Prayer

A. W. Pink, “…what is now being taught on the subject of prayer, and the deplorable thing is that scarcely a voice is lifted in protest. To say that “human destinies may be changed and moulded by the will of man” is rank infidelity—that is the only proper term for it. Should any one challenge this classification, we would ask them whether they can find an infidel anywhere who would dissent from such a statement, and we are confident that such an one could not be found. To say that “God has ordained that human destinies may be changed and moulded by the will of man”, is absolutely untrue. “Human destiny” is settled not by “the will of man,” but by the will of God. That which determines human destiny is whether or not a man has been born again, for it is written, “Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God”. And as to whose will, whether God’s or man’s, is responsible for the new birth is settled, unequivocally, by John 1:13—”Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but OF GOD”. To say that “human destiny” may be changed by the will of man, is to make the creature’s will supreme, and that is, virtually, to dethrone God. But what saith the Scriptures? Let the Book answer: “The Lord killeth, and maketh alive: He bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up. The Lord maketh poor, and maketh rich: He bringeth low, and lifteth up. He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory” (1 Sam. 2:6-8). Link

John Gill provides a proper theological background to prayer, “…it should be said that God’s will is immutable, and cannot be altered by our crying. When the mind of God is not toward a people to do them good, it cannot be turned to them by the most fervent and importunate prayers of those who have the greatest interest in Him—”Then said the Lord unto me, Though Moses and Samuel stood before Me, yet My mind could not be toward this people: cast them out of My sight, and let them go forth” (Jer. 15:1). The prayers of Moses to enter the promised land is a parallel case.

Our views respecting prayer need to be revised and brought into harmony with the teaching of Scripture on the subject. The prevailing idea seems to be, that I come to God and ask Him for something that I want, and that I expect Him to give me that which I have asked. But this is a most dishonoring and degrading conception. The popular belief reduces God to a servant, our servant: doing our bidding, performing our pleasure, granting our desires. No; prayer is a coming to God, telling Him my need, committing my way unto the Lord, and leaving Him to deal with it as seemeth Him best. This makes my will subject to His, instead of, as in the former case, seeking to bring His will into subjection to mine. No prayer is pleasing to God unless the spirit actuating it is, “not my will, but thine be done”.

“When God bestows blessings on a praying people, it is not for the sake of their prayers, as if He was inclined and turned by them; but it is for His own sake, and of His own sovereign will and pleasure. Should it be said, to what purpose then is prayer? it is answered, This is the way and means God has appointed, for the communication of the blessing of His goodness to His people. For though He has purposed, provided, and promised them, yet He will be sought unto, to give them, and it is a duty and privilege to ask. When they are blessed with a spirit of prayer, it forebodes well, and looks as if God intended to bestow the good things asked, which should be asked always with submission to the will of God, saying, Not my will but Thine be done

Request for prayer

TBS posted the following prayer request October 19th. Please offer prayer for the Trinitarian Bible Society who remains a consistent witness to the word of God. For many of us Reformed folks who hold to the old Reformed confessions, the Protestant Bible, especially the Authorized Version holds a special place in our churches.

As the Westminster and Second London Baptist Confessions so clearly state,

“immediately inspired by God, and by his singular care and providence kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentic; so as in all controversies of religion, the church is finally to appeal to them.” (article 1:8)

TBS

At the time of writing the Lord has not yet seen fit in His infinite wisdom to send a tenant for the Society’s investment property, John Wycliffe House, after nearly a year of advertising. This matter is becoming an increasing concern because the Society is around £210,000 per annum worse off without a tenant, meaning the Society’s General Fund budget will be significantly impacted in 2019.  We seek your prayers that a suitable tenant may be provided, but if it is not His will to do so that the General Committee and Senior Management would be given much wisdom to know what to do.

