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Monday, May 24, 2010

The Agony of Prayer

From Spiritual Leadership: Principles of Excellence for Every Believer by J. Oswald Sanders. Chapter 11 "Prayer and Leadership" is such a dynamic chapter that I'm having difficulty choosing the best parts to quote here--it is ALL worth quoting. For the remainder of May I'll follow the Holy Spirit's promptings to zero in on the three quotes He indicates as critical at this time.

From pages 86-87

Mastering the art of prayer, like anything else, takes time. The time we give it will be a true measure of its importance to us. We always find the time for important things. The most common excuse for little time spent in prayer is the list of "to do's" that crowd our day--all our many duties. To Martin Luther, an extra load of duties was reason enough to pray more, not less. Hear his plans for the next day's work: "Work, work from early till late. In fact I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer."

If Luther was busy, and prayed, so can we.

...We cannot learn about prayer except by praying...

The Christian leader who seeks an example to follow does well to turn to the life of Jesus Himself...Prayer was the dominant feature of His life and a recurring part of His teaching. Prayer kept His moral vision sharp and clear. Prayer gave Him courage to endure the perfect but painful will of His Father. Prayer paved the way for transfiguration. To Jesus, prayer was not a hasty add-on, but a joyous necessity...

Both our Lord and His bondslave Paul made clear that true prayer is not dreamy reverie. "All vital praying makes a drain on a man's vitality. True intercession is a sacrifice, a bleeding sacrifice," wrote J. H. Jowett. Jesus performed miracles without a sign of outward strain, but "he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears" (Hebrews 5:7)

Jean said:

I haven't been "bleeding" much in my prayers lately, Lord. I'm praying. I'm remembering so many people with heartbreaking situations. I'm opening my computer files and going down my lists as I bow at Your feet. But I'm not agonizing. I'm not bleeding--not yet.

Over the years since I accepted Christ as my Savior I've lived through some agonizing situations. They always drove me to my knees--no, to my face before Your throne. Loneliness, sickness, fear, grief, disappointment, indecision, sorrow, repentance have sent me running to Your arms in tears many times.

But lately life has been rather uneventful, calm, "safe." So I've been talking to You, listening to You. But I haven't been reduced to desperation, to pleading. And this is part of the responsibility of intercessory prayer--that I plead with You, that I cling to You until I sense that Your answer has come.

Last night I heard a presentation by the Chief of Staff of one of our elected officials. He crammed his two-hour presentation into 60 minutes. He laid out some little-known facts about terrorism in our Homeland. "What can we do about it?" was the first question to surface in my mind. And then, "How can we reverse the activity that's been simmering for the past 30 years?"

Pray. Spread the word to everyone I can. And pray.

Not deliver some unemotional recitation of our needs, but plead our case before You, Father, from a heart of agony. Agony for the future that will surely be ours without Your intervention. Agonize over my own failures, my personal sins that have allowed these things to germinate and grow in our country. Grieve over my contribution through my personal negligence to be vigilant in this wonderful land of freedom.

Can I agonize before You now, Father, begging You to reverse the trends, begging You to forgive our sins, begging You to change the purposes and plans of those who seek to oust You and become the rulers of this entire world? Is the message I heard last night enough to motivate me to agonize, to plead for You to stand strong and change the course of human events at this time in history?

Am I there yet, Father? Or will it again take my own personal visceral suffering to bring me to my face at Your feet?

God said:

I long to answer your prayers, Little One, on so many levels. I long to intercept your life and the lives around you. I don't want to watch you suffer. I want you to share in the eternal joy that I possess. Why? Just so that you can be "happy?" Just so your children and grandchildren can live out their earthly lives in peace?

No. I long to answer your prayers for My own glory. I long to intervene in your lives to display My power, My selfless love, My beauty and strength and glory. And whatever brings Me glory will ultimately be for your good, too.

That is the reason I gave you life--for My glory.

That is the reason I soul-breathed Adam in the first Garden--for My glory.

That is the reason I called the day and the night, the earth and the seas and all that is in them into existence--for My own glory.

And that is the reason I will listen and respond to your cries for mercy, for justice and for grace at this time.