Tag Archives: prayer

Because of His Reverence

 

Hebrews 5:7 “…because of his reverence”

In the days of our Lord’s earthly ministry He was faced with much opposition from the world, from the Devil, and from weaknesses of His own human body. In the face of these fierce conflicts, He saw it necessary to retreat often to His Father in prayer. We find this in Matthew 14:23, Mark 1:35, Mark 6:46, Luke 5:16, Luke 9:18, Luke 9:28-29, Luke 11:1, and John 17, but perhaps most notably His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26/Mark 14/Luke). Here we read of the attitude with which our Lord communicated with His Heavenly Father. As the author of Hebrews alludes, He “offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death” none more reflective of the man of sorrows than what we find in the intensity of His own Garden on the precipice of His crucifixion. Despite the affliction of His soul, we are told the reason He was heard was the posture of His heart, “he was heard because of his reverence.”

We may read of this account from either of the synoptics, yet our conclusion would be the same, “he was heard because of his reverence.” Note the passage under discussion from Matthew’s perspective,

“36 Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” 37 And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” 39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” 40 And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? 41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 42 Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” 43 And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44 So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. 45 Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.” Matthew 26:36-46

What may we say of this reverence? It can be none other than the disposition of His heart as He approaches His Father leading Him to utter those words, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” and again, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” An objection may arise here, if this is the prayer of reverence that was heard, how was it answered because we know that just a few moments later Christ would be crucified. Ah, but was His soul left to see corruption? May it never be! His prayer was answered and He was saved from death to the glory of our Lord! Let us not be guilty of assuming our prayers are not answered simply because the answer doesn’t look like how we pictured.

Dear Christian, what a privilege we have to approach the throne of our Heavenly Father by means of our Lord Jesus Christ the Great Mediator of the New Covenant and our faithful High Priest. Yet, how often do we do so with flippancy and triviality and wonder why our prayers never escape the ceiling of the room in which we’ve just prayed. God too is our Father if, and only if, we have embraced Him by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ relying only upon His finished work on the cross; yet God is nonetheless holy, necessitating all approaches to His throne be so done with reverence. May those Scriptural examples of persons who have had heavenly visions of the most awesome throne-room (see Isaiah, Ezekiel, and John via Revelation) serve as sign-posts on our own highway to the mercy seat reminding us that we ought to travel with a heart of reverence. In doing so, may we find our prayers more effective and the time spent on our knees more honoring to the Holy One.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Forgetting The Paternoster

 

In his classic Puritan work, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, Jeremiah Burroughs devotes several chapters to the evils of a murmuring spirit. In speaking of this, he references the Apostle Peter’s denial of Christ and states that he had forgotten the Paternoster. The Paternoster is the Latin name given to the Lord’s Prayer (it begins “Our Father”), in citing Peter’s forgetfulness in this matter, namely the portion of the prayer “Hallowed be your name….Your Kingdom come”, Burroughs relates this to our own forgetfulness of the Paternoster when we murmur. He writes,

“When you have a murmuring and discontented hearts, you forget your prayers, you forget what you have prayed for. What do you pray, but, Give us this day our daily bread?” Now God does not teach any of you to pray, Lord, give me so much a year, or let me have this kind of cloth, and so many dishes at my table. Christ does not teach you to pray so, but he teaches us to pray, ‘Lord, give us our bread,’ showing that you should be content with a little.”[1]

In reading through Burroughs’s example and application to our own condition, the thought occurred to me, how often are we likened to Peter and forget The Paternoster? It would seem this most often occurs as a failure to recognize the attributes of God’s character that are revealed in our model prayer found in Matthew 6:9-13. Though many more could be added, below are some practical examples of forgetting The Paternoster:

  • When we forget Fatherhood of God
  • When we forget the holiness of God
  • When we forget the providence of God
  • When we forget the sovereignty of God
  • When we forget the mercy of God
  • When we forget the grace of God
  • When we forget the justice of God
  • When we forget the authority of God

Each of these have a practical outworking in our daily lives and are most reflected in our attitudes such as

  • When we murmur and complain
  • When we are anxious
  • When we are discontent
  • When we are jealous or covetous
  • When we think too highly of ourselves
  • When we think too lowly of ourselves
  • When we are quicker to condemn than to forgive
  • When we are self-reliant, self-sufficient, self-exalting
  • When we succumb to our temptations

The Lord’s Prayer, as it is so called, was Christ’s response to the disciples petition to teach them to pray. In His instructive model, He has taught us, among other things, a remedy against murmuring, namely that from Him and to Him and through Him are all things; said succinctly that God is a sovereign God. However, we far too easily forget the one to Whom we’ve prayed, because our hearts become so quickly disoriented by our selfish desires. As Burroughs adds,

“Where did Christ teach us provision for so long a time? No, but if we have bread for this day, Christ would have us content. Therefore when we murmur because we have no so much variety as others have, we do, as it were, forget our Paternoster. It is against our prayers; we do not in our lives hold forth the acknowledgement of the sovereignty of God over us as we seem to acknowledge in our prayers. Therefore when at any time you find your hearts murmuring, then do but reflect upon yourselves and think thus: Is this according to my prayers, in which I held forth the sovereign power and authority that God has over me?”[2]

Christian, let us be vigilant to set our minds on the sovereign, providential God Who deserves our gratitude and praise, not our murmuring and discontentment, lest we find ourselves alongside Peter in forgetting the Paternoster.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done. On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. Forgive our trespasses. As we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation. But deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power, the glory forever.

