April 15, 2014

Prayer curbs an independent spirit

Remember the story of the boy who would not sit down in the back seat of the family car? (This was in the days before seat belts.) His father scolded him repeatedly, and repeatedly he stood. Finally the father stopped the car and refused to go until the boy sat down. He did, but as the car began moving, the child muttered, “But I am standing up on the inside.”

I can be like that boy. I can say and do the right things but my thoughts are not matching. This is called hypocrisy. It is also refusing to be what God created. He created human beings to reflect His image which means I am dependent on Him for who I am. However, when I do, say, or even think my own actions, words and ideas, then I am foolishly choosing to be independent. It might not show up outwardly, and if not, I too am standing up on the inside.

Prayer fixes that attitude, particularly prayer that asks. Being needy and feeling unable puts the proud heart in a humble place. Besides, God knows my heart. I might be able to keep my thoughts to myself, but He gets right inside my head . . .

Understand, O dullest of the people! Fools, when will you be wise? He who planted the ear, does he not hear? He who formed the eye, does he not see? He who disciplines the nations, does he not rebuke? He who teaches man knowledge— the Lord—knows the thoughts of man, that they are but a breath. (Psalm 94:8–11)

One translation says the thoughts of man are futile, coming from nothing and worthless. This means that even my thought life is important to God. It also means that prayer is necessary to keep my mind where God wants it to be.

I’ve often puzzled over this next verse, wondering why Jesus would have to learn anything . . .

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him . . . (Hebrews 5:7–9)

Then I read that there is a human immaturity that is not sinful. A child does not know how to fly an airplane or read Aristotle. I do not know how to build a bridge or manage a grocery store. This does not mean I am in rebellion against God, but if He wanted me to do those things or any other thing that I have never done, I must learn it.

The same is true of Jesus. As the Son of God, He never was out of harmony with His Father. As the Son of man, everything was new. He’d never filled that role before so by becoming a man, He had to learn how to live as a man. He didn’t rely on what He knew as God but humbled Himself and learned how to obey as a man. This learning was connected to prayer and to suffering.

When I struggle with anything, I’m to bring that to God in prayer. He does not want me to be anxious or worry about anything, but key to that is also realizing that I cannot fix it. I must bring it to Him and rely on Him to fill my need.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4–7)

This morning I particularly note the result of humble prayer. It guards the inner me, my mind, the part that no one can see but God.

The next two verses describe what that guarded heart and mind will look like . . .  

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8–9)

The muddled mind, the mixed up mind, even the distracted and undisciplined mind all need that renewal that comes from reading the Word of God, but even that is no help unless I am also making my needs known to God (with thanksgiving) and humbly relying on Him to fill my heart with His thoughts instead of my own.

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