Friday, October 15, 2021

Back in service 5) Follow-ups

 After my sermon on prayer two emails arrived. The first came the next day querying the parable in Luke 11: 5-13 about the friend's persistence winning through as he kept knocking on the door.  'It makes it sound as though God doesn't really want to answer our prayers ' wrote the emailer.  Certainly, it is an unusual not to say daring story. We must be careful about unpacking it.  As a prayer about intercession it is about how our prayers for others, like the friend knocking on the door for loaves for his visitor's sake, takes us into a maturing process by which we come to understand more of the ways that God works out his purposes.  The mystery of prayer must always leave the outcome to God.  How many times have urgent prayers for healing, for example, not seemed to have a positive outcome.  And then some do have a glorious answer. What matters is our continuing dependency and faith as children of a living Father - that he hears us and will answer in his own way.

When I initially introduced the idea of 'five' prayers for persistence I met criticisms that it made prayer some sort of mechanical exercise or worse a manipulative practice.  As though we were insisting God answer our way.  The truth is that we always needed to pray about what we should pray together. From the outset we sought the prayers to be in God's will.  I like the way in the parable that its a question of feeding a hungry guest with three loaves specifically required.  That does sound like something which God approves! 

The other email referred to George Müller the nineteenth century intercessor whose persistent prayers resulted in extraordinary work with orphans in Bristol. It contained his advice for believers...

‘Be slow to take new steps in the Lord's service, or in your business, or in your families: weigh everything well; weigh all in the light of the Holy Scriptures and in the fear of God. Seek to have no will of your own, in order to ascertain the mind of God, regarding any steps you propose taking, so that you can honestly say you are willing to do the will of God, if He will only please to instruct you. But when you have found out what the will of God is, seek for His help, and seek it earnestly, perseveringly, patiently, believingly, expectantly; and you will surely in His own time and way obtain it.’

That drove me back to my copy of his autobiography; subtitled: A Million and a Half in Answer to Prayer.  It's a dense book and, no surprise, it tracks well with Luke 11: 5-13!

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