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Prayer, Confusion, Silence, Contemplation, Convection, Connection, Answer!

In Apologetics, Prayer, Trinity on July 19, 2011 at 8:21 pm

Maybe I am the only one who gets the feeling my prayers are bouncing off the ceiling. Sometimes going through the motions and being obedient seems more labor than joy. Do I really know how and what to pray for? I read these wonderful prayers in Psalms, see answered prayers in the New Testament and then I am tempted to quit: why because I see prayer as a magic answer machine? Do I anticipate every prayer will end in the affirmative (yes to all I want)? Then there is the insufferable silence to the real issues I am concerned with, it seems I have shouted a whisper in the Grand Canyon. Is something missing am I doing it wrong? Is there a right way, a procedure that I got wrong? Then I become aware through the scripture of the sin in my life that is offensive to the very One I am praying to! A great example to illustrate this would be an odor that takes your breath and requires you to cover your mouth and nose in order to breath. That kind of offence (don’t push the metaphor too far) for the very Saviour who cleansed me from the very thing I try not to do but do it anyway. The apostle Paul was fighting this battle himself when he wrote this:

Romans 7:22 HCSB For in my inner self I joyfully agree with God’s law. But I see a different law in the parts of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and taking me prisoner to the law of sin in the parts of my body. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with my mind I myself am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh, to the law of sin.

Then who do we pray too? If God is the uncaused cause the infinite personal we are separated from God on the side of His infinity. I am separated from God in the area of His being the Creator and the infinite. Christianity says man is now abnormal-he is separated from his creator, who is his only sufficient reference point-not by a metaphysical limitation, but by true moral guilt. As a result, he is now also separated from his fellowmen, and from himself. Therefore, when he is involved in cruelty, he is not being true to what he was initially created to be. Cruelty is a symptom of abnormality and a result of a moral, historic, space – time fall. When man sins, he brings forth what is contrary to the moral law of the universe, and as a result, he is morally and legally guilty. Because man is guilty before the Lawgiver of the universe, doing what is contrary to his character, His sin is significant and he is morally significant in a significant history. Man has true moral guilt.

In a quote from Andrew Murray’s book Holy in Christ, (p130-131) he asks the question “Can a merely Unitarian God answering prayer?” He poses some questions:

One of the secret difficulties with regard to prayer—one which, though not expressed, does often really hinder prayer—is derived from the perfection of God, in His absolute independence of all that is outside of Himself. Is He not the Infinite Being, who owes what He is to Himself alone, who determines Himself, and whose wise and holy will has determined all that is to be? How can prayer influence Him, or He be moved by prayer to do what otherwise would not be done? Is not the promise of an answer to prayer simply a condescension to our weakness? Is what is said of the power—the much-availing power—of prayer anything more than an accommodation to our mode of thought, because the Deity never can be dependent on any action from without for its doings? And is not the blessing of prayer simply the influence it exercises upon ourselves?

Murray continues with the answers:

In seeking an answer to such questions, we find the key in the very being of God, in the mystery of the Holy Trinity. If God was only one Person, shut up within Himself, there could be no thought of nearness to Him or influence on Him. But in God there are three Persons. In God we have Father and Son, who have in the Holy Spirit their living bond of unity and fellowship. When eternal Love begat the Son, and the Father gave the Son as the Second Person a place next Himself as His Equal and His Counsellor, there was a way opened for prayer and its influence in the very inmost life of Deity itself. Just as on earth, so in heaven the whole relation between Father and Son is that of giving and taking.10 So the fact that God eternally exists as Father and Son (in the unity of the Holy Spirit) means that there is an opening, a space prepared, for the structure of asking-and-granting that is prayer: Just as the Sonship of Jesus on earth may not be separated from His Sonship in heaven, even so with His prayer on earth, it is the continuation and the counterpart of His asking in heaven. The prayer of the man Christ Jesus is the link between the eternal asking of the only-begotten Son in the bosom of the Father and the prayer of men upon earth. Prayer has its rise and its deepest source in the very Being of God. In the bosom of Deity nothing is ever done without prayer—the asking of the Son and the giving of the Father.11 Crucial for Murray was to resist the urge to think of some will of God that is antecedent to the Son and the Father, or some decision that was made behind the back of the Trinity, in the oneness of God that is not already triune. There is no such God, so there is no such divine will. The divine will is Trinitarian and is worked out according to the asking-and-granting structure revealed in the Son: This may help us somewhat to understand how the prayer of man, coming through the Son, can have effect upon God. The decrees of God are not decisions made by Him without reference to the Son, or His petition, or the petition to be sent up through Him. By no means. The Lord Jesus is the first-begotten, the Head and Heir of all things: all things were created through Him and unto Him, and all things consist in Him. In the counsels of the Father, the Son, as Representative of all creation, had always a voice; in the decrees of the eternal purpose there was always room left for the liberty of the Son as Mediator and Intercessor, and so for the petitions of all who draw nigh to the Father in the Son.12 I do not know how unitarian theists pray or how they think the all-determining God can leave open a space in his eternal counsels to take their wills into account. Murray argued that this is a real problem for anyone who would approach such a God with petitions or intercessions. But he found the solution to the problem in the triunity of God, which, far from being the source of intellectual difficulties, is the solution to many problems: It is in the daybreak light of such thoughts that the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity no longer is an abstract speculation, but the living manifestation of the way in which it were possible for man to be taken up into the fellowship of God, and his prayer to become a real factor in God’s rule of this earth. And we can, as in the distance, catch glimpses of the light that from the eternal world shines out on words such as these: “Through Him, we have access by one Spirit unto the Father.” [1]

