Thursday, November 24, 2016

Holy Living and Petitionary Prayer

     I had the wonderful opportunity to lead a small prayer group in a short devotional time on Thursday. This article is a distillation of those thoughts.

 Petitionary Prayer is a type of prayer that should be the staple diet of the Christian.

     I get the sense both from others and from myself that Christians sometimes tend to think of petitionary prayer (Asking God for things) as a sort of lower tier of prayer that a weaker Christian might use a lot–but only until he can "rise above it" and eventually begin to weed out those egocentric demands and begin to really pray–i.e. thank God and praise God and confess sins, etc...but avoid asking God to do things.
     It is interesting that in Luke 11, when Jesus' disciples come to him and ask him "Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples" Jesus responds with a petition-filled prayer:

"When you pray, say:

Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread,
and forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation." -Luke 11:2-4

...Basically, Father! I want your name to be hallowed! Your kingdom come! Give me what I need! Forgive my sins! Keep me safe and pure!
Ask, ask, ask. 

Jesus isn't done, however. He continues with a parable to illustrate how this prayer dynamic should work. He uses a common logical argument where one posits the truth of a smaller situation that implies the truth of a larger situation. In the parable Jesus explains that even in sinful human relationships, those who ask for things will be given them, and even children who ask their parents for their needs will have their needs met. Will not God, who is perfect and who is also our father, not also meet our needs and give us what we ask?
     Obviously this isn't a blanket statement advertising this vision of God as the "cosmic bell-hop" (thanks for that example, R.C.!), for Jesus also says in John 14 that "Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the father may be glorified in the son. If you ask anything in my name, I will do it." (Italics mine). Obviously Christians must always pray in the Spirit, and if we are seeking our own glory or praying for things that are sinful or from wrong motives (any motive that does not have the glory of Christ at its center) then we aren't really praying, at all, much less wrongly, because the only reason our prayers are effective at all is because they are through the Holy Spirit and advocated to God from Christ. To use a cheesy analogy, the Holy Spirit is a kind of stamp on the letter that is our prayer. And the Holy Spirit isn't putting His stamp on a prayer that doesn't seek The glory of God. And without a stamp, the letter isn't going anywhere!
     I ramble, but my point is that in the same way that Parents love and desire to bestow gifts and blessings upon their children, so also should we ask God for blessings and provision, provided that we are keeping Christ at the center of our prayers. To neglect to pray in this way not only starves the Christian of their rights of access as children of God, but it also insults God himself who has commanded us to pray, in this way, and who wants to bless his children. When we don't unload our cares and worries and ask God to provide for us, we deny his lordship in our lives, because whether we pray as such or not, he IS indeed the giver of every blessing, and without him we have nothing.