Saturday, March 30, 2013

Taking Hold of God

I wanted to take some time away from our study of the Westminster Confession of Faith to share some wonderful advice I was reading in the book "Taking Hold Of God" the subtitle is Reformed and Puritan Perspectives on Prayer, it is edited by Joel R. Beeke and Brian G. Najapfour. It is published by Reformation Heritage Books. It is a great book and I would highly recommend purchasing it to gain insight into Puritanism and Prayer.

Even in the busiest periods of the Reformation Luther averaged two hours of prayer daily.
                -Andrew W. Kosten  (Martin Luther 1483-1546)

 Luther's Small Catechism contained this: Under the first petition of the Lord's Prayer ("Hallowed be Thy name"), Luther asks, "How is this done? He answers, "When the Word of God is taught clearly and purely and we, as children of God, lead holy lives in accordance with. Help us to do this, dear Father in heaven!

Luther stated that Prayer was "the hardest work of all", since he who prays must wage a mighty warfare against the doubt and murmuring excited by the faintheartedness and unworthiness we feel within us. He confesses "there is no greater work than praying."

It is, therefore, by the benefit of prayer that we reach those riches which are laid up for us with the Heavenly Father. For there is a communion of men with God...   John Calvin (1509-1564)

Calvin states that though the act of submissive prayer, the believer invokes God's providence to act on his behalf. This under the Spirit's guidance, man's will and God's will work together. Calvin also states that God ordained prayer not for Himself, but as an exercise of piety for man. Our prayers do not get in the way of providence because God, in His providence, ordains the means along with the end. Prayer is thus a means ordained to receive what God has planned to bestow.

In His divine wisdom God anticipates our prayers, and second, that in His divine love God responds to them. Prayer, then, is not contrary to divine sovereignty but is a divinely ordained instrument functioning within the sphere of God's sovereign wisdom and power in carrying out His will.

The indwelling Spirit is the author of prayer in the soul of the believer. There simply cannot be true prayer - heaven-bound prayer - without the Spirit's help. And all true Christians, being indwelt by the Spirit, have the gift of true prayer and will seek to grow in the exercise of that gift.

Matthew Henry (1662-1714) states: "You may as soon find a living man without breath as a living saint without prayer."

We know not what we should pray for" (Rom. 8:26) This ignorance extends to the words we should use, the petitions we should present, the petitions we should refrain from presenting-the thoughts we should think. Thus, we need help.  We need the Spirit to give us the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:14-16)

Only with a right view of the One with whom we converse in prayer will the heart be in the right frame for prayer. John Owens wrote that the "Holy Spirit gives the soul of the believer a delight in God as the object of prayer" and explained, "without it ordinarily the duty is not accepted with God, and is barren, burdensome task unto them by whom it is performed."

Reverence is essential to prayer. Faith or confidence in prayer is also necessary, for "without this there can be no acceptable prayer." (Heb. 11:6  James 1:6)  and with all else needful in prayer, the Holy Spirit supplies this. Thomas Boston 

The Spirit "helps the soul to approach with confidence, and yet with reverence, with filial fear, and yet with an emboldened faith; with zeal and importunity, and yet with humble submission; with lively hope, and yet with self denial." David Clarkson

Praying to God the Father in the Spirit of adoption stirs the soul to much good. Approaching God as Father raises our confidence and hope, puts fervency and zeal in our prayers. quickens a childlike reverence and humility, breeds a peaceful and quiet spirit, makes us earnest to pursue a holy likeness to God, enflames our zeal for God's glory and honor, and supports us in our afflictions by trusting that our Father disciplines us for our good. Futhermore, such prayer engages God's heart to answer us, for He is a Father who loves His children more than any mother loves her baby. (Isaiah 49:15) It is for God's glory to hear His children when they  pray, so He will not neglect them in their cries and needs.  Anthony Burgess (d. 1664)

To pray is such a solemn worship of God, that it requireth the whole man, the intellectual part, all our judgment, invention, and memory is to be employed therein, as also the whole heart, the will and affections, yea, and body also. - Anthony Burgess

I love prayer. It is what buckles on all the Christians' armour. - Matthew Henry (1662-1714)

Matthew Henry's direction for prayer:

Begin Every Day with God.  David says in Psalm 5:3 "My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up."
Henry states; "wherever God finds a praying heart, he will be found a prayer-hearing God."

"If we pray to God as our Father through Christ the Mediator according to God's will as revealed in the Bible, then we can know that He has heard us and will answer according to His kindness."

"God requires us to pray to remind us of His authority over us and His love and compassion toward us."

Spend Every Day with God. "On thee do I wait all the day (Ps. 25:5) Henry said that waiting involves a patient expectation of God to come in mercy at His time, and a constant attendance upon the Lord in the duties of personal worship. It will often be through long, dark stormy days for God to answer their prayers. But wait in hope.   To wait on God, is to live a life of desire towards him, delight in him, dependence on him, and devotedness to him. Henry says we should spend our days desiring God, like a beggar constantly looking to his benefactor, hungering not only for His gifts but for the One who is the Bread of Life.
We must wait on God every day, both in public worship on the Lord's Day and in the work of our callings on weekdays. We must wait on Him in the days of prosperity when the world smiles on us and in the days of adversity when the world frowns on us. We must lean on Him in the days of youth and in the days of old age. We must wait on God all the day.
We put into practice this constant attendance upon God by exercising private prayer with God repeatedly.
Wherever you go, whatever you do each day, search for abundant reasons for prayer and praise. If you are sad, then pray to God; if you are happy, then sing praises to God. (James 5:13). That covers all of life.

Close Every Day with God. "I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep; for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety' (Ps. 4:8) Henry advised us to lie down with thanksgiving to God when we go to bed at night. We should review His mercies and deliverance at the end of each day. "Every bite we eat, and every drop we drink, is mercy; every step we take, and every breath we draw, mercy." We should be thankful for nighttime as God's provision for our rest, for a place to lay our heads, and for the health of body and peace of mind which allows us to sleep.

Bedtime also offers an opportunity to reflect upon both our mortality and our Christian hope. Henry encouraged us to think that just as we retire from work for a time when we go to bed, so we shall retire for a time in death until the day of resurrection. Just as we take off our clothes at night, so we will put off this body until we receive a new one the morning of Christ's return. Just as we lie down in our beds to rest, so we will lie down in death to rest in Christ's presence where no nightmares can trouble us. Henry's focus on death was not unhealthy morbidity but a realistic consideration in a fallen world where many people die each day with or without the Christian hope that extends beyond this life to eternal glory.

Henry taught us continually to plead for repentance with godly sorrow, making fresh application of the blood of Christ to our souls for forgiveness and drawing near to the throne of grace and pardon each night.

We are invited to enjoy the access to God granted to us in Jesus Christ. Ephesians 2:18 says, "For through him (Christ Jesus) we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father." Henry wrote, "Prayer is our approach to God and we have access in it. We may come speak all our mind. We may come with freedom.... We have access to his ear, tis always open to the voice of our supplications. We have access in all places, at all times.

I hope you, through the power of the Holy Spirit, grasp the wonderful privilege/ duty that we enjoy because we have access to God through our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ.


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