Who do I pray to? The Father? The Son? The Spirit? God? The Trinity? All of the above? Here is the theologically correct answer: pray to the Father, in the name of the Son, through the power of the Holy Spirit. Most New Testament prayers follow that pattern. There are a few prayers to Jesus in the New Testament and, as far as I know, no recorded prayers to the Holy Spirit. But the Son is a divine person, and the Spirit is a divine person, and you can pray to them. But don’t forget what we’ve seen in the logic of mediation about the way the Spirit and the Son occupy the offices of intercessor and mediator to bring us before the Father. There is a current that runs that direction, and when you know that, you can immerse yourself in that current. It is the logic of how prayer is actually working anyway. Think about it: if you are in the habit of praying to Jesus, are you approaching Jesus the eternal Son of God on the basis of your own merits and deserving? No. Then on what basis? On the basis of his propitiation and mediation. Even prayer to Jesus has to be prayer in Jesus’ name.

How do we pray? The question was framed by the Apostles when they walked with the Son of God and he taught them true prayer that was illustrated in the model prayer. But just reciting the words turn the illustration from a self-examination and reverent conversation to a magical incantation. Or worse some words we recite without taking into account all that is required when we approach the throne of Grace.

(Luke 11:1-4 HCSB) He was praying in a certain place, and when He finished, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John also taught his disciples.” He said to them, “Whenever you pray, say: Father, Your name be honored as holy. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves also forgive everyone in debt to us. And do not bring us into temptation.”

God the Father is our Father in a complex saving sense.: Father of Jesus by nature, Father of sinners by grace and adoption.We are by example to pray like a son of God, being adopted through the Messiah, Jesus the Christ and sealed by the Holy Spirit sent from the Father to seal us until that day.

In Matthew the language is the same!

Matthew 6:9 HCSB “Therefore, you should pray like this: Our Father in heaven, Your name be honored as holy.

Is He really our Father with the distance so great from eternity to here and now? In the law we are told to have no idols, to keep the Sabbath and honor His name. Can we really relate to Him as Father based on the law that is written on our hearts? Keeping His name Holy is more than reframing from improper use but living like a son who wants to honor his Father.

(Malachi 1:6 ESV) “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?’

(Exodus 20:7 ESV) “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.

Matthew 6:10 HCSB Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Kingdom living comes from Kingdom thinking and always seeking God’s will on this earth. We are told by the Son in the power of the Spirit to lay down our lives, take up our cross and follow him. God’s will is expressed through the giving of the Son and our obedience to Him.

2 Peter 3:13 HCSB But based on His promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness will dwell.

(Exodus 20:3 ESV) “You shall have no other gods before me.

(Exodus 20:4 ESV) “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

(Exodus 20:5 ESV) You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me,

Matthew 6:11 HCSB Give us today our daily bread.

The Scripture speaks of not having because we don’t ask and we ask for what we don’t need. Our ungratefulness of His supply makes us obese in material things. It has been said we tire of bounty long before we tire of need. Provision beyond the wildest dreams of most of the world, yet we have a society so full of food it starves itself for attention, so full of greed it steels its own wealth, so full of self it kills it’s young for convenience sake.

Philippians 4:19 HCSB And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

Matthew 6:12 HCSB and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

Forgiving is not forgetting that is ignoring the wrong incurred, denying the justice due. Forgiving is acknowledging the pain, the loss, the suffering understanding the value of the justice demanded and presenting it as gift to God who can multiply its bounty while satisfying the justice due. God tell us that revenge is His expertise and if we give our rightful demand for revenge to Him. He will satisfy all the requirements of justice and relieve us of the burden of carrying this oppressive emotion around with us.

