Thursday, December 2, 2021

WHEN I DON'T DESIRE TO PRAY

I do not know  about you, but prayer - from  my perspective of  being a 63 year old (and  43 years a Christian) - has  been a life long challenge for me.  I have reason to believe  that  there are many  that have  a  similar struggle, and if you are among us, then I want to offer the following insight and wisdom  from the pen of the apostle   Paul in Romans  8:26,27

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”

Let me help you to understand the background against which the apostle  Paul makes this statement, after which I will make  a  perhaps surprising  observation.

CONTEXT 

The letter  to the Romans  is a profound exposition on the  doctrine of salvation. Paul helps us to see  that  all people  are  in need  of redemption, “for all have sinned  and have fallen short of the glory of God “ (Rom. 3:23).  All  of us   are under the just  wrath of  a holy God  (Rom. 1:18ff), unless God  does something to change that problem. And He does! In mercy God  chooses  to freely, unconditionally  and sovereignly impute righteousness to all  who  will trust in the substitutionary atonement of  the Lord Jesus Christ. By this act  Jesus  bore the sins of many, making atonement for them (Rom. 5:15). By this act He justifies  all those that actively  believe in Him and trust Him with all their life. In substituting His righteousness for our unrighteousness He makes us positionally righteous  before God the Father. That is why Romans 8:1-2  is such a great  truth for every  Christian to  embrace:

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.”

Once you are justified by God the Father  through Christ the Son, by the working of the Holy Spirit who opens your eyes to  the truth  of God’s way of saving people  you will never be the same!

Now here is the problem with which converted men and women frequently struggle:  If I am  justified   by God through Christ, does this mean that  I  am now  perfect – free from sin and all that?

Well, yes and no!

Yes, - because Christ  has made you perfect, and should you die right now, you will be ushered into God’s presence, righteous  and holy,  on account of Christ’s merits which have been imputed to you.

No, -  although you have been justified  and are positionally perfect, you continue to live in a fallen body, and in  a fallen world in which Satan  still  exercises his destructive   and deceptive rule, until Christ  comes again and defeats him. For this reason  you  still  will experience  struggle  with sin  in every way conceivable,  and that is the point of Romans 7:15-20   where  the apostle Paul confesses   his own  struggle with sin.   

Now  why am I telling you all this? Wasn't I supposed to tell you about my struggles with private  prayer? 

I am telling you all this because this is the context  in which our  text is found. 

And now I am going to relate this context  to  the  problem  that (I suspect) we all have with prayer. 

Let me begin by giving you three propositions from this text and context before applying this to  a  call to persevere in prayer, with the help of the Holy Spirit, no matter how much you and I may struggle right now... 

Our three propositions are these...

(i)                 You must pray.

(ii)               You    cannnot  and will not pray without help.

(iii)             The  Holy Spirit helps  you to pray.

A SURPRISING OBSERVATION!  

Were you surprised  that I said that you  can’t or  won’t  pray?  Where do  I get that  from?   

Two  Observations 

(i)  from Experience

(ii) from Scripture

From experience.  I have  told you already. I know that  my prayer life  is horribly  stunted. I suspect that this is also true for you, unless you have received unusual grace from God in this regard  (and some people do!). But the average Christian will confess that  he  or she struggles to pray. The world, the flesh and the devil conspire  against us in this. Many Christians will confess  that they  are easily discouraged and distracted   and  that they easily give up in prayer. Most of us know  and confess that we do not  pray as  we  ought  to  pray. 

We see  this  also  confirmed in  the Scriptures  which we have read. Read Romans 8:26  again: 

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought….” . 

The apostle Paul confesses and identifies with you and me that he is  weak  and unable to pray as he ought to! That encourages me somewhat, but not too much, because I know that must pray. I know that prayerlessness has  spiritual consequences.   But I can’t seem to pray as I ought to.  I can’t get going.

What now?

This means that we  are going to have to look for the  ability to pray elsewhere, but before we get there allow me just to make some  things clear.

