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Posts Tagged ‘Faith in God

Our Lack of Prayer Shows our Practical Atheism

The great Puritan theologian Stephen Charnock wrote about what he called practical atheism.  While Charnock was clear that atheism is foolish (Psalm 14:1), he was quick to point out that many claimed to be theists but they live as atheists.  They don’t seek God, refuse to obey His laws or His Word, fail to acknowledge Him as Lord over all.  They claim with their mouths that they believe in God’s existence but their lives reflect that they live as if God does not exist.

Atheists often are quick to say that they do not believe in God or any deity but they turn around and often pray (“Oh God!”) when they face trials or pain.  Yet the practical atheist says that they believe in God but they never seek Him either until, like the atheist, they need Him.  Trials often make us believers when we have not been seeking God at all until we come face to face with our immortality and finiteness.

I believe our practical atheism is best seen in prayer.  One can read the Bible, talk theology, blog on theology, fellowship with other believers, but they do not seek God in prayer and show their own practical atheism.  They don’t need God.  They trust themselves or the creations of mankind to help them get through.  They don’t pray for much of anything at all if they pray at all.  They ignore the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:5-8 where we read:

5 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

7 “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

Notice that Jesus says that His followers would pray.  He assumes prayer.  Jesus says, “When you pray.”  Not “if you pray.”  Furthermore, our prayers are to be focused not for others to notice us but instead we are to pray in secret to our Father who is in secret (a point the atheist cannot fathom).  Jesus says that our Father will then reward us.

Jesus goes on in verses 7-8 to show us that prayer is not to be like the pagans who used “empty phrases” thinking that their false gods would hear them.  They could not.  Jesus reminds us in verse 8 that our Father knows what we need before we ask Him.  The true God of the Bible is absolutely sovereign and He is not hidden.  God is able not just to hear my prayers but He is involved in every facet of my being.  His divine providence watches over all of His creation (Matthew 6:25-33).

Yet the practical atheist ignores all of this and seeks the world or his own wisdom.  His prayer life (if he has one) proves that he doesn’t really believe in the promises of God.  He doesn’t believe in the promise of Jesus either here in Matthew 6:8 or Matthew 7:7-11 or Matthew 21:22.  If he did, he would pray but because he doesn’t pray, he shows his practical atheism.

How often have we first turned to the doctors of this world when we are sick (and we should not abandon seeking medical attention) but fail to go the Lord in prayer first.  We don’t believe in His providence or we would have been on our knees in holy prayer when we first felt ill or received the word that we were not well.  Our Father, says Jesus in Matthew 6:8, knows all of this by His sovereignty and care yet we ignore this and fail to seek His face.

How often have we ignored the promise of God in His Word to care for our needs (Matthew 6:11)?  How often have we shown our practical atheism because we fail to trust God and not be anxious for anything (Philippians 4:6) or about anything (Matthew 6:31-34)?  How often have we shown our practical atheism even in evangelism because we don’t pray for the lost (Romans 10:1; 1 Timothy 2:1-6) or even pray for laborers in the harvest fields (Matthew 9:37-38)?

Surely our prayer lives (or lack thereof) shows our practical atheism.  We claim we believe in the sovereignty of God but our actions show that we do not.  We testify to the truthfulness of Scripture yet how often do we ignore its precious promises (2 Peter 1:4).  We say that we trust in God but we go about as if we don’t trust Him at all.  We don’t believe in His providence in our lives.  We give Him no glory for all that He does for us even the smallest things like breathing, my heart beating, the ability to read and think, to be thankful that I can type this blog post.  We don’t acknowledge that God is over us in all things and that we need Him daily to simply survive.  This shows our practical atheism.

The true nature of the child of God is to be thankful.  Thankfulness in prayer is the mark of the disciple.  We acknowledge in prayer that God is sovereign, that He is in full control.  When we seek God, we are praising Him who made all things.  I love 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 in regard to prayer:

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Notice that Paul says here that we are to rejoice always which would lead to praying without ceasing which would lead to giving thanks in all circumstances.  And why?  Because of God.  This is the will of God for us in Christ Jesus (v. 18).  God’s will is for us to trust Him, to rely on Him, to seek Him in prayer, and to be thankful for His rule over all.

