I can’t do it on my own.
As I consider all that I ought to be as a follower of Jesus, I confess to feeling massively inadequate. Part of me wonders, however, if that is the way it is supposed to be. My awareness of my inadequacy drives me to God in a way that my feelings of self-sufficiency can never do.
Solomon got this, and wrote, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5,6).
As we attempt to chart a course for ourselves we are sometimes urged by others to “Follow our heart”, or we’re told to “Go with our gut instinct”. The Bible urges us otherwise. “Trust in the Lord…lean not on your own understanding.” The apostle Paul, after exhorting the Christians in Colossae on many levels, similarly implores them: “Devote yourselves to prayer” (Colossians 4:2).
I can’t be who I ought to be; I can’t do what I ought to do without help. And the way in which we gain Divine assistance is through prayer.
On March 7, at St. Giles Kingsway and The Well, I delivered a message (audio below) on prayer based on Colossians 4:2-5. We spent some time examining the character of prayer, in terms of how we engage God. We also spent some time attempting to answer the question: What sort of things should we be praying for?
My interest was not to identify things we shouldn’t be praying for. My interest was to highlight the things that Paul prayed for, and the things Jesus prayed for. I note how frequently their prayers focused on God’s kingdom and His eternal purposes. I note that their prayers were focused on the mission.
John Piper offers a helpful analogy between the Christian mission and a wartime mission to help us understand why we often experience frustration with “unanswered prayer”.
Christ is our Field Commander and He has furnished each of us with personal transmitters that are coded to the frequency of the General’s Headquarters. Thanks to the Field Commander, the General is as close as our transmitter. Everything we need, as it relates to the mission and our responsibility within the mission, is accessible to us.
However, the reason we find ourselves often frustrated while using the personal transmitter, the reason why we have experienced so much “unanswered prayer” is because we have taken prayer—our wartime walkie-talkie—and we have attempted to turn it into a civilian intercom.
Instead of focusing our prayers on the mission, we have used the transmitter to try and make our life more comfortable.
Again, I’m not prepared to say, “Don’t pray for this, and don’t pray for that“. I do, however, feel compelled to point out that the primary purpose of prayer is to help the mission of Christ to advance.
The mission is huge. Amazingly, God wants us to be a part of what makes the mission go forward. But since we can’t do that on our own, we ought to “devote (ourselves) to prayer.”