In addition, the Society in the UK is facing another significant financial challenge: whereas historically legacy income has averaged around £400,000 per annum, there has been an almost complete absence of legacy income in 2018. Normally this income would have been carried forward and used to support the 2019 budget. This, combined with the matter of John Wycliffe House, has left us with severe challenges in reaching a sustainable budget for 2019. We seek your urgent prayers that the Lord would appear for us financially once again, and also that He would grant much wisdom to the Society’s Trustees and Senior Management.

Wandering Thoughts

How the mind causes our thoughts to wander:mind

The arrogance of the mind alienates us from the life of God, and from communion with him. When a present and appropriate petition or instruction is conveyed through the ear into the understanding, it shamelessly plays therewith, and takes occasion to run out on some contiguous notion; and from that to another and at length rests and dwells on some strange and unusual point, till the gates of good Spirit, and the present matter has ended. And thus by a default in the understanding, we seek not God, Psalm 53.2[i], nor find him as we might; and that excellent faculty, which would penetrate into the divine mysteries, and should guide the will and heart unto God, by the deceptiveness of its unmortified vanity, mislead us from the chief good, and entangles us in distractions. We read of a “defilement of body and spirit,” 2 Corinthians 7.1[ii], whereof surely this is a part, and must be cleansed in them that will “perfect holiness in the fear of God.” – Rev. Richard Steele (I’ve updated the language. Any words in italics have been altered.)

divider

[i] “God looks down from heaven on the children of man to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God.”

[ii] “Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God. “

Spiritual Formation & Discipline

Some encouragement I found on a forum. tornbible

  • Prayer (Matthew 6:9; 1 Thessalonians 5:17; Ephesians 6:18; Colossians 4:2; Acts 6:4)
  • Meditation (Philippians 4:8; Psalms 119:97; Psalms 1:2; Joshua 1:8)
  • Fasting (Matthew 6:16-18; Luke 5:35)
  • Study (2 Timothy 2:15; 2 Timothy 3:16-17)
  • Scripture Memorization (Colossians 3:16; Psalms 119:11; Psalms 119:16)
  • Simplicity (1 Thessalonians 4:11; Philippians 4:11; Matthew 6:33)
  • Silence (Psalms 62:5; Psalms 46:10; James 1:19)
  • Solitude (Matthew 14:23; Mark 1:35; Mark 6:31; Luke 5:15)
  • Submission (Ephesians 5:21; Mark 8:34-35; Luke 22:42)
  • Service (Mark 10:45; John 13:12-17; 1 Peter 4:10)
  • Giving (Matthew 5:42; Matthew 6:19-21; 2 Corinthians 9:6-8; Deuteronomy 16:17)
  • Fellowship (Hebrews 10:24-25; Acts 2:42; 1 Corinthians 14:26)
  • Celebration (John 15:11; Philippians 4:4)
  • Worship (Matthew 4:10; John 4:23-24)

Union with God

red maple

“The soul cannot live unless it is ineffably and without confusion united to God, who is truly the life eternal (1 John 5:20). Before this union in knowledge, vision, and perception it is dead, even though it is endowed with intellect and is by nature immortal…” Symeon the New Theologian (949 – 1022)

Anglican Rosary

 

“Pray without ceasing.” 1 Thessalonians 5.17

Years ago, when I was new to the Christian faith and a member of the Anglican Church, I purchased a string of beads called the Anglican rosary. When I left the communion they sat unused with other religious paraphernalia until this year. I have recently decided to throw myself into Anglicanism, observing Lent and attending the Lord’s Supper on a weekly basis. I have also decided to pray using beads and have still found them beneficial as an aid to prayer. I thought it might be a good to share how I have been using the beads and include some of the prayers and meditations I’ve found most useful.

beads

There is no set form of prayers like you would find with the Roman Catholic rosary so I have been free to choose more biblical prayers for my prayer times.

The Anglican rosary begins with the cross. I hold the cross in my hand and recite the Nicene Creed from the Book of Common Prayer taking time to reflect upon the words of the creed.

