Sunday, December 2, 2007
Is persistence important when praying?
Many Words vs. Persistent Praying
Conversing With God
Mat 6:7-8 (Phi) "And when you pray don't rattle off long prayers like the pagans who think they will be heard because they use so many words. Don't be like them. For your Father knows your needs before you ask him."
A.W. Tozer: "When we become too glib in prayer we are most surely talking to ourselves."
The following scripture details the dramatic confrontation between Elijah and the prophets of Baal. Please notice Elijah's simple but earnest prayer in verses 36-37 in contrast to the "circus" style of the followers of Baal. They are counting on their action, Elijah is counting on God's.
1 Kings 18:25-40 (NIV) Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, "..Since there are so many of you. Call on the name of your god, but do not light the fire." So they took the bull given them and prepared it. Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. "O Baal, answer us!" they shouted. But there was no response; no-one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made. At noon Elijah began to taunt them. "Shout louder!" he said. "Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened." So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no-one answered, no-one paid attention. Then Elijah said to all the people, "Come here to me." They came to him, and he repaired the altar of the Lord, which was in ruins. Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes descended from Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord had come, saying, "Your name shall be Israel." With the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord, and he dug a trench round it large enough to hold two seahs of seed. He arranged the wood, cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood. Then he said to them, "Fill four large jars with water and pour it on the offering and on the wood." "Do it again," he said, and they did it again. "Do it a third time," he ordered, and they did it the third time. The water ran down around the altar and even filled the trench. At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: "O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again." Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, "The Lord--he is God! The Lord--he is God!" Then Elijah commanded them, "Seize the prophets of Baal. Don't let anyone get away!" They seized them, and Elijah had them brought down to the Kishon Valley and slaughtered there.
Mat 6:5-6 (Jer) "And when you pray, do not imitate the hypocrites: they love to say their prayers standing up in the synagogues and at the street corners for people to see them. I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward. But when you pray, go to your private room and, when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in that secret place, and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you."
Mat 6:7-8 (NIV) "And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him."
Mat 6:7-8 (LB) "Don't recite the same prayer over and over as the heathen do, who think prayers are answered only by repeating them again and again. Remember, your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!"
Mat 7:22-23 (Jer) "When the day comes many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, cast out demons in your name, work many miracles in your name?' Then I shall tell them to their faces: I have never known you; away from me, you evil men!"
Luke 11:5-8 (Jer) He also said to them, "Suppose one of you has a friend and goes to him in the middle of the night to say, 'My friend, lend me three loaves, because a friend of mine on his travels has just arrived at my house and I have nothing to offer him'; and the man answers from inside the house, 'Do not bother me. The door is bolted now, and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up to give it to you.' I tell you, if the man does not get up and give it to him for friendship's sake, persistence will be enough to make him get up and give his friend all he wants."
How do we square the idea that we should not use "many words" in prayer with the admonitions and examples of persistent prayer?
The key is to understand that there is no magic in repetition or in the form of words. Rather, the issue is relational: in being faithful and determined in going to HIM. God knows in advance what we need or desire, so He does not need to be lectured and does not respond well to loquacity. Rather, let us go to Him consistently and persistently with simple humility to make our requests known... until they are answered.
Luke 18:1-8 (Wey) He also taught them by a parable that they must always pray and never lose heart. "In a certain town," He said, "there was a judge who had no fear of God and no respect for man. And in the same town was a widow who repeatedly came and entreated him, saying, 'Give me justice and stop my oppressor.' For a time he would not, but afterwards he said to himself, 'Though I have neither reverence for God nor respect for man, yet because she annoys me I will give her justice, to prevent her from constantly coming to pester me.'" And the Lord said, "Hear those words of the unjust judge. And will not God avenge the wrongs of His own People who cry aloud to Him day and night, although He seems slow in taking action on their behalf? Yes, He will soon avenge their wrongs. Yet, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?"
Phil 4:6 (Wey) Do not be over-anxious about anything, but by prayer and earnest pleading, together with thanksgiving, let your request be unreservedly made known in the presence of God.