Quips and Quotes
"We do not earn or merit anything by taking refuge in God. Hiding in something makes no contribution to the hiding place. All it does is show that we regard ourselves as helpless and the hiding place as a place of rescue." John Piper

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Teach Me, My Lord, to Pray! Yes, Teach Me to Pray!

"And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the holy Spirit to those who ask Him!" (Luke 11:9-13)

What an invitation! What an opportunity!

And the book of James tells me, "You do not have because you do not ask" (James 4:2b). There is far too much truth in that. So once again, this morning, I am asking of the Lord, as did the disciples, to teach me to pray (Luke 11:1). Notice that they did not ask Jesus to teach them "how to pray", but simply "to pray". I am asking Him to increase my faith so that in my asking, I know He will answer since He is not only able, but also so very willing because of His great goodness, mercy and love.

I am asking Him to burden me with His purposes and call me to pray for those very things that He has determined will be accomplished through prayer (Matthew 6:10). I am asking Him to call me to pray without ceasing (1Thessalonians 5:16-18) so that I may see Him and His answers also without ceasing and be filled with joy in glorifying Him in those prayers (John 16:24; John 14:13).

Yes, and I am asking Him to teach me to pray so that I may behold His beauty (Psalm 27:4). Sitting at my Savior's feet I am thereby made rich all the day with His presence and His unbounding joy. I am asking Him to teach me to pray so that, by beholding Him, I may become transformed into His likeness and be less like myself (2 Corinthians 3:18). I am asking Him to teach me to pray because, most of all, I want more of Christ, I want more of my kind Father and I want more of the sweet Spirit filling me with their fullness each and everyday.

I want more of this incomprehensible Triune God, who, out of His great heart of love, mercy and grace has poured out upon me such a kindness that can never be known apart from Him. It is not possible to describe the love I find in His presence when I commune with Him. He is love! So my heart swells with great waves of His affection heaped so generously within me and upon me that I am filled to overflowing with Him and all that He is.

But distractions abound when I ask Him to teach me to pray!

And yet, with this effusive beneficence found at my Savior's feet, I can actually get so distracted in the wee hours that I miss out on Him. I can listen to the demanding needs of the day and forsake time spent at the throne of grace for the sake of doing some menial task, which is soon undone, only to have to be done again. And can I not do that task after I meet with the Lord? Will it not be there for me then? Of course it will!

By neglecting time with my Lord, I remain in my poor, forgetful, drowsy state for the remainder of the day. I am not rich with His love or kindness toward others, especially in my thoughts. Since I have not partaken of His wisdom (James 1:5), I will be prone to my own discretion, which is simply moral and so ordinary and most of the time just plain wrong. Any ethical unredeemed man or woman could produce and does produce this lowly wisdom. But I want the wisdom from above that "is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere" (James 3:17). This is not ordinary earthly wisdom, which is all I am capable of without having invited Wisdom Personified into my day.

And what else will I lack having had no time for my Lord? When temptation confronts me, I may not even be aware (sleepy, as were the disciples in the garden with Jesus) for I have not watched and prayed with Him. I will cave in or at best, I will crave that which is set before me (though I will probably say "no" to it), instead of possessing a passion and love so significant for my Savior that nothing touches my joy in Him. Temptations loose their power when I abide with Christ and He with me.

Of course joy will be absent, as will peace, contentment, patience, a soft answer, assuming the best of someone, thoughts that honor Christ. But most of all, I give up the sense of His sweet, empowering presence and my overarching love for Him.

So I continue to ask, "Lord, teach me to pray!"

Obviously, I must continue to ask Him and never cease to ask Him to teach me to pray (this is a request that can never end for me). And in my asking of Him, often that sounds like, "Dear Father, keep my heart focused on You. Help me to not be drawn away from You right now." 

And herein, I believe, is the key to learning to pray - to never come to a place in which I think I've learned to keep this divine and divinely appointed communion. For, reiterating, every morning, without exception, I am assaulted with the demands of the day, which, if I heed them, will rob me of the one essential thing - meeting with my God.

Father, how good You are! You give Your child Your ear so graciously and freely. You have nothing but good ordained for me. And as You said, Lord Jesus, as a parent, I delight to give my children what they ask for. How much more, then, do You delight in giving me that which I request, for You are completely free of any heart defect. You are perfect and holy and the very definition of LOVE. It is to You that I pray; it is to You that I come; it is in You that I trust; it is You that I want.

Teach me, my Lord, to pray! Yes, teach me to pray!

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