On the invitatory bead I make a confession of sins and ask for forgiveness. The Book of Common Prayer has a beautiful confession from the liturgy of the Lord’s Supper that I like to use before beginning the “weeks.”

Throughout the weeks I say the ancient Jesus Prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ Son of God, Have mercy on me a Sinner.” This is a prayer that I have used for almost 20 years without beads and one that I have found leads to a deeper sense of communion with Christ. As I pray I inhale and silently say, “Lord Jesus Christ Son of God” and exhale, “Have mercy upon me a sinner.” This slows down the prayer and allows me to focus on Jesus Christ.

On each cruciform bead I like to pray the Our Father (Matt. 6). I find consistency the best way to pray so I use the same prayers changing little if at all.IMG_20180321_203432_230

The final invitatory bead is the conclusion of the rosary and I finish with, “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.” Psalm 19.14

While holding the cross I use the final moments of my prayer time to think of the Gospel readings from the Lectionary or some other theological work I’ve recently read. The prayers and the final meditation draw one closer to Christ by driving home biblical passages and concept.

A Note on Repetitive Prayer: 

Our Lord gives the warning that is often applied to those who use prayer beads and rosaries, one doesn’t apply to the Anglican Rosary,

But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Matt. 6.7

Let’s add some context. The footnote in the Geneva Bible reads on Matthew 6.7, “Long prayers are not condemned, but vain, needless, and superstitious ones. ” I believe this is actuate. Setting aside a specific time isn’t the issue but the motive is the issue. If one was to believe we could trade our prayers to earn a reward we would be in violation of the Lord’s command and acting superstitiously.

The People’s New Testament Commentary reads, “What is forbidden is not much praying, nor praying in the same words (the Lord did both), but making the number of prayers, length of prayers, or time spent in praying, a point of observance and of merit. 1 Kings 18:26 gives an example of the repetitions of the heathen. Mahometans and Catholics still hold that there is merit in repeating certain prayers a set number of times.” (emphasis added) I do not believe Matthew 6.7 is condemning rosary style prayers but pagan prayers performed to earn something and prayer done out of a superstitious need for comfort.

Christians are instructed to avoid “vain repetitions” when praying, but I must contend the Jesus Prayer or similar prayers are not in vain. The time I spend in prayer is not superstitious but soul nourishing. When I pray, each and every time, the words of the prayer are new. They strike me with fresh force and meaning. Prayer is needful to the spiritual life and must be meaningful so choose your prayers wisely. The prayers you choose should be taken from or relating to scripture with a motive to love the Lord Jesus more. May God through Jesus Christ forgive me if I am in error on this subject.

Yours in the Lord,

jm

Fasting and Alms-deeds

KnoxMaryJohn Knox fasted and prayed,

“Give me Scotland or I die!”

Knox fasted so often that it is said Queen Mary feared his prayers more than all the armies of Scotland.

Knox on:

WHAT FASTING AND ALMS-DEEDS ARE, WITH PRAYER

And albeit to fervent prayer are joined fasting, watching, and alms-deeds, yet none of them are the cause that God does accept our prayers; but they are spurs which suffer us not to vary, but make us more able to continue in prayer, which the mercy of God does accept. But here it may be objected, that David prays, “Keep my life, O Lord, for I am holy. O Lord, save my soul, for I am innocent; and suffer me not to be consumed” (Ps. 86:2). Also Hezekiah, “Remember, Lord, I beseech thee, that I have walked righteously before thee, and that I have wrought that which is good in thy sight” (2 Kings 20:3). These words are not spoken of men glorious, neither yet trusting in their own works. But herein they testify themselves to be the sons of God, by regeneration; to whom he promises always to be merciful, and at all times to hear their prayers.

