Abraham, My FriendThe Making of a Praying ManChapter One: BeginningsThy prayer was heardThe story of Abrahams family begins with a little list of sons and daughters which comes to an abrupt stop; but Sarai was barren she had no child. Perhaps its something to do with the wonder of the inspired scripture but as I read the words, 40 centuries later, I can still feel the pain. She lives in the bosom of her family, in relative prosperity. She is a handsome woman with a loving husband. What more could she want? But Sarai was barren she had no child.The book of Proverbs has lots of lists too. It lists four unquenchable hungers; things which cannot be satisfied or put off. Four hungers which know no rest and no respite; the grave, the barren womb, the parched earth, the raging fire. [Prov 30:16] The insistence of these four submits to no reason. In Sarah this unsatisfied longing was to lead to a short term compromise whose repercussions are with us 40 centuries later, but that is farther into our story. Sarahs hunger led her to the conclusion that something must be done not realising, as Oswald Chambers said, that despair is ever the gateway of faith. It seems to me that frustration is always a call to prayer, never to action. Achievements motivated by frustration always carry bitter seeds. My soul, wait thou in silence for God only; For my expectation is from him. [Ps 65:2 ASV]The relatively new Hebrew word "frustration" did not appear in Hebrew until the mid-seventies, and in fact, before it was absorbed into the language, people who spoke only Hebrew were never "frustrated". They may have been "angry" or "disappointed" or they may have experienced a sense of turmoil in certain situations, but the acute feeling of frustration itself was unknown to them until the word for it was translated from the English language. Sometimes it is good to force ourselves to use a different word. If we were not allowed to use the word frustration and had to use another in its place we might make an interesting discovery. Frustration always has a solution as long as someone else will do something. I am frustrated, and it is his fault. If I force myself to use the word angry or disappointed it opens up another solution; I am the problem. Christians have an alternative spelling for disappointment, they change the d to an H. Frustration is usually just a sign that God is not allowing me to be god, and I am discovering that I dont like the idea. There are a surprising number of stories in the Bible relating to childlessness. When God introduced Himself to Moses He called Himself the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Did you notice that each one of these men had a wife who was barren? Was this part of the pain that caused them to seek God? We subsequently read that the sons of both Rebekah and Rachel were born in direct answer to prayer. [Gen 25:21, 30:22] but what of Sarah? Did she pray? Did Abraham? And when you have prayed, what do you do then?There is a wonderful illustration of answered prayer in Lukes gospel. The issue was the same; childlessness. Zechariah and Elizabeth have the greatest marriage testimony in scripture. They were both righteous before God, walking in the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. [Luke 1:6] This would be exceptional if it referred to one person, but this verse plainly says both. Their walk together would have begun when they were young folk in the hills in Judaea. Their marriage would have been accompanied by prayer for children and Elizabeth would have breathed her silent amens. As the early years passed well meaning friends would have offered their condolences; dont worry dear, it will be alright, you wait and see. And they did wait, and the years passed, and more years passed. Through all these years of heartache, and it had other painful connotations in their culture, they maintained their walk in the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. They never became hard and critical, never became bitter, just kept on walking in the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. What a pair! At some point in their long wait Zechariah had prayed. Of course, he had prayed often, but there was one particular time he prayed
How do I know? Because of Gabriels word to him; Fear not, Zacharias, for thy prayer was heard, and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear a son to thee, and thou shalt call his name John. [Luke 1:13 Literal] This is a reference to a single prayer that was heard sometime in the past.I have no doubt that Zechariah knew exactly which prayer Gabriel was referring to. I suppose that at some point he had poured his heart out to God. He had known it was different, that he had got through. Perhaps he returned and kept the secret in his heart, and the years passed, and more years passed. And the memory grew dim, and they both were now well stricken in years. The last hopes faded and still they walked in the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. When God hears prayer He doesnt always change things immediately, but change they will
in His way and in His time.Sometimes as we pray we know that our prayer is heard. To continue to pray when we know the prayer has been heard would be pointless. Worse, we could conceivably pray ourselves from faith back into unbelief. There is no longer a need to pray when the prayer is heard. Now all that is needed is patient waiting upon God. This was Elijahs pattern. He prayed once but sent his servant seven times, and while the servant was to-ing and fro-ing Elijah was waiting upon God, his face between his knees. So what are your secret sorrows? From the outside all looks well and all your peers are impressed but deep within you have those continuing hungers. Child of God lay hold of God in prayer, let the tears flow, be honest, tell Him how you feel; God cannot change the person you are pretending to be! But when you know He has heard, stop pestering Him. Trust it all into His hands. Hold it before Him in expectation. Davids simple testimony was this poor man cried, and the LORD heard him. [Ps 34:6] It was from the pain and joy of her own experience that Elizabeth was able to bring a unique encouragement to a young woman who had just begun to carry an amazing promise; And blessed is she that believed; for there shall be a fulfilment of the things which have been spoken to her from the Lord. [Luke 1:45]
