Monday, July 7, 2014

Thoughts on Prayer III

2.     Prayer In times of joy

What joys may we expect as believers? How are we to make to make this attitude a part of our prayers?
1)      Two kinds of joy
 – First, A quiet confidence in the care of Christ - we remember the times God has granted a quiet, peaceful joy to our hearts in the midst of trouble. Deep within our souls God has instilled a confidence that He will never leave us alone. Even when life presents hardships and troubles, we know that Christ is with us: Matt. 28:20; Ps. 23:4. Though difficulties assail us on every side, they can never utterly destroy the possibility of inner peace through faith. (Rom. 8:35-37) Consider Psalm 22:21-31. consider how a sick kid would simply lie on the lap of the parents happy and contented...this is the way we should find all peace while in Christ.

Second, an exuberant rejoicing over Christ’s marvellous blessings. The wonder of being a child of God is not merely having an inner peace during hardship. Sometimes God’s blessings are so extraordinary that we are overcome with excitement. Special events like birth of a healthy baby, sudden healing of a sick loved one, major accomplishment in life, etc. all these serve us with exuberant joy so that the evils of this world seem to vanish before our eyes as we bathe in the splendour of the moment. Consider Psalm 150:1-6. The Psalmist does not just say, “Thank you!” He says far more than that! The kid is not simply resting peacefully on the bosom of the father but jumping up and down full of joy and excitement of birthday morning.

Most believers can testify to experiencing a quiet time in Christ from time to time, but  spirit of full celebration captures the hearts of believers less frequently. Even noteworthy blessings come, they see only the added responsibilities and troubles that are sure to follow. No matter what happens, they can take delight in life.

2)      A way to joy
What are some of the barriers keep us from Christian joy?
ü  Traumatic disappointments separate us from full delight in the grace of God
ü  Guilt over sin also dull our appreciation of God’s blessings
ü  Life’s troubles bring us much misery that seems we will be forever under their load
Yet we must not settle for simplistic quick-fix methods given by prosperity preachers in health and wealth heresy – positive confession stuff. They do not work, at best it is burying heads in the sand! So what is the true path to joy, if there is any? What are some of the ways we can experience real Christian joy?
Prayer as a way to joy: e.g. Psalm 22 begin with sorrow and despair but turns out to praise. Psalm 59 also begins with utter despair (vv.3,4) but a different attitude emerge at the end (see v.17). Psalm 13 also reveals a troubled spirit at first (v.2) but this prayer ends with a joyful exclamation of praise (vv. 5,6). All the Psalms are like this except Psalm 88 that begins and ends with a negative note (see v.1 and 18). This then is to show that prayer is not a magical pill – we must not think that talking with God will automatically bring an end to all of our sorrows. Some troubles stays on for a long time so that we learn patience and perseverance through the “thorn in the flesh to keep us from being conceited” (2Cor. 12:8-9) among other benefits that the Lord has for us. Consider Psalm 73:2-11, on his search for understanding that ends in understanding found in prayer (vv.16, 17). He did not attempt to solve his problems on his own but looked up to the Lord for help and understanding and found the answer. Even now prayer is an excellent way to joy and peace – Phil 4:4-7 in the midst of anxiety, worry and gloom.

3)      The expression of joy
Prayer is not only the path to joy but also an opportunity to express joy. We find both quiet and exuberant gladness in biblical prayers. Just as troubles occupy a prominent place in many Psalms, so expressions of happiness appear in many places. Sadly prayers of many believers today do not express joy. At best we casually express thanksgiving and joy in our prayers in a few statements, in the most restrained manner that so much falls short of the biblical examples. Why is this case?
We can spend hours praying for someone’s healing, but at best a minute to thank the Lord! Could it be that we put our needs higher than praising of the Lord? As much important as are petitions in prayer, we must not allow them to crowd out joy and gladness in prayer. Consider the attitude of Psalm 131 to show an expression of inner peace – like a relaxing baby, who is not pestering the mother with needs!
Consider the attitude of Psalm 9:1a as an expression of enthusiasm and joy in shouting, clapping and dance, all emphasizing an attitude of exuberance. When the football teams score a goal – do you expect them to – score. No it is GOOOOAL!!!!

Note the following:
1)      Joy arises out of reflection on God. His Splendour (Psalm 104:1), His mercy (Ps.117). Thinking about how wonderful God is often fills us with great joy and happiness, for this is the God who has set His redemptive love on us.
2)      Psalmists look at the world around them and see God’s blessings there. Many circumstances and events also create an overwhelming joy in the hearts of the faithful. Ps. 104:24-25
3)      Expression of joy by enumerating the ways God has blessed their personal lives (Ps. 116:12-14). Prayer is an occasion for us to tell God of our joys. We are called upon to display our happiness to Him. Talking about the wonders of God, the world around us and our personal lives gives us the opportunity to express excitement and joy in prayer.

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