many things to do, concern for time to do them. I don’t often wonder where the food I need for a particular day will come from. I do often wonder where I will find enough time or energy or wisdom. My sinful tendency is to “internalize” these needs, to find an answer within the very “small circle” of my own abilities. What I don’t naturally do, and never would have without the instruction of Christ, is to ask for help. Maybe I feel guilty asking for more, when He has already given so much. Maybe I don’t know whether I need something or just think I do. Or maybe, I need to learn the Jesus-life of open dependency on God. No secrets, no pride, no anxiety, no “days off” from trusting Him. Who knew that the everyday prayer would teach me everyday trust? More on this tomorrow. . .