Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Your prayers matter to God

Last Sunday I preached on prayer from Matthew 6:5-15. I made the point that some Christians struggle with prayer because they don't really "get it," at a deep level, that God is their Father. In other words they don't really get the gospel. Because the more you understand and feel God's love for you, the easier it is to talk to God and take your sins, concerns, needs, and desires to him. Makes sense, right?

But there could be something blocking the gospel from getting to the heart. Take me, for example. When I was growing up, the main emotion I felt when in the presence of my dad was fear. He wasn't physically abusive, but he was very critical and sometimes scathing in his verbal attacks. He had a way of sneering at me that cut holes in my heart. I never felt that I pleased him or made the grade.

When I was in college, money was an issue. I had an on-campus job, but it didn't pay much. My father shelled out a lot of bucks for my four years at the college I attended, and I didn't take out any student loans or win any scholarships. So when I needed spending money, I was afraid to ask my dad for help. I felt it would only make him mad and resentful. So instead of asking for cash, I would sell my record albums. I even sold my Giannini 12-string guitar - a beautiful instrument that I miss very much. It had a deeply resonant sound and was easy on the fingers. I sold it for much less than it was worth - all because I didn't dare go to my father with empty pockets and ask for a handout.

Many of us do the same thing with God. We are afraid to ask for a handout, afraid to go (AGAIN!) and ask for forgiveness, afraid to depend on him in helplessness.

But the Bible says that's exactly what God, our Father, WANTS us to do - depend on him! Jesus says in Matthew 7:9-11, "Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!"

The Westminster Shorter Catechism defines prayer essentially as "the offering up of our desires to God...." When you don't tell God what you need, you are denying your legal right as an adopted child of God. Moreover you are denying God the opportunity to do that which glorifies him, namely, to meet the needs of the helpless and empty. If, as John Piper says, "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him," then prayerlessness amounts to seeking satisfaction in something besides God and hence denies him glory.

Your prayers matter to God because you do. The gospel makes it possible to pray not with slavish fear but with safety, shamelessness, and joy. Ephesians 3:12 says that because of Jesus "we may approach God with freedom and confidence." Take your desires to God.

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