Don’t allow this day to pass without prayer.  Prayer will turn your heart away from practical atheism toward trusting Him who is sovereign over all.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

02/22/2014 at 10:23 AM

The Important Role of Faith in Prayer

21 And Jesus answered and said to them, “Truly I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ it will happen. 22 And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”

– Matthew 21:21-22 (NASB)

Hebrews 11:6 reads, “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”  God requires faith for us to approach Him.  After all, we cannot see God face to face and live (Exodus 33:20).  Faith trusts the promises of God and rests in the knowledge of His sovereignty and grace.  Faith trusts God even when it seems pointless or without hope.  True faith is what amazed Jesus (Matthew 8:10).  The lack of faith also amazed Jesus (Matthew 13:58).  In fact, Matthew 13:58 says that it was the lack of faith that caused Jesus to not do many miracles.  The lack of faith, in this case, stopped the power of God.  Amazing!

Jesus said in Matthew 21:21-22 that if we have faith, we can move mountains by our faith.  He said in verse 22 that all things that we ask for in prayer, believing, we will receive.  That is an amazing promise from Jesus Himself.  Of course some have misconstrued these verses to teach that if we have faith (and they mean faith in our faith), we can do whatever and pray for whatever and God is obligated to hear our prayers and answer them.  The balance of Matthew 21:21-22 and Mark 11:22-24 is that Jesus Himself prayed for the will of God to be done (Matthew 26:39).  John the Apostle also wrote that we are to pray according to the will of God (1 John 5:14-15).  How do we know the will of God?  I believe the will of God is learned from Scripture.  When we pray the Scriptures, we are praying according to the will of God.  For example, when we pray for someone to be saved, we can pray the promise of John 3:16 or 1 Timothy 2:4 or 1 John 2:2, knowing that it is the will of God to save the lost.  We can pray for the Holy Spirit to draw sinners unto the Savior as Jesus said He would do (John 16:8-11; Acts 16:14-15).  We can pray for people to be set free from the power of Satan (John 10:10).  We can pray for people to be sanctified (1 Thessalonians 4:3; 5:23-24).

Yet in all this we must believe the promises of God.  That is why liberals don’t pray because they don’t believe the Word of God.  Those who reject the inerrancy of the Word will struggle to pray as they no doubt struggle with their lack of faith in the promises of God in His holy Word.  Those who deny the authority of the Bible will struggle to wrestle with God since they have nothing to base their prayers upon.  To liberals and those who reject the Word of God, prayer will be nothing more than a boring ritual they perform.  Prayer to them has no power, no authority, no intimacy with the Almighty.

However, for this disciple of Jesus, prayer is wonderful.  I have the promises of God.  I have the promise of Jesus that He would hear my cries.  I have the promise that if I have faith, I can move mountains because of the God who can move mountains.  Prayer to me is vital.  Prayer is my breath.  Prayer brings me closer to the throne of God than any other thing that I do on earth.  Prayer fills me with the power of God to trust Him and do what He wants me to do.

I urge you to increase your faith through the knowledge of God’s Word (Romans 10:17).  I urge you to stand on the promises of God and trust Him through it all.  We have a holy God who is not far from us but abides with those who seek Him.  He longs to hear our cries.  He will hear us.  He will answer us.  He will provide.  He is good.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

06/12/2013 at 8:00 PM

Prayer Shatters Theological Liberalism

I have never known a liberal to be a person of prayer.  Now I can’t say that I have known lots of liberals but I have encountered a few here and there and the ones that I was able to ask about their prayer lives, it seemed they didn’t pray at all.  They counted prayer as a fundamentalist thing that we did to sooth ourselves.  I even met an emergent once who told me that he had replaced prayer with yoga.  Yoga as a replacement for prayer?