[1] Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentenment. Banner of Truth, pp. 152-153.

[2] Pg. 153

Caution in Observing the Sins of Others

 

Luke 13:1-5 There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, ‘Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.’

Scandal has a way of inciting the flesh, either out of curiosity, gossip, or in a self-righteous way that elevates the oneself above those involved in the scandal. Recently, there have been enough public scandals to keep those who revel in such things busy for a lifetime. As someone who maintains a blog in a small, obscure corner of the internet, I’m often tempted to blog on such scandals offering my own commentary on these issues. As I’ve learned, this is not always good practice. I don’t intend for this post to be a commentary on recent scandals, though they are numerous and some involving very public, Christian figures. Instead I’d like to focus on how believers should react when they see a brother or sister involved in a scandal or perhaps to a lesser extent, even non-believers. How should we react when we see a faithful minister caught in an adulterous affair that’s been  made public or how should we react when a professing Christian is caught in a public scandal? Should we rush to their defense saying “we’re all sinners”? Should we castigate them and say that they’ve shown evidence of never having been saved? Should we pile on the commentary? Or should we even comment at all?

In a world where scandal sells and social media rules, we are more prone to comment on things that used to be confined to the water-cooler so to speak. Instead of discussing our opinion in a small group of 5 or 6, we air our comments to the public adding to the social commentary. I know I’ve been guilty of this myself. But recent scandals have caused me to do some introspection on how to publically respond and here is my answer: Don’t.

In the passage from Luke 13 cited above, Jesus is using a very public example to convey a very personal response. He uses two illustrations, the first in verses 13:1-2 concerning Galileans and the second involving those who died when the tower of Siloam fell. Both examples are used to show that those in the illustration are no worse sinners than His audience, or us for that matter. Jesus’ words do not call for the people to offer social commentary, but rather personal reflection. In other words, He uses the sin of others (example #1) and public catastrophe (example #2) to call people to repentance. I’m inclined to see this application extend to those who are in the public eye whom we’ve seen involved in a personal sin or public scandal. It’s not a cause to throw stones; it’s not a call to raise public defense; it’s a call to personal reflection on the condition of our own hearts. It is a call to personal repentance, lest there be in us any unconfessed sin.

Similarly, writing to the Church at Corinth, the Apostle Paul exhorts his readers to not think of themselves better than the Wilderness Generation who put Christ to the test and were “destroyed by serpents”, “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.” 1 Corinthians 10:9-13a The warning here is clear; observing the sins of others is not cause to elevate oneself into a position of moral superiority. Should that be the case, the warning is that the fall will be great. How then are we to respond when we see the sin of others?

Puritan Thomas Watson, writing on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount says the following in relation to Matthew 5:4, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted”:

“As we must mourn for our own sins, so we must lay to heart the sins of others. God looks upon us as guilty of those sins in others which we do not lament. Our tears may help to quench God’s wrath.”[1]

When we see others who have fallen into sin, our first response should not be public commentary. Our first response should be one of repentant mourning over our own sins and then the sins of others. Secondly, our response should be one of gracious thankfulness to the Lord for His hand of prevention in keeping us from falling into the same sins. Thirdly, our response should be prayer for the individual(s). Fourthly, and likely most important, is that our response should be that God’s glory might be made known through the particular situation instead of the profanation that has been brought His name.

Because we are humans with a sinful nature, scandal is going to happen, both in the redeemed and in the unredeemed of the world and our introspective response should be the similar, mournful repentance. The difference is in observing how the individual responds. Is it in such a manner that reflects the genuineness of a professed faith in Christ? If it is with a truly repentant heart, reminiscent of King David after his own murderous, adulterous affairs, “My sin is ever before me. Against you and you only have I sinned”? Psalm 51 then let us praise the Lord for His grace. If the response is more similar to King Saul who gave evidence of worldly repentance because he got caught, then let us pray for God’s mercy to be extended to the sinner for the hope of bringing them to salvation and glory to the name of God.

Certain sinful situations demand public responses (see Matthew 18:17; 1 Corinthians 5), but those that we observe from a distance do not usually warrant our involvement or our commentary.  Instead, it would seem more appropriate to use them as an opportunity for prayer, reflection, and mourning on the condition of our own hearts.

[1] Thomas Watson, The Beatitudes, Banner of Truth., Pg 68-69