April 30, 2012

Faith that honors God

Last Friday, we met with friends to pray for our families, a twice-monthly event. During our prayer time, my husband read part of a book on prayer by author Ole Hallesby. It was in a chapter about the misuse of prayer, with the first item on the list suggesting that we pray thinking we have to help God answer our prayers.
We could relate to that. We’ve asked God to take care of things then told Him how it should be done. Sometimes we have meddled into the situation thinking that our efforts would “help” God do what we think ought to happen. We have realized that as long as we think we are able to do anything or assume that we know the best way for the prayer to be answered, we are apt to keep praying in that way. Instead, prayer is helplessness. When we come to God in humility and in need, He draws near to us.
For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite. (Isaiah 57:15)
The first part of Hallesby’s book defines prayer as coming helplessly to God. What is helpless about a prayer that tells Him, Almighty and all-knowing God, what to do? He is not my slave and such requests are not made in faith. 

The example in today’s devotional reading is the story of a woman whose daughter was oppressed by a demon. She came to Jesus, but the disciples wanted Him to send her away because they were annoyed by her request. She was not a Jew and Jesus actually told her that He was sent to the Jewish people. But she persisted. She said that even the dogs gets crumbs that fall from the table during a family meal.
Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly. (Matthew 15:28)
Faith is knowing God can answer prayer. It is persistence too, but it is also knowing that even though I don’t deserve His grace and mercy, He is gracious and merciful. Faith never makes an appear based on, “I deserve it” but on the nature and character of God. This is why any prayer that tells God how to answer it falls short. Instead of acknowledging His wisdom and power (and timing), I am saying that I know more than He does and that He needs my help or my instructions. 

This woman knew she had no rights. None of us do. Instead, she appealed to the mercy of Christ regarding her helpless situation. Because she trusted Him and not her own ideas or deservedness, Jesus called her faith “great” and immediately answered her request.

God, our small prayer group acknowledges the many times that we have given You instructions as if we know what needs to be done so our prayers are answered. This dishonors You. Instead, we must simply bring the needs to You and let You do whatever You desire. Faith expressed in helplessness, even desperation honors You. Telling You what to do and how to do it is pride and a slap in Your face.

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