Make me a captive, Lord,
And then I shall be free;
Force me to render up my sword,
And I shall a conqueror be.
—George Matheson, 19th Century Scottish Pastor and Theologian
PRAYER: (from the Lectionary)
“Almighty God, you have given your only Son to be for us a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life: Give us grace to receive thankfully the fruits of his redeeming work, and to follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, Amen.”
PRAYER FOCUS: Praying Wisely
“Jesus, shall we call down fire from heaven to destroy those Samaritans who were rude to us?”
Talk about a selfish prayer. And these are the Disciples we’re talking about. Kind of shocking, isn’t it?
Or maybe you’ve been there—someone or something hurt you, or offended you, or frustrated you, and now you want a little bit of heavenly retribution. After all, Elijah called down fire from heaven, two bears ravaged forty-two young men who were tormenting Elisha, and we’re just getting started on biblical examples of smiting.
We must remember, however, that the Word of God, which is alive and active, is also the mighty channel the Spirit of God uses to bring men out of darkness and into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. As we study God’s Word, we are not to search for Harry Potter-like incantations to use against those who offend us. But rather, we are to seek words of life, to be transformed into the likeness of His Son.
Furthermore, how many times have we prayed for something we desperately wanted only to later fall on our knees and thank God for not granting that prayer? If God were to simply sign off on all our petitions without discretion, we would quickly destroy ourselves.
Yes, the Disciples were out of line to ask the Lord to smite the Samaritan village in question. Remember they were all under instruction at that time. Like us, they were spiritually immature, still coming to grips with the awesome power of prayer and the rightful use of God’s Will. Luke doesn’t give us much detail about Jesus’s reply to their vindictive request, other than to note Jesus rebuked His Disciples for making it (Luke 9:52-56).
Jonah, the miserable prophet—and one of our favorites, by the way—begged God to take his life away (Jonah 4:3). What if God had answered this prayer? Such praying was and is contrary to the will of God.
Wise King Solomon cautions, “Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few” (Ecclesiastes 5:2).
Daniel prayed the right way. First, he went to the Scriptures and searched out the mind of God. Then, after receiving clear direction, and sure of God’s will, he knelt before God in prayer and offered up a mighty prayer. “So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes” (Daniel 9:3).
Therefore we pray like Jesus taught us, and like John reminds us, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him” (1 John 5:14-15).
We must learn to weed out self-centered prayers, while at the same time seeking honest answers in great confidence. Key words here are according to HIS will. Like the Disciples, we often fail because we know too much about what we want and too little about what God wants. And like them, we will learn with practice.
And so we pray, like Daniel, having first sought the Lord God Almighty and His will.
We pray like Jesus, saying, “Thy Will, not mine, be done.” Amen.
It’s Monday Morning. Sometimes it is enough just to be in the Presence of the Living God and love Him. So let your words be few, Christian. Enjoy the love of your Father-God. May your cup overflow.