Prayer and Progress

prayer progressNo one in their right “spiritual mind” would ever say that they don’t want to grow up or make progress in God.  We may at times act like we don’t, or fail to take the steps that lead towards it (Heb 5:12-13 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food.  13  For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant), yet we know God has called us to make progress.

There are four Biblical ingredients God uses in causing us to grow/mature.

1. Receiving God’s word and personally encountering Jesus (Private Spiritual disciplines, prayer, worship, Bible etc.).

2. Engaging in personally serving others.

3. Encountering and walking in godly relationships.

4. Walking through Defining Moments – Facing circumstances that shape our faith and cement God’s seed inside of us.

All of them are important but the first one is really first!  We are not going to make any progress unless we personally encounter Jesus on a regular basis.  The Bible declares two truths that are held in tension.  They are like two sides of the coin of spiritual progress.

Joh 15:5…he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.

Php 4:13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

The degree of our belief of these two statements can be directly measured by how much we encounter God in our everyday life.  In short our everyday prayer life.  Paul tells us the prayer should never grow dormant in us.

Eph 6:18 With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.  

1Th 5:17 pray without ceasing.  Prayer is our ongoing means of encountering God.

Pray when you don’t want to

Famed nineteenth century British preacher Charles Spurgeon said; “We should pray when we are in a praying mood, for it would be sinful to neglect so fair an opportunity. We should pray when we are not in a praying mood, for it would be dangerous to remain in so unhealthy a condition.”

John Bunyan, author of Pilgrim’s Progress said something about this phenomenon; “Our heart faces many difficulties in the time of prayer. No one knows how many by-ways and back-lanes our heart may use to slip away from the presence of God.” What do we do?

Bunyan also said; “My heart when I go to pray is disinclined to go to God; and when it is with Him, so disinclined to stay with Him, that many times I am forced in my prayers; first, to beg God to take my heart and set it upon Himself in Christ; and second, when it is there, that He would keep it there. Many times I know not what to pray for, I am so blind. At other times I know not how to pray, I am so ignorant.”

Prayer about Prayerlessness

So do we just try harder?  Is it our responsibility or His?  Yes, yes, and yes.  Sometimes we need to pray about our prayerless feelings. Srewtape letters

C.S. Lewis said something similar about this in an insightful way in the  classic; “The Screwtape Letters.” In it two demons conspire about how to trip up their patient (Christian). One demon,Screwtape, writes another demon, his nephew Wormwood. What follows is the advice one demon gives to another demon about a tactic used to hinder God’s people praying: “… you reveal what poor use you are making of it when you say that the whole question of distraction and the wandering mind has now become one of the chief subjects of his prayers. That means you have largely failed. When this or any other distraction crosses his mind, you ought to encourage him to thrust it away by sheer will power and to try to continue the normal prayer as if nothing happened; once he makes it the main theme of his prayers and his endeavors, then, so far from doing good, you have done harm. Anything, even a sin, which has the total effect of moving him close up to the Enemy (God) makes against us in the long run.”

In response to the disciples asking Jesus to teach them to pray, Jesus taught about the Lord’s prayer, and persistence in prayer with seeking, knocking, and asking.  He then concludes it with something important, especially when the desire for prayer is lacking.   Luk 11:1-13…13  “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”

One of the main roles of the Holy Spirit in our lives is to help us pray Rom 8:26.  If we take our prayerless feelings to God (in opposition to what Screwtape advised Wormwood) and ask for both the Holy Spirit and change we would probably experience a turn around.  As we do, what Screwtape said will happen, “anything, even a sin, which has the total effect of moving him close to God” will tend to work in our favor of our enemy (God).”  Lets not let prayerless feelings keep us from God but let them take us to Him.      

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