I wanted to break a long silence on this blog, to start to bring some posts about prayer. While God has been doing a lot of things with me lately, the main one is to challenge my prayer life. I went through a stage of reading a lot about prayer, and then I thought: hang on, why read about prayer when you can pray? So I stopped reading about prayer.
But, as you can imagine, I did not naturally find that prayer filled those gaps. Prayer isn’t natural at all, it’s supernatural – and it requires some application and effort. Needless to say, the benefits are splendid. But God has been speaking to me also about the need for the church to pray. I was encouraged at a prayer meeting on Friday night, that a Christian came from a different church who hadn’t come before, and I was also inspired by his prayers – they were real, and they were broken.
Look what Tozer has to say (yes! I’ve started to read a little about prayer again!) about one of the major problems as we start to get more involved in prayer:
The problem is self. Selfishness is never so exquisitely selfish as when it is on its knees. Self is the serpent in the garden, the golden wedge in the tent of Achan, and it renders every prayer ineffective until it is identified and repudiated.
Self turns what would otherwise be a pure and powerful prayer into a weak and ineffective one.
I may, for instance, earnestly pray for the glory of God to be manifested to this generation of men, and spoil the whole thing by my secret hope that I may be the one through whom he manifests the glory.
I may cry loudly to God that the church be restored to her New Testament splendour, and secretly dream that I may be the one to lead her in; thus I block the work of the Spirit by my impure motive. My hidden desire for a share of the glory prevents God from hearing me. So self, all bold and shameless, follows me to the altar, kneels with me in prayer and destroys my prayer before it is uttered.
It is possible to want the walls of Jerusalem rebuilt, but to want to be known as the Nehemiah who rebuilt them. It is possible to want the prophets of Baal defeated, but to dream of being the Elijah who stands dramatically on the mount to call down the fire for all the world to see…
If you are a minister, have you ever dreamed of a sea of eager faces hanging on your every word?
If you are a Christian businessman, have you ever let your mind wander over your mighty prayers for success in business, the dramatic answer, the proud testimony, maybe the book with your picture on it?
Then you know what it is to be hit where it hurts worst; you know what it is to be attacked where you are most defenceless.
Too often we pray for the right things but desire the answer for the wrong reasons, one reason being a desire to gain a reputation among the saints. .. if the world will not appreciate our sterling worth, then the church will! If we cannot enjoy the reputation of being a great politician or actor or footballer we will settle for a big reputation as an unusual Christian. That is to desire flesh instead of manna, and God may send leanness to our souls as a result.
I will cite more from Tozer in a future post, but suffice it to say that I have caught myself dreaming the very things that Tozer speaks of here. It is all too easy. And it’s not what He is about. We are seeking the glory of God, and we are also seeking for the Church to be made beautiful, to be made ready, to be presented without flaw and without spot before the presence of His glory.
One day each of us will give an account. This morning I was praying, and I noticed that the previous day had little to recommend it. Just as well that I am enjoying Christ, and can be found in Him, and not in my wasted, poor, worldly day! Tozer, finally, again, this time on worship:
I have found that God will not dwell in spiteful and polluted thoughts. He will not dwell in lustful and covetous thoughts. He will not dwell in proud and selfish thoughts.
God tells us to make a sanctuary of our thoughts in which He can dwell. He treasures our pure and loving thoughts, our meek and charitable and kindly thoughts. These are thoughts like His own.
As God dwells in your thoughts, you will be worshipping, and God will be accepting. He will be smelling the incense of your high intention even when the cares of life are intense and activity is all around you…. There really is no argument. We know what God wants us to be. He wants us to be worshippers!