politics of prayer

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prayer-breath-of-the-soul-poster

So prayer is the breath of the soul, and too often I say instead of pray.  Too often I say I’ll pray for someone or about something and then forget to do it.  Does that mean God won’t answer prayer then?  Is the intention enough?  If He wants our good, then why should we bother to pray at all?  Shouldn’t we just depend on Him to do what He wants to do best?

It all boils down to two things — politics and progress.  To understand the politics of prayer, we have to skip back a few millennia and explore prehistoric Heaven.  We’ll get to the progress next post.


Long ago in a galaxy far, far, away…the shining angel Lucifer was unparalleled in glory among the created beings of Heaven.  Known as the “covering cherub” and installed amid the “stones of fire”, he was “perfect in his ways” until his “heart was lifted up because of [his] beauty” (Ezekiel 28:10).  He became jealous of the praise and adulation rightly given to Jesus Christ, and began a whisper campaign against God. That ended in an attempted coup and the banishment of Lucifer and a third of the heavenly host (Revelation 12:7-9).  He was bound to this earth, and we must know the rest — all sadness, wickedness, and everything evil comes from his continuing rebellion against the authority of God.

The politics of prayer come from Satan’s accusation that God is unfair.  God allowed the tree in the Garden of Eden as a chance for Adam and Eve to make a choice.  They chose to disobey.  Through the rest of history, we all have this same choice.  Job chose to obey, Judas to disobey, and so on to our day.  

Prayer comes into it by God not giving us unfair advantage.  That is, God cannot interfere in our lives unduly.  Satan’s complaint in the book of Job gives us an example of his lawyering:

Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”

“Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face” (Job 1:8-11).

God does allow Satan more-or-less free reign in Job’s life to the extent that he loses everything but his life (and his cranky wife), but still does not curse God.  He eventually is blessed by God and gets back everything he lost.  

All of this was to prove that God’s followers do not only follow Him because they receive benefits from doing so.  Of course we do, but often it seems like those who follow God fare worse than those who ignore Him.  It would not be fair if God was continuously interfering in the lives of His followers to help them out of trouble just because they had pledged to Him.  Nepotism, cronyism; I’m sure we can think of other less-than-savory business practices that apply.

But.

But there is this verse that says, “If you ask anything in My name, I will do it” (John 14:14).  Sort of a blank check, really.  Within reason, of course, but that is the verse that opens up the widest realms of possibilities when it comes to the blessings of God on those who pray.

Said a Christian writer,

“Our heavenly Father waits to bestow upon us the fullness of His blessing. It is our privilege to drink largely at the fountain of boundless love. What a wonder it is that we pray so little! God is ready and willing to hear the sincere prayer of the humblest of His children, and yet there is much manifest reluctance on our part to make known our wants to God. What can the angels of heaven think of poor helpless human beings, who are subject to temptation, when God’s heart of infinite love yearns toward them, ready to give them more than they can ask or think, and yet they pray so little and have so little faith?” (Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ, ch. 11).

I don’t know about you, but it sounds like God gives us as much as He fairly can, and then is waiting to pour out more if we ask!  The same author, in another book, says, 

Were not miracles wrought by Christ and His apostles? The same compassionate Savior lives today, and He is as willing to listen to the prayer of faith as when He walked visibly among men. The natural cooperates with the supernatural. It is a part of God’s plan to grant us, in answer to the prayer of faith, that which He would not bestow, did we not thus ask (The Spirit of Prophecy, v. 4, p. 348).

Did you catch that? “It is a part of God’s plan to grant us, in answer to the prayer of faith, that which He would not bestow, did we not thus ask.” Wow. That is amazing.  A whole Heaven’s worth of blessings going wasted just because we don’t ask!  

It’s kind of like what I tell my students when they complain I didn’t help them.  “I will help you if you ask for it.”  Now that’s usually coupled with “I’m not God; I can’t read your mind,” or another similar comment.  God does know our minds, our hearts, and, most importantly, what is best for us, but we have to ask. “You have not because you ask not” (James 4:2).

I am resolved to ask more.  

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forgive(n)

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“Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors…”

“Come now, and let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:18). 

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If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

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And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4:32).

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If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land (2 Chronicles 7:14).

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And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses (Mark 11:25).

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You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD (Leviticus 19:18).

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For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, 

he is guilty of all (James 2:10).

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For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God…(Romans 3:23)

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…There is none righteous, no, not one…(Romans 3:10)

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Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?

Jesus said unto him, I say not unto you, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.

Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, who would take account of his servants.

And when he had begun the reckoning, one was brought unto him, who owed him ten thousand talents.

But since he had nothing to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made.

The servant therefore fell down, and worshiped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.

Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and released him, and forgave him the debt.

But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellow servants, who owed him a hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me what you owe.

And his fellow servant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.

And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.

So when his fellow servants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done.

Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O you wicked servant, I forgave you all that debt, because you desired me:

Should not you also have had compassion on your fellow servant, even as I had pity on you?

And his lord was angry, and delivered him to the jailers, till he should pay all that was due unto him.

So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if you from your hearts forgive not everyone his brother their trespasses (Matthew 18:21-35).

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harsh judges all

we expect perfection in others

overlooking our own pet faults

pointing daggers

spreading words of ruin

shunning

lips curled

one who stumbles where

we happen to stand firm

eyes closed to others’ virtues

blind to our own inner rot

folly

for a heart-seeing God

forgives as we

forgive

and as we deny

we are denied

mercy

we cannot look down our noses at others

and also come crawling

begging to God

for mercy

undeserved and

unbestowed