The Primacy of Prayer and Scripture
Surely, for a life of growth in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, nothing can take the place of reading God’s Word and spending time in original, heartfelt prayer. Let me go on record as having said that right at the beginning. And I believe that with all my heart.
But following closely, at least for me, are the prayers, reflections, sermons, hymns, meditations, journals, and letters of saints who have walked oft and closely with the Lord…those who were saturated in his Word and who practiced his presence each day – all day – in every sphere of their lives. Such people minister to my soul in deep and profound ways.
Therefore, I unapologetically sponge off of others during my devotional time each morning and evening. This doesn’t mean I don’t read Scripture for myself. I do. And this doesn’t mean I don’t lift to the Lord my own prayers. I do that as well. But I have found that my Scripture-reading and prayer life is greatly blessed and enhanced by reading the God-centered, Scripture-directed thoughts, reflections, meditations, and prayers of others.
Launching Off Points
My prayer and thought-life are expanded well beyond my personal limitations when I read such devotional resources. In fact, I often find myself stopping in mid-sentence of someone else’s prayer… so I may lift up my own prayer to the Lord. So too, sometimes when I read a verse or two of Scripture in a meditation, I can’t help but pause and pray that text back to God. Such is how the Holy Spirit uses these resources in my life.
It would be the height of arrogance and folly not to take advantage of other pilgrims of the Way – wiser and godlier saints, the fellowship of the burning heart – those who have gone before us as well as those who travel with us today. I have been immeasurably edified by the Holy Spirit through their written testimonies of God’s power and grace.
For example, if I hadn’t used other devotional resources this morning, I would have missed out on the following…
“…Grant us, in all our doubts and uncertainties, the grace to ask what thou wouldest have us do, that the Spirit of Wisdom may save us from all false choices, and that in thy light we may see light, and in thy straight path may not stumble; through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
“…Jesus Christ said, ‘When thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what they right hand doeth.’ O God, grant that what I give may be given without self-congratulation, and without thought of praise or reward.”
“…Jesus Christ said, ‘What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?’ O God, give me grace so to live this day that, whatever else I lose, I may not lose my soul.”
“…Every morning I vow to love thee more fervently, to serve thee more sincerely, to be more devoted in my life, to be wholly thine; Yet I soon stumble, backslide, and have to soon confess my weakness, misery and sin. But I bless thee that the finished work of Jesus needs no addition from my doings, that his oblation is sufficient satisfaction for my sins.”
Beyond My Own Self-Interests
These thoughts have lifted my soul and led me to think and pray about quite a few things I probably wouldn’t have otherwise thought and prayed about. Such resources help move me from the tunnel-vision of my own limited, self-centered short-sightedness. They help me stay away from an exclusively "laundry-list prayer life" (i.e., a superficial “give-me-this-and-give-me-that” prayer list).
The last thing I would mention is that using such resources keeps my devotional time fresh. Without such tools, my prayer life could quickly grow stale, rote, and lifeless. But in and through his Word and prayer, as well as these other resources, God draws me closer to himself and enables me to become more like the man God created, redeemed, and called me to be. And that’s worth everything.
On that note, I wrote a "prayer journal" of my own that you may find helpful to you in your own prayer life. You can learn more about it and purchase it by clicking here. You can also see a few examples of what you'll find in the prayer journal by clicking here.
2 Chronicles 7:14 - …if my people who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
Good News, Bad News
The Lord was pleased with the Temple Solomon had completed. God said he would take up residence there to receive worship and sacrifices. Then something a little strange happened, at least from our perspective. In a vision, God spoke sobering words to Solomon by telling him that, should God decide to shut up the heavens to prevent rain from falling, or command locusts to devour the land, or even send a plague on “his own” people (v. 13), he would still show mercy to genuinely repentant hearts.
The past sins of God’s covenant people against the Holy One was no trifle to be winked at. God taking up residence in the Temple was also no excuse for disobedience and idolatry. These were great offenses. But our gracious Lord offered hope in verse 14. God declared that when these calamities (consequences for sin) befall his covenant people, there would be something they could do.
Four Steps of Repentance
First, his people were to humble themselves. There was no room for pride and self-dependence here. Instead, God’s people were to fall on their faces before God as an act of spiritual poverty and brokenness. They had neither strength nor wisdom in and of themselves. God was then, and remains now, the Source for all that and more.
