Tuesday, January 25, 2011


I've been reading—and thoroughly enjoying--the biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, fittingly entitled "Bonhoeffer.” The book tells of an occasion, in 1928, when he was visited a church in France and noticed many "heavily burdened people," and how they were naturally disposed to prayer. He remarked, "Nothing is so at odds with prayer as vanity." Prayer is for the needy.

It is the realization of our needs that drives us to our knees. Jesus told a parable of a Pharisee and a Publican. The self-righteous Pharisee prayed, not to God, but to himself as he acknowledged his superiority. The Publican cried out to God, "God, be merciful to me, the sinner!" (Luke 18:9-14). The Pharisee had supposed he had no needs and did not pray (at least not to God). The Publican saw his need and cried out to God in prayer.

God knows we are needy creatures. His exhortations to us to pray speak to our neediness: "But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God" (James 1:5); "Let us therefore draw near...that we...may find grace to help in time of need" (Heb. 4:5); "casting all your anxiety (anxiety=worry about needs) upon Him, because He cares for you" (1 Pet. 5:6).

It is quite possible for any of us to be misled regarding our true condition. The Laodecian church wrongly assumed themselves to be in "need of nothing" (Rev. 3:17). They would not have been a praying church. James chided the proud, "You do not have, because you do not ask" (James 4:2). A spirit of humility is essential to prayer. Humility is honestly assessing ourselves in view of God’s holiness and our sinfulness. In humility we realize that God is perfect in all of His attributes. In humility we realize we "fall short” of His perfection.

Humility is not native to sinful soil. It is by the Spirit alone that we—as proud, rebel sinners--were brought to the point of humble trust in Christ for salvation. It is by the Spirit that we now recognize our total dependence on Him. The believer in Christ is “already” perfect with regards to his position (Col. 2:10), but “not yet”—and far from it—with regards to his practice (Phil. 3:12). An awareness of the dichotomy between the "already" and "not yet" is reason enough for us to pray. A Spirit-borne passion for growth in Christlikeness burdens our hearts and instructs our prayers . A Spirit-borne compassion for others causes us to intercede on their behalf (Col. 1:28; Rom. 10:1; 2 Tim. 2:1-4).

Needs of every kind surround us and threaten, at times, to overwhelm us. We are needier than we think that we are. The extent of our sin problem is greater than we realize. The spiritual opposition we face is stronger than we think. God’s purpose and plan for us in Christ is “exceeding abundantly” beyond what we can imagine (Eph. 3:19-21). Prayer is for the humble inasmuch as they alone appreciate the gravity of the task at hand. They know that the things that need to be, cannot be, apart from God’s intervention (John 15:5).

Prayer is for the needy and for those having faith in God. "Faith is the assurance of things of things hoped for" (Heb. 11:1). Prayer exercised in faith trusts in God and His readiness and ability to respond to our need. God says, "Ask and it shall be given to you" (Matt. 7:7). Asking is such a simple thing--a person in need asks of someone who is able to meet the need. God is able, more than able. The angel declared to Mary, “Nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37). God is indeed able "to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask" (Eph. 3:20). He is well-pleased to respond to the requests of His grace-needy children (Rom. 8:32). He is glorified in His abundant provision providing both “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.”

God exhorts us to "draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need" (Heb. 4:16). Needy souls need look no further. God is on the throne—and it is a throne of grace! He knows all about our troubles. He bids us to bring them to His throne—to cast them upon Him (1 Pet. 5:7). From His presence He freely dispenses both mercy and grace. His provision can never be exhausted. He will not turn His children away (James 1:5). We have the freedom to come at any time in any place with requests both great and small.

I have it in my mind that the throne of grace—like a stream in a populated desert--ought to be well-attended by countless souls. But in pride, the thirsty refuse to go. They wander about frantically searching for some other source of refreshment. It is sinful pride that keeps them from the obvious. But it is the Spirit who humbles them and drives them back. And they find, in Him, “rivers of living water” to satisfy their innermost longings and needs. Are you needy? If so, prayer is for you!

Pastor Jerry

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