The fact is that all great prayer warriors in the kingdom of Christ were men and women of orthodoxy.  That is my experience.  Leonard Ravenhill, E.M. Bounds, George Mueller, John Hyde, Samuel Chadwick, Robert Chapman, Robert Mc’Cheyne, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon, A.W. Tozer, Vance Havner, D.L. Moody, and so many others were men of great prayer not to mention the great women of faith such as Amy Carmichael or Catherine Booth.  And all of them were orthodox in their theology.  Some were Arminians while some were Calvinists but they were orthodox nonetheless.

One book that liberals love to read on prayer is Richard Foster’s book Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home.  I was given this book years ago by an orthodox brother who was a man of prayer.  He told me that the book was a great book on prayer.  I must say that it was okay but not earth shattering.  For one, I enjoy books that quote lots of Scriptures on prayer.  Foster didn’t.  I enjoy books that give lots of examples from great saints of God such as E.M. Bounds or Oswald Chambers.  In Foster’s book, he quotes from the likes of Catholic mystics such as Thomas Merton or St. John of the Cross.  He speaks highly of contemplative prayer.  I found the book lacking.

Not that way when you read Leonard Ravenhill’s book Why Revival Tarries or E.M. Bounds’ The Weapon of Prayer or R.A. Torrey’s book How To Pray or Robert Brandt’s book The Spirit Helps Us Pray: A Biblical Theology of Prayer.  In these books you will find solid theology and practical tips from both the Scriptures and their own examples on how to pray.

I will say this about prayer, you can’t learn to pray from a book.  You can’t learn prayer by reading liberal or orthodox theologians.  You can only learn to pray by praying.  You can study every Scripture on prayer but in the end, if you don’t pray then what is the point of your studies?  As James 1:22 says, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”  We must take the Scriptures and obey them (Luke 6:46-49).  We can memorize all the major passages on prayer but if we fail to pray, we have done nothing.  Prayer must be done.  Prayer is not an idle teaching.

I have seen brothers in Christ who have begun to study liberal theologians or emergent authors such as Brian McLaren and I have watched as their prayer lives dwindled to nothing.  Because their faith was attacked, they begin to slowly drift from a strong faith in God who can do the impossible to a “faith” in nothing.  They drifted toward Psalm 14:1.  I have seen disciples who begun to listen to Rob Bell’s podcast and they stopped praying.  They stopped evangelizing.  Why?  Because they begin to listen to Bell and buy into what he was saying above the Scriptures.  They begin to buy into the postmodern idea that there are no absolutes and they begin to cast aside the “old traditions” such as true praying and evangelism.  Personally I have never met an emergent who was a serious person of prayer.  I have never met a liberal who was known for their intense prayer lives.  But I have met countless of disciples who would qualify as serious people of prayer and who sought to reach people with the gospel of Jesus Christ because they A) took God serious (Luke 18:1; Hebrews 11:6) and B) they obeyed Jesus’ command to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20) in the power of the Spirit (Acts 1:8).

How about you?  Do you pray much?  Are you a serious disciple of prayer?  Do you earnestly seek God in prayer?  Do you obey 1 Thessalonians 5:17?  Do you obey Romans 8:26-27?  Do you obey Colossians 4:2?  Do you obey Ephesians 6:18?  Do you obey Matthew 7:7-11?  Are these all Scriptures that are precious to you and feed your prayer life?  Are you studying other disciples such as Leonard Ravenhill or Charles Spurgeon on prayer?  Or are you wasting your time on theological liberalism that will never bring salvation or the presence of God?

What is amazing to me is that I have seen disciples who traded their strong prayer lives, their fasting, their evangelism, their passion for God and for His kingdom to accept emergent theology.  They went from strong disciples of Jesus to being liberals who had nothing in their souls to give to others and they stopped praying.  They stopped caring for the lost.  They stopped caring about helping others become disciples of Jesus.  They lost their joy in the process and today they write blogs about liberal points of theology and they waste their time reading books that will never make an eternal impact for the kingdom.  They no longer love Jesus.  This is the sad reality of dry, dead liberalism.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

09/24/2011 at 4:31 PM

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