The cause of their boldness was Jesus Christ. And so their words spring from a wonted, constant, and fervent faith, surely believing that, as God of his infinite mercy had called them to his knowledge, not suffering them to walk after their own natural wickedness, but partly had taught them to conform themselves to his holy law; and that for the promised Seed’s sake; so might he not leave them destitute of comfort, consolation, and defence in so great and extreme necessity. And so they allege not their justice to glory thereof, or to put trust therein, but to strengthen and confirm them in God’s promises.

And this consolation I would wish all Christians in their prayers: a testimony of a good conscience to assure them of God’s promises. But to obtain what they ask must only depend upon him, all opinion and thought of our own justice being laid aside. And moreover David, in the words above, compares himself with King Saul, and with the rest of his enemies, who wrongfully persecuted him; desiring of God that they prevail not against him, as [though] he would say, “Unjustly do they persecute me, and, therefore, according to my innocence defend me.” For otherwise he confesses himself most grievously to have offended God, as in the preceding places he clearly testifies. (end quote)

May you celebrate Lent by feasting on the word and sacrament.

Yours in the Lord,

jm

PS: Before commenting read Yes and No: Lent and the Reformed Faith Today

Ambrose & Augustine on Fasting

Ambrose of Milan (339-397)

“And what is the intention of the Scripture which teaches us that Peter fasted, and that the revelation concerning the baptism of Gentiles was made to him when fasting and prayingAugustineAmbrose, Acts 10:10 except to show that the Saints themselves advance when they fast. Finally, Moses received the Law when he was fasting; Exodus 34:28 and so Peter when fasting was taught the grace of the New Testament. Daniel too by virtue of his fast stopped the mouths of the lions and saw the events of future times. Daniel vi.-vii And what safety can there be for us unless we wash away our sins by fasting, since Scripture says that fasting and alms do away sin? Tobit 12:8-9

Who then are these new teachers who reject the merit of fasting? Is it not the voice of heathen who say, Let us eat and drink? whom the Apostle well ridicules, when he says: If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantages it me if the dead rise not? Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die. 1 Corinthians 15:32 That is to say, What profited me my contention even unto death, except that I might redeem my body? And it is redeemed in vain if there is no hope of the resurrection. And, consequently, if all hope of the resurrection is lost, let us eat and drink, let us not lose the enjoyment of things present, who have none of things to come. It is then for them to indulge in meats and drinks who hope for nothing after death.

Rightly then does the Apostle, arguing against these men, warn us that we be not shaken by such opinions, saying: Be not deceived, evil communications corrupt good manners. Be righteously sober and sin not, for some have no knowledge of God. 1 Corinthians 15:33 Sobriety, then, is good, for drunkenness is sin. (Epistle 63: 16-18)”

Augustine (354–430)

“Fasting cleanses the soul, raises the mind, subjects one’s flesh to the spirit, renders the heart contrite and humble, scatters the clouds of concupiscence, quenches the fire of lust, and kindles the true light of chastity. Enter again into yourself.”

Preparing for Lent

ash-wednesday

This Wednesday I will receive the imposition of ashes.

I will start the day with prayer and fasting, eating after the service and Holy Communion has been received. The plan so far is to abstain from meat Wednesdays and Fridays throughout Lent, setting specific time aside for prayer and limiting my claroic intake so I remain a little hungry throughout the Lenten season.

My motive for taking part in Lent this year is simple, to discipline my self and focus on Christ and His glory. My motive in blogging about it is to stay on task and encourage others.

I am a great sinner and ask for your prayers as I begin this journey.

Yours in the Lord,

jm

Book of Common Prayer

Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid; Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may pe

I’ve been using the BCP for devotions off and on for a few years now. At one time I believe it was nothing more than popish doctrine made more palatable to Protestants (see Gill here and here) but I have since changed my mind and recommend it as a source guide for devotion and prayer. I’ll include some information for your perusal:

How to use the Book of Common Prayer

About the Canadian Prayer Book

App – I found mine using Play Store

daily prayer app