Luke 23:34 HCSB [Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing.”] And they divided His clothes and cast lots.

Rom 12:19 Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for His wrath. For it is written: Vengeance belongs to Me; I will repay, says the Lord.

Hebrews 10:30 For we know the One who has said, Vengeance belongs to Me, I will repay, and again, The Lord will judge His people.

Matthew 6:13 HCSB And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.]

This request may appear to contradict Jam_1:13, which states that God would never tempt anyone. However, God does allow His people to be tested and tried. This petition expresses a healthy distrust of one’s own ability to resist temptations or to stand up under trial. It acknowledges complete dependence on the Lord for preservation. This phrase, then, must be used in the sense of “permitting.” Do not “suffer” us, or “permit” us, to be tempted to sin. In this it is implied that God has such control over the tempter as to save us from his power if we call upon him. The word “temptation,” however (Mat_4:1), means sometimes “trial, affliction,” anything that “tests” our virtue. If this is the meaning here, as it may be, then the prayer may be phrased, “Do not afflict or try us.” It is not wrong to pray that we may be saved from suffering if it is the will of God. See Luk_22:42.

James 1:3 HCSB knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.

James 1:13 HCSB No one undergoing a trial should say, “I am being tempted by God.” For God is not tempted by evil, and He Himself doesn’t tempt anyone.

Matthew 4:1 HCSB Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil.

Our friend and teacher is the law not because it can save us. Only repentance, confession and the gift of faith God’s grace can bring salvation through the shed blood of His son. But the law can illumine and be our map on the road of life. Keeping the law is impossible without the Holy Spirit and divine strength, even then our flesh wages war against us. The law ever vigilant the Spirit indwelling us we walk the pilgrim’s pathway to our destiny.

Exodus 20:1 HCSB Then God spoke all these words:

Exodus 20:2 HCSB I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery.

Exodus 20:3 HCSB Do not have other gods besides Me.

Exodus 20:4 HCSB Do not make an idol for yourself, whether in the shape of anything in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the waters under the earth.

Exodus 20:5 HCSB You must not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the fathers’ sin, to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me,

Exodus 20:6 HCSB but showing faithful love to a thousand generations of those who love Me and keep My commands.

Exodus 20:7 HCSB Do not misuse the name of the LORD your God, because the LORD will punish anyone who misuses His name.

Exodus 20:8 HCSB Remember to dedicate the Sabbath day:

Exodus 20:9 HCSB You are to labor six days and do all your work,

Exodus 20:10 HCSB but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. You must not do any work–you, your son or daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the foreigner who is within your gates.

Exodus 20:11 HCSB For the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and everything in them in six days; then He rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and declared it holy.

Exodus 20:12 HCSB Honor your father and your mother so that you may have a long life in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.

Exodus 20:13 HCSB Do not murder.

Exodus 20:14 HCSB Do not commit adultery.

Exodus 20:15 HCSB Do not steal.

Exodus 20:16 HCSB Do not give false testimony against your neighbor.

Exodus 20:17 HCSB Do not covet your neighbor’s house. Do not covet your neighbor’s wife, his male or female slave, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

If we take the law and examine our lives against its teaching no one measures up not even for a day. If the law is weighing heavy on your heart, repent, confess and accept Jesus the Christ as your King and Ruler. Not bowing to the King has eternal consequences as well as earthly punishments.

“The Church used to be a lifeboat rescuing the perishing. Now she is a cruise ship recruiting the promising.”

Leonard Ravenhill


[1] [1] Sanders, Fred (2010). The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything (p. 223-224). Good News Publishers/Crossway Books. Kindle Edition.

What ?? too many questions maybe you can answer too!

In Apologetics, Chrisitian, Christ, Christian, Christianity, Prayer, Satan, Saved, Sin, Sunday School, Trinity on July 4, 2011 at 9:53 am

What do I have now that I haven’t had before? How was I blind for so long and now see truth in such a different light than just a few years ago? Why does the Personal God who is there bother with someone as rebellious as an indifferent as me? Just how useful can I be for the kingdom now? Does God through Christ by the Spirit really make an impact in my life every day? The questions keep coming and God in his infinite wisdom has granted answers on some and has me digging deeper on others? Francis Shaffer philosopher and author had a great quote:

To eat, to breathe to beget Is this all there is Chance configuration of atom against atom of god against god I cannot believe it. Come, Christian Triune God who lives, Here am I Shake the world again. [i]

The “Christian Triune God who lives” did answer that prayer and shook the world through Schaeffer’s ministry.

