Stories from the Cleft-4: Prayer: Re-Creation of the Grandest Kind
Welcome to the fourth installment of Stories from the Cleft. If you care to look back to where we began this journey and see the context for these stories, please check out The Training Table Archives section of Feast of the Heart. Be sure to recall the Bible passage from Exodus 33:12-23; 34:29-35 where the story of Moses and “the cleft in the rock” can be found.
Prayer? No More Plain, Yet No Less Effulgent Than, “Our Father…” (The Basis of The Lord’s Prayer, Matthew 6:9-13)
“Prayer does not fit us for the greater work; prayer is the greater work.” (Oswald Chambers)
“If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, ‘Thank you,’ that would suffice.” (Meister Eckhart)
“What seem our worst prayers may really be, in God’s eyes, our best. Those, I mean, which are least supported by devotional feeling. For these may come from a deeper level than feeling. God sometimes seems to speak to us most intimately when he catches us, as it were, off our guard.” (C.S. Lewis)
“Go where your best prayers take you.” (Frederick Buechner)
“Prayer is as natural an expression of faith as breathing is of life.” (Jonathan Edwards)
Oh, were it only so for me! If my prayer life were as vital as breathing, I would have suffocated long ago. How about you? Prayer, as most would probably admit, is the most powerful promise and relationship with God of any sort. And yet, prayer is likely the most underutilized defense against The Fall of the universe and a lifeline to God used as often as a fire hydrant or ATM machine: In that occasional emergency or more frequent GAP between our wants and needs.
This is certainly NOT so for every Christian but it is most likely so for far too many “Christians living in a culture of comfort” (“Weeping, Window, Way”)—as most of the audience of The Training Table might be respectfully described. Might we instinctively guess why? A hearty, deep, and incessant prayer life is directly proportionate to one’s PERCEIVED NEED of God. Little need = little prayer. Big need…
Admittedly, and purely by God’s amazing grace in giving me the best response to having MUCH more awareness of the depravity of my own heart and the utter brokenness of this world, my personal prayer life has been RAMPED-UP considerably in the recent decade! More in a bit…
Prayer: Re-Creation of the Grandest Kind
The Bible tells us that God created the heavens and the earth and everything else. It also tells us that man, God’s creative culmination, chose poorly and attempted to be God—and The Fall occurred and drastically stained all of God’s good creation (Genesis 1-3). In the time of Redemption we now live in, God’s CREATIVE PERSON AND POWER is most effectively brought into all spheres of this horribly broken world to glorify God and bless His creation… THROUGH PRAYER. Karl Barth once said, “To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world.”
The Triune God of the Bible works together to RE-CREATE… As it was “In the beginning…” purely motivated by the love between the persons of God, and His manifold mercies—not because He’s obliged to do so in any sort of way. If I were to be more playful with the same words, I would say that in the complete bliss and perfection of the trinity, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit RECREATES… BY RE-CREATING! Yes, like a Divine Trinitarian Dance, and even though the universe is decaying, God is re-creating to begin the process of furnishing heaven.
I know, that’s a mouth and earful! Please allow me to complete this offering on prayer by some very short and somewhat random “prayer anecdotes” in my life—not that my opinion or experience amounts to much, but I humbly offer it as some chow at The Training Table… “TODAY…” (Psalm 95:7-8):
Prayers in the Cleft: God’s Glory Passing By:
A great “prayer tool” is using the acrostic, “A.C.T.S.”: Prayer in order and from the heart by, Adoration. Confession. Thanksgiving. Supplication (requests). (This same process is very useful in the course of studying and mediating on the Bible as well.)
Prayer breaks through any apparent boundaries in time and space: “Well duh, John!”, right? The caveat and personal example is, NEVER GIVE UP … until it’s time to give in. When I prayed for my father over many years, I believe God promised to answer, but He didn’t do so until I was with dad in the garden on Christmas night, after he shot himself, and when he was unconscious. I believe God brought dad to himself by grace through faith that night before he died a couple of hours later. Years later (and as I had been compelled by the Christmas night gift of God) I stood with a dear friend at the ICU Room bedside of Lauren in a state of suicidal unconsciousness. We prayed for her, and her salvation, while telling her how it’s accomplished. Lauren’s brain flat-lined, she was resuscitated by God, and within two weeks confessed Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior—before she finally succumbed to the effects of CF and died… as a “Completed Jew”!
Prayer opens the door to God’s ways… not our ways… so don’t be surprised, be ready and glad: This realm includes a great deal of God’s paradoxical ways, but two biggies in my life include: First, praying for growth as a baby Christian while living in Aspen—and God moving me from Aspen to St. Louis in 1987—where I was BORN, so I could see most clearly what BEING BORN AGAIN was really made up of. Who would-a thunk? God would-a! Second, praying for God to build me up, to help me be more effective in every way, to “love and truth me into maturity”: God buried me deep in a study of Romans 1:18-32: the consummate Bible teaching on the nature of SIN! It wasn’t until I saw the reality of Sin, and my sin, that I could appreciate the reality of God’s love: Growth can only occur while living on BOTH extremes of the Gospel!
Prayer unites the Saints: This one immediately brings tears of intermingled joy AND sorrow to my eyes so effusively I had to walk around a while. The examples would result in lots of books… Just short of the priority being in prayer for my biological family and “family by marriage” every day, is the incessant prayers for my family in Christ—and all the overlap that includes. And, dare I say with the confidentiality and freedom being in Christ affords us, the most recent example of what has been a time and eternity life changing prayer experience for me is praying for our dear friend Perrin Thompson and her family. Please join me and the Saints in this holy place.
Prayer offers me a daily habit to plea for God’s GUIDING and GUARDING: This is how I organize my prayers for God’s Image Bearers—both saved and unsaved. It’s a very handy and yet marvelously robust form of praying that affords me so much under each of these banners.
Thank you very much for supping with me at The Training Table today. Understandably, the subject matter of prayer in this format can only be compared to a thimble-full in an ocean of possibilities! I know that YOU have many ways that PRAYER has been a blessing fro God to you as well!
I appreciate your patience and understanding. Please join us at the table next week for, Stories from the Cleft-5: The Thank-Full Heart.
Don’t forget, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much!” (James 5:16-KJV). AND… since no one is righteous… not even one (Romans 3:23), pray to and in Jesus Christ, the Only Righteous One!