  • The weakness of our  prayer  life does not lie in the fact that  our salvation  from God is lacking.The weakness of our  prayer  does not lie in our justification  from God. Remember? Through Jesus Christ we are  justified; we are  made right with God. We lack nothing there.
  • The weakness  of our prayer life  also does not lie in our sanctification. Sanctification is the  progressive and ongoing work of the  Holy Spirit  after  we have been justified. Many people  erroneously think that sanctification is  what they  contribute to their  salvation. I used to believe that, until I was corrected  by the Scriptures.  I now know  that sanctification is  as much the work of God  as is our justification.  There is nothing lacking here.

So where   can  the weakness  of your and my prayer life  be found?  

It is  found in us! Remember? We have weak bodies and weak minds. Together with all creation we are groaning  inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies (Rom. 8:22,23). So, when we try to pray  in our  natural strength  then  we shall  find that we do not have it in us  to pray as we ought to pray.  We find that we are  either  too phlegmatic  or  too tired  or too distracted. The devil  too helps in this!!! 

We see this in Jesus’ disciples.  The disciples could not keep awake in the hour of Christ’s great trial in the garden of Gethsemane.  He asked them to watch and pray with Him. Three times He came back and found them asleep. He warned them that they should stay awake  at this hour, otherwise they would fall into temptation  (Matt 26:41) …. AND THEY DID! (Matt. 26:56). 

In ourselves  we  lack  ability  and perseverance. When it   comes to prayer then we know that we are  weak. We find that many days go by without any meaningful prayer work being done. And when we do it, we find it dull and   we watch the clock and we cannot wait for this time to finish, so that we can scratch the quiet time off our duty list!  Does this sound familiar?

The same is true when it comes  to attending our   corporate  prayer  time at church. We need to pray corporately!  We cant afford not to pray, because the work of God  in and through our church is so big and so profound  that  all  of our combined   human genius  will not  cope  with the spiritual  demands  before us. We must  pray together, corporately, as one body!  We see the powerful  effects of corporate prayer  in  Acts  4:23-31;  Acts 12; Acts 10; Acts 13:1-3 etc. You may even have been a  part of a corporate,  church prayer meeting after which God had moved in  amazing swiftness and power  to answer that prayer. 

We struggle to pray, privately and corporately, but the point is that we must pray. It does not help us if we do not pray. We will remain powerless as long as we fail to plead with God to help us in this work. 

What then must we do against  our  lack of desire to pray? 

THE ROLE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT IN  PRAYER   

We must rely on the power of the Holy Spirit, and thankfully  He is  given by God the Father and the Son  for this purpose -  to help us in our weakness!
Knowing then  that it is not in you to pray  as you ought,  the Bible now suggests  that you need to seek  help  from the Holy Spirit for this task.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”

Paul knows that the life and health  of the church depends upon the power of God. The power and help  of God for this great work   must be solicited by prayer, and if the problem is that you can’t seem to pray or simply won’t pray – then what must you do?

You must  cast yourself in ALL your weakness upon the Holy Spirit!

And what  will He do, once you confess your weakness and your helplessness  in this matter? 

Here is the promise

                 (i)                 He helps us

                 (ii)               He Himself intercedes for us with groanings  to  deep for words

                 (iii)              He intercedes for the saints  (you!)  according to the will of God

This puts a  fresh perspective on prayer,  and I trust  that you will be bold enough to  test God in this matter.  If prayer is God’s will  (Phil. 4:6; Col. 4:2; 1 Tim 2:8) and if you  know that God wants you to do this, then  ASK the Holy Spirit for help!

IN SUMMARY

  • You must pray
  • You cannot  and will not pray without help  
  • You must ask the Holy Spirit to help you. He is the promised  Helper  who is sent by Jesus (Jn. 14:16) to help us in our manifest weakness.  
  • This is what makes the Christian life  a supernatural life. It is  meant to be lived in dependence upon God  from whom we must seek our help always - and particularly in prayer.   

 

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