They were also commanded to pray. Prayers of adoration to God, confession of sin, expressions of their helplessness, and complete dependence upon their sovereign God would be good places to start.
Next, they were to seek the face of God. Imagine that great Day when we will behold the face of God. It is that face which we are to pursue in this life. We too need to cultivate the character of God in our lives, trust him alone, follow his commands, seek his presence, and enter into intimate communion with him.
God also said his people must turn from their wicked ways. The rest of the chapter gives us a glimpse of what those wicked ways looked like: God’s people had been turning away from and forsaking God and his decrees, as well as serving other gods and worshipping them. This is wickedness in the sight of God and is why God said he might bring disaster on his own people (v. 22). God’s people were to abandon such spiritual adultery at once. That’s repentance.
Forgiveness and Healing Await
If God’s people humbled themselves, prayed, sought God’s face, and turned from their wicked ways, God promised to hear them, forgive their sin, and heal their land.
Ours is a land in desperate need of healing. Whether it’s our country, culture, local church, or family, there is much need for the healing power of God. But it will not come merely because we recognize the need. That’s a good first step, but more is required – genuine change – change that results in humbling oneself before God and clinging to him alone. Saturating ourselves in prayer, grieving over our transgressions and seeking his forgiveness and restoration is essential. Following hard after God – his will, commands, presence, and pleasure – should be our life’s pursuit. And biblical repentance is necessary – turning from our wicked ways and leaving them behind and turning in a Godward direction. Our prayers should include pleading with God to enable us to do just that.
Holy and Gracious
We want to experience God’s forgiveness and see our land healed. But change will have to first take place. Until then, we should expect the discipline of a loving Father – one who loves us too much to let us continue down a destructive path, and who, therefore, will do much to bring us back to the right one. Because he is holy, he will never overlook our transgressions.
Because he is gracious, God will continue to call us away from the gods of this age. He summons us back to obedience and submission to his Lordship. And with that comes his promise to forgive us and heal our land. Thanks be to God – the great Promise-Maker and Promise-Keeper.
· What comes to people’s minds when they hear the word, “repentance?” What working definition do you think they use? Why?
· Which of the four steps of repentance is hardest for you? Why do you think that is?
· What are 2-3 ways you could make repentance a more natural part of your life?
· What are the positive results that would happen if you more faithfully practiced biblical repentance?
· Do you spend much time crying out to God in intercessory prayer on behalf of your family, community, church, culture, country, and world in which you live? If not, why not?
· We cannot make other people genuinely repent, but how can our intercessory prayer still be a blessing to our land, as we beg God to heal it?
· If you meet with other men, include such intercessory prayer this week. If you don’t belong to a small group of men, give two or three friends a call and get started. You won’t believe the difference it will make in your life. And based on our Scripture, who knows how God will answer your prayers for our world?
Forgiving and healing God, you are holy and full of grace and you alone deserve to be worshipped. I give you praise that my sin, while detestable to you, does not prevent your continued offer of forgiveness and restoration. I ask you to never cease providing me with godly humility, so I can turn to you in complete recognition of my own sin and as well as my need for mercy and grace. Help me never believe I’m sufficient in and of myself. But more than mere recognition of my sin, I pray you will also enable me to turn away from sin and toward you in a life of joyful obedience. Give me also, O Lord, a heart that breaks for the land in which I live. Burden me with a desire to intercede for this pitiful and fallen world, knowing you long to hear such prayer and bring healing. My own rebellion and idolatry are surely representative of the wider culture in which I live. And so, dear God, I pray you will help us all see the destructive path we’re on and draw us into deeper and more intimate communion with you. In Christ’s holy and gracious name, I pray. Amen.
This Week’s Prayer Guide
[You can use this prayer guide in your own personal prayer time. However, I encourage you to use it with a group of Christian men. Each week you should spend time praising God for who he is, confessing your sin to him (be specific) as well as expressing gratitude to him for his gracious forgiveness. Also, don’t forget to thank God for the many ways he has poured out his goodness in your life. Then, focus on the following areas of supplication, which will change from week to week.]
Petitions – prayers for yourself
· Help me to grow in wisdom and become who you created and redeemed me to be.
· Renew my mind and enable me to cultivate a godly perspective and attitude regarding the various spheres and circumstances of my life.
· Today’s events and interactions with others, planned and unplanned
· Other needs
Intercession – prayers for others
· My family, immediate and extended
· Those struggling with sin, illness, or relational difficulties
· Other needs
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