Hi Ron,"God cannot change the person you are pretending to be!" True, God cannot violate His nature by being party to a lie. But when you know He has heard, stop pestering Him". :-oBLASSFUMMY! :-D (only kidding). But far different from most of the Theo-retical teaching I've been taught on prayer. I'm not all that sure Theo minds being pestered . 8-) Clutch :-P
Hi ClutchYes, I wondered if anyone would come back to me on this. I know it goes against 'received wisdom'. But the emphasis of this series is to be Abraham, My Friend. So lets create a scenario. I say, to my Friend, "will you come and paint my house?". He says "certainly, you have my word on it"...so I say "will you come and paint my house?"?? What will He say the next time? If He has said 'yes', and that is the key "if He has said 'yes'", aren't I doubting his character if I ask Him again?Now I know that God sometimes makes promises and says Then the heathen that are left round about you shall know that I the LORD build the ruined places, and plant that that was desolate: I the LORD have spoken it, and I will do it. Thus saith the Lord GOD; I will yet for this be enquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them; I will increase them with men like a flock. As the holy flock, as the flock of Jerusalem in her solemn feasts; so shall the waste cities be filled with flocks of men: and they shall know that I am the LORD. [Ezek 36:36-38]This is a plain statement that God has said "you must play your part in this outworking of my will". But if I have the assurance on a prayer of my own that God has heard, why would I continue to ask. "Knock and it shall be opened unto you". If I hear someone say "I'm coming" do I keep on knocking?There is some odd theology that I have never been able to get my head around. If I pray more frequently God is more likely to answer; really? Now I it may be that my praying more frequently is an evidence of my longing and God may be waiting for that but when He answers it will not be because I prayed more frequently, but because my more frequent praying is an evidence of something else.Some time ago my wife and I were talking about someone who had a particular need. "We must pray" said my wife "I believe in prayer". "Do you?" I replied "I don't. I believe in God". (wouldn't you just hate to live with me?) My point was as soon as we put our confidence in a technique or a process we have lost the plot. I don't believe in prayer, or faith, or preaching, or bible study, or church... I believe in God.I know He has said He will do certain things if I do certain things, so I do the certain things, but my confidence is not in the things, but in God.We shall come shortly to Abraham's faith. Abraham believed in the Lord and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Abraham believed in the promise? certainly he did, but the scripture focuses elsewhere, Abraham believed in the Lord.One of the old Methodists used to say "it is easier to join yourself to a sect that to God". It is so much easier to put our trust in prayer, or faith, or promise, than to put our trust in God. But any thing that gets in between me and God is dangerous.If others have comments on this, please do make them. I have never regarded myself as being infallible and I am less likely to become more infallible as I get older. :-P
My point was as soon as we put our confidence in a technique or a process we have lost the plot. I don't believe in prayer, or faith, or preaching, or bible study, or church... I believe in God.
It is so much easier to put our trust in prayer, or faith, or promise, than to put our trust in God. But any thing that gets in between me and God is dangerous.
Also, maybe God is not answering people just because they continuously pray over and over for the same thing- (I would never do this- I feel it is rude) but He is just waiting. And like, you said- waiting is the key here. If we just wait- I wait on Him all of the time. I may ask once and then I wait. If the answer never comes- then it wasn't meant to be (I trust He knows best- not me) But sometimes it takes a very long time and it is when you least expect it. :-)
Hi Ron,We sing the song, " These are the days of Elijah" in my church. That boy was not a long winded prayer. " Show 'em it's you Lord". and BINGO the fire fell. What was one of Job's sins? He prayed and sacraficed DAILY, that his children wouldn't curse God while they were partying. Job was not praying in faith, but in fear. Whatsoever that is not of faith is what? Is the spirit of fear sin? Is it from God, who gives every good and perfect thing? :-D ( I'm sort of beginning to enjoy this)Another Theo-retorical subject that usually gets kicked around about the same time as prayer is fasting. I've been perusing Isaiah 58 recently, and the impression I get is that Theo prefers a fasted life as opposed to the religious mantra of a fast that we often go for. ;-) Care to discuss praying in the spirit? :-o Clutch :-P
Clutchyou wrote Care to discuss praying in the spirit?Certainly, why not start it off in the Scriptural Debate forum?
Hi Ron,I apologize for my impetuous comment about praying in the spirit. :-D You know how us YOUNG guys are. :-P I've read over Abe#6 3-4 times now, and I get a different truth every time I read it. We'll forego changing the subject for a while. Besides, at my age I may not be able to withstand the HEAT that could be generated by anything very controversial. :-P Clutch :-D