Do you always pray for others when you say you will? Do you pray consistently, for your peace, spiritual growth, or service? I confess that my intentional prayer life is woefully deficient in spite of my random and conversational prayers that rise to God frequently throughout the day. You could say that I don’t appreciate my relationship with the Lord as much as I recognize my dependence upon him. It’s easier to deal with practical matters than spiritual difficulties. Maybe that’s why people look to nature for refreshment and peace, instead of God. I had the TV on the other day while I did some things at home, watching “The Last Alaskans.” A few permitted families have moved away from civilization into the Alaskan bush to live “independently,” having the “freedom to live as they choose.” They are very skilled but work all the time, which would be a burden to me, not freedom. This could serve as a picture of what we do with Christ. We turn our freedom from the responsibility of the Law into an opportunity to live independently, without being under anyone’s rules except ours. On one level, we know we need him and want to serve him, but then live our lives like completely independent, self-reliant creatures. Two episodes of the program focused on the filming crew’s technology and struggles to keep up with the families they were shooting. I was impressed with how they integrated their knowledge to shed light on the Alaskans. I thought of the Spirit, who illumines Scripture to show us our struggles for independence when we push God aside to live our practical lives. Don’t we neglect prayer as a means to connect with our Redeemer, at least on some level, thereby forfeiting our peace?
I suppose God was working on me when I recently noticed that we pray seven times during our worship services at church. No wonder I feel closer to the Lord after the service, with a greater sense of his peace. And Jesus spent much time in prayer with his Father, leaving an example for us to follow. As we pray sincerely, our safety and security become more definite and our spiritual issues more pronounced in the battle for our peace. The more we pray, the greater our trust in God and his promises, since he is the source of our security and peace. David was running from Saul, his would-be executioner, and declared, “I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.” (Psalm 34:4) David could have thanked the Lord for rescuing him from Saul but instead focused on his fears, an intangible issue. James Boice points out the elements of David’s testimony that we can follow: he recognized his fears and troubles, prayed by seeking the Lord, and calling on him, was delivered from his fear, and was then joyful, without shame. (1) David was smart—he had disguised himself as a crazy madman. But he didn’t thank God for wisdom or the idea to masquerade as an insane character; he knew that God had saved him from his fears, by spending time with his Supreme Ruler and counselor.
David was a realist; he knew that his life was in danger. Christians have even more reason to be realists, not escapists about life’s problems. But we are also “realists about the power of God and his promises…Although there is cause to be troubled, nevertheless, there is even greater cause not to be…[We know] Jesus, and…[have] every reason to trust him…Whatever the circumstances, whatever the hardship, let us believe that he has a purpose in those circumstances and is most certainly working them out for our own spiritual good.” (2) “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.” (Proverbs 29:25) David would have been justified in acting on his fear, according to many people. When we doubt God’s power and intention to use our purposes for good, we think like them. Why do we tell “white” lies, make excuses for our anger, or lash out against those who hurt us? Isn’t it because we don’t think God will help us, and keep us safe from the consequences we fear? The most frequent question in our current Bible study of the Old Testament: “Is lying ever justified?” Of course, the correct biblical answer is no. “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” (Exodus 20:16). “Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices.” (Colossians 3:9) We lie because we’re afraid of what will happen if we don’t—maybe God won’t come through or I’ll have to bear the consequences of my actions without his mercy. “…a human fear, a servile one, a distrust of the power and providence, grace and goodness of God, which has torment in it… brings into bondage, and into many distresses and difficulties, and is opposed to trust in the Lord.” (3)
Living without prayer is like living without all the TV crew filming “The Last Alaskans.” We would not know about what those families are doing, of how they are surviving with so few resources. But even more than this, we would not understand why they are living as they do, or how they approach their difficulties. But God is not a film crew! He is greater than any man, technology, and even the glorious creation that those Alaskans worship. Jesus Christ is The Light; he is The Way and The Truth. No matter what fears we may have about ourselves, our circumstances, or other people, Jesus has a certain, safe, peaceful future for us. “Let not your hearts be troubled. “Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (John 14:1-3) Since our future peace is secure with Jesus, our present peace is found in him. “Regardless of what there may be to cause us to be troubled as Christians, there is more cause not to be troubled…First…he has a purpose in [our] circumstances and is most certainly working them out for our own spiritual good. The second reason Jesus gives why we should not be troubled is that there is a place prepared for us in heaven…To know our destiny is a great incentive, not only for the enjoyment of peace in the midst of turmoil but for godly living as well…The human heart…[has] the desire to have a genuine place of our own, a home, a place where we belong and know ourselves to belong…Who are those who seek to escape from this world? It is not those who are certain of a home in heaven.” (4)
The world is a scary place when we forfeit our peace by neglecting the One who offers it to us continually, who left heaven in utter humility to atone for our greatest fear and consequence—death. What threatens your sense of safety and your peace? Why do you not pray for God’s help when you are feeling vulnerable and troubled? How often do you turn to your own means of solving problems or resolving conflicts rather than ask God? How many hours or days of turmoil have you anxiously spent rather than spend the time with God? How can Jesus’s plans for your future with him help you to live the good life with him now? Be encouraged, “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 4:5b-7)
(1) Boice, James, Boice Expositional Commentary Series, Psalm 34:4-6, Baker Books, Software version, 1998.
(2) Boice, Ibid, John 14:1-4.
(3) Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Proverbs 29:25, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/proverbs-29.html
(4) Boice, Ibid.
July 31, 2019