The Holy Spirit indwelling the individual Christian is not only the agent of Christ, but he is also the agent of the Father. Consequently, when I accept Christ as my Savior, my guilt is gone, I am indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and I am in communication with the Father and the Son, as well as of the Holy Spirit—the entire Trinity. Thus now, in the present life, if I am justified, I am in a personal relationship with each of the members of the Trinity. God the Father is my Father; I am in union with the Son; and I am indwelt by the Holy Spirit. This is not just meant to be doctrine; it is what I have now.[ii]

This is in line with the personal God who is there and is on the high order of the Trinity. Since beginning a deeper richer study of the Trinity it has completely changed my faith making it strong and at the same time more difficult to tolerate me! The more I see the Trinity and the way God exists, the Trinity has taken over my thinking I am acutely aware of the sin in my own life. Understanding the Father desires relationship and sent his Son to pay my sin debt while the Spirit indwells me teaching me the truth of the cost I am overwhelmed.

The Old Testament teaches, and the New Testament reaffirms, that there is only one God (Deut. 6:4; James 2:19). “The Bible also teaches that this one God exists in three distinct persons.” The first line of evidence for this claim is the divine plurals used in the language of the Old Testament: “Who will go for us?” (Isa. 6:8); “Let us make man in our image” (Gen. 1:26); “Let us go down there and confuse their language” (Gen. 11:7). “In this verse, as in 1:26, the persons of the Trinity are in communication with each other.” These Old Testament plurals would not be enough to prove the triunity of the one God all alone. They are odd enough to require some explanation: Why would a consistently monotheistic revelation use words like we, us, and ours? The solid proof of this doctrine has to wait till Christ appears in human history and takes on flesh. Ours is a progressive revelation, From Adam, to Abraham, to David, to Jesus claiming to be God in flesh and the Son of the personal God who is there.

Now man has a new relationship with the creator, and the creator can now abide within us. The mystery I can’t reconcile is why the personal God who is there wants to have relationship with a dreadful, awful, terrible sinner like me. The law (10 commandments) illustrates the sinfulness of my sin! I can’t even keep one commandment for more than a day, and yet when I come to grips with the awful truth of my wretchedness and the hopelessness of my failure the Holy Spirit sent by the Father accompanied by the Son forgives me. Stated in Ephesians 2:18: “For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.” Christian prayer, as a subset of Christian communion with God, is an approach to God the Father, through God the Son, in the Holy Spirit. John Owen called this passage “a heavenly directory,” and Horatius Bonar teased out a theology of worship from it:

The whole Trinity has to do with our return and reception. The Father throws open His presence chamber, the Holy of Holies where He dwells; the Son provides the way for our restoration, by answering in His death all the ends that could have been served by our exclusion; and the Holy Spirit conducts us into the Father’s presence along the new and living way.

Now as new creature in Christ as applied by the Holy Spirit from the direction of the Father I am an adopted son, a brother to Christ, sealed by the Spirit. How is this supposed to affect us? Am I conforming to the image of his Son?

(Romans 8:29 HCSB)  For those He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers.

(Romans 8:14-17 HCSB)  All those led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children, and if children, also heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ–seeing that we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.

When John Bunyan defined true prayer, he built his definition around this Trinitarian structure from Ephesians 2.

(Ephesians 2:18 HCSB)  For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.

 Bunyan’s complete definition runs: Prayer is a sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of the heart or soul to God, through Christ, in the strength and assistance of the Holy Spirit, for such things as God hath promised, or according to the Word, for the good of the church, with submission, in faith, to the will of God.

How does the Trinity make our prayer life more effective, and when we acknowledge how God exists does it complete us? If we don’t understand the Trinity or worse because we don’t understand try to find another mode of existence for God undermine the message of salvation? If the Trinity is salvation and salvation is the Trinity economically expressed why would we limit God’s existence to our understanding? If God is truly sovereign and has created all there is why couldn’t He be expressed in Trinity? Don’t we limit the limitless, build a box that has no room for its content; redefine in our terms the indefinable? Denying the Trinity is like gazing at the sun you can’t without severe consequences, ignoring the obvious to justify our inability to describe God. To use a saying my Dad used to use “I can’t see the forest for the trees.”


[i] Sanders, Fred (2010). The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything (p. 178). Good News Publishers/Crossway Books. Kindle Edition.

[ii] Sanders, Fred (2010).  (p.214)

 

 

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