Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Pride, Prejudice, and Prayerlessness

“And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart…And the Lord said, "Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? 8 I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?"” (Luke 18:1, 6-8)

Do I really long for God? I have often quoted the famous Psalms that mention an intense longing and yearning after the Spirit of God and for His very presence to be made manifest. “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (Ps 63:1). “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?” (Ps 42:1-2). As much as I desire for this to be a true, honest prayer of my life it simply is not. I want to want to love Jesus. I want to want to spend time at His feet basking in His glory and rejoicing in Who He Is. But I don’t. Why? To put it in terms of generality, it is because of my sinfulness and my depravity. But if I get specific, which I don’t want to do for that would cause me truly examine my heart and my motives, I have to confess that it is pride that prevents me from coming to Him for my every need.

See, on one level, I don’t approach the throne of grace with confidence (Heb 4:16) because I know that my own wicked, sinfulness is deplorable in His sight. Yes, I recognize – or at least give lip service to – the fact that my righteousness comes from Jesus Christ alone and He has granted me privileged access to the Father and to Himself by His Spirit. This is indeed “right theology”, but it does not always lead to right living. It should, but for me, many times it doesn’t. I allow the enemy to feed me the lie that I’m not good enough, holy enough, and worthy enough for the Lord of this universe to be pleased with me and desire to spend time with me. And the fact of the matter is – he’s right. But for some glorious reason, He who knew no sin has chosen to identify me with Him and remove my transgressions as far as the east is from the west (2 Cor 5:21; Ps 103:12) thus granting me access. But I tend to give the enemy more credit than he rightfully deserves. The true enemy – at least in this circumstance – lies within. I prevent myself from coming because of the wicked pride that resides inside my soul. I say, “I don’t need You; I can do this on my own.” OK, I don’t actually say this verbally, but my actions lend full credence to this truth.

Jesus told His disciples the above parable in Luke 18:1-8 “to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart” (18:1). He then proceeds to divulge the life of a widow who continually asked for an unrighteous judges’ protection against her adversary. The judge desired nothing to do with the situation and he put her off and put her off and put her off some more. Finally, as a result of much persistence, he says “I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming” (18:4). To this Christ adds, “And will not God give justice to His elect, who cry to Him day and night?” (18:7). In essence, Christ affirms that there is something to be said about a continued, persistent, repeated, consistent approach to His throne of grace seeking the Lord in all His glory. No, He is not some cosmic vending machine waiting at our beckon call to fix our problems. But, He is longing for us to see Him in all His truth and in the glory of His majestic holiness. He longs for us to see Him with unveiled faces and to behold the glory of the Lord, “to be transformed into the image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor 3:18). Yahweh’s prescribed proving ground for this transformation comes through our prayer meetings with Him. Where else can He grab our attention so intently when we are pouring out our hearts before Him? Whether we are seeking guidance in life’s “big decisions”, deliverance form strongholds, or simply sending up a knee-mail just to say “hi”, what better arena has God provided to reveal much of His glory to us than in personal worship? I am not diminishing the need for corporate worship and the gathering with the assembly of the saints. These are imperative to the growing Christian’s life. But I will say that the corporate worship experience will be directly effected by one’s personal worship – or the lack thereof.

In his book, Humility: the forgotten virtue, Wayne Mack addresses this issue and sends a searing arrow through the heart of the man too good for God. “Humility is manifested before God [by] continually seeking [Him] in prayer. Hardly anything is more an evidence of pride than prayerlessness” (Philipsburg, PA: P&R Publishing, 2005. p 48). This pill is tough to swallow and the medicine may be good, but my pride will fight this tooth and nail. Because of my lack of prayerlessness, my pride is most revealed although I may be seemingly humble in all other areas. By my prayerlessness, I say to the Lord of the universe, “I don’t need You; I can do this on my own.” Forget about the eye talking to the ear, or the hand speaking to the foot, for they are all part of one body. This is the pot saying to the Potter, I know better how to fashion myself. Oh how wrong I am…and that I might desire to know not only the depths of this wrong, but the right that is revealed through communion with Jesus Christ!

I have a few minutes before I need to be in a meeting, and because I am afforded the luxury, I think I might do well to take heed of the words of Christ and acknowledge His promise that “He will give justice to them speedily” (Luke 18:8a). At the end of this parable, the Divine Word asks this question, “[When] the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?” (18:8b). Were it entirely dependent upon me, I’m not so sure...

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