When it comes to the topic of prayer, the teaching of Scripture is, to be honest, hard to believe. It’s not hard to understand, just hard to believe. If we were to take these promises of Scripture at face value, it would be hard to disagree with the confident boasting of the “health and wealth” / “name it and claim it” preachers.
John 15:7, Ps. 145:19, 1 John 5:14-15, Mark 11:22-24, James 5:16-18
We are all biblical inerrantists, but do we really believe these verses? We all surely know the exasperation of asking for something repeatedly and not seeming to get what we received. Do we just say that sometimes the answer is no?
We all know that we counter the “name it and claim it” application of these verses by explaining that the promise needs to be contextualized (1 John 5:14, etc). We insert a proviso in the promise that these promises are only there if our requests are according to the will of God. But this proviso, the way we are tempted to use it, essentially empties God’s promises of any real comfort. Imagine telling your kids, “Tonight you can have whatever you want for dinner. You name it and we will have it. As long as you pick meatloaf.”
Now this qualification is real. It is true that becoming a Christian does not turn God into your vending machine in the sky. But how do we add this qualification in such a way that we aren’t completely emptying God’s promises of any real meaning? Psalm 37:4 says – “Delight yourself also in the Lord, and he shall give you the desires of your heart.” There is a kind of desiring that is both straight from our heart (the thing that we really and truly want) and is blessed with a promise from God that it will be fulfilled.
Delighting in His Desires
When people teach on prayer one of the images that you will commonly hear is that of artillery. Prayer is artillery because it hits the enemy from a distance. And though there is much truth in this, distance implies safety for us, something that leaves us untouched. And that is a mistake. When we really pray, we are vulnerable as well. Prayer hits us also.
Prayer is an expression of desire, it is wanting. But it is not “wanting” in the abstract, it is “wanting” before the throne of the Father. And you can’t stand before that throne without the presence of the King having a major impact on what you want. Your delights or your wants are shaped by the one to whom you are bringing them. God offers us this incredible blessing – he patiently teaches us to want the right things. In fact, God actually wants to give to us what we want John 15:7-8.
Earnest prayer consumes us. Look up a bit at Lk. 11:5-8. God wants us to be consumed with our desires and to do it in front of him. Our Father wants us to be pesky with our desires. Paul exhorts us to be vigilant in prayer (Col. 4:2), to be always praying (Eph. 6:18), to be without ceasing (1 Thes. 5:18).
Church Prayer Requests
So let me conclude with some prayer requests on behalf of the church.
Moving up further in Luke 11, the preceding bit is the Lord’s Prayer, where we are commanded to pray that God’s kingdom come on earth (Lk. 11:2). We see the command to pray for the salvation for men in every position in 1 Tim. 2:1-4. We see the example of Paul praying for people and peoples that God has brought to his mind – Israel (Rom. 10:1) Agrippa (Acts 26:29). So please consider praying regularly for the evangelistic ministry of CRF, of the international student ministry, of the Threshold service.
Raising Up Preachers
We also see the continued example of praying for Christians who are specifically engaged in this work. We should pray for the raising up of men to preach the Gospel. – Lk. 10:2. Consider Col. 4:2- 4 and Eph. 6:19-20. So please pray that we would be gathering, training, and sending out Gospel preaching men. Pray in particular for Greyfriars that we would have a bumper crop of strong men.
Faithfulness of the Next Generation
The next decade will be an important season of transition in our church life. One of the perpetual follies of “the next generation” is to try to invent something new under the sun. The other perpetual folly is to enshrine/encrust the externals of what went before, all the while missing the spirit of what had once been radical and now is traditional. One example of this is the upcoming fall conference. We would differ on a number of the particulars with how Mars Hill in Seattle operates. Nevertheless, we see the Holy Spirit blessing what is currently going on in the “young, restless, and reformed” movement. And we don’t want to stand against it. We would like to be in a position where both of us can learn from one another. Please pray for us to have wisdom in this and for God’s blessing on this conference.