We think rightly or wrongly about prayer...according to the conception we have in our minds of prayer. If we think of prayer as the breath in our lungs and the blood from our hearts, we think rightly. The blood flows ceaselessly, and breathing continues ceaselessly; we're not conscious of it, but it's always going on. We're not always conscious of Jesus keeping us in perfect joint with God, but if we're obeying Him, He always is. Prayer's not an exercise, it's the life. Let's beware of anything that stops spontaneous prayer. "Pray without ceasing," let's keep the childlike habit of spontaneous prayer in our heart to God all the time.
Jesus never mentioned unanswered prayer, He had the boundless certainty that prayer is always answered. Have we by the Spirit the unspeakable certainty that Jesus had about prayer, or do we think of the times when God doesn't seem to have answered prayer? "Every one that asketh receiveth." We say - "But . . . , but . . ." God answers prayer in the best way, not sometimes, but every time, although the immediate manifestation of the answer in the domain in which we want it may not always follow. Do we expect God to answer prayer?
The danger with us is that we want to water down the things that Jesus says and make them mean something in accordance with common sense; if it were only common sense, it wasn't worth while for Him to say it. The things Jesus says about prayer are supernatural revelations.
Let's Take the Initiative!
"Add to your faith virtue. . ."
("Furnish your faith with resolution.") (MOFFATT.)
(2 Peter 1:5)
"Add" means there's something we have to do. We're in danger of forgetting that we can't do what God does, and that God won't do what we can do. We can't save ourselves nor sanctify ourselves, God does that; but God won't give us good habits, He won't give us character, He won't make us walk aright. We hav'ta do all that ourselves, we have to work out the salvation God has worked in. "Add" means to get into the habit of doing things, and in the initial stages it's difficult. To take the initiative is to make a beginning, to instruct ourselves in the way we have to go.
Let's beware of the tendency of "asking the way" when we know it perfectly well. Let's take the initiative...let's stop hesitating, and take the first step. Let's be resolute when God speaks, act in faith immediately on what He says, and never revise our decisions. If we hesitate when God tells us to do a thing, we endanger our "standing in grace". Let's take the initiative, take it ourselves, take the step with our will now, and make it impossible to go back. Let's burn our bridges behind us---"I will write that letter"; "I will pay that debt." Let's make the thing inevitable.
We've got to get into the habit of hearkening to God about everything, to form the habit of finding out what God says. If when a crisis comes, we instinctively turn to God, we know that the habit has been formed. We have to take the initiative where we are, not where we're not.
And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.
Every one of the actions in verses 18-19 has to do with words. Everything that came out of Him came out of an absolutely pure heart. He said, "I'm going to preach the gospel to the poor." The poor are those deprived or powerless, and the reason for His preaching was to give them vision and hope. Moses gave the enslaved Israelites good news of a similar sort: "God is going to free us and lead us to our own land."
Then Christ says, "I'm going to heal the brokenhearted." He means those whose hearts are broken in repentance. It's as if He says, "I'm going to take care of all your past mistakes. I will heal you and give you comfort so you can start out the journey to the Kingdom of God in good spiritual condition."
After this He says, "I'm going to preach deliverance to the captives." He will inspire enthusiasm and give hope for a bright future. He will recover the sight of the blind. He will provide truth, and therefore direction and clear thinking, to people. He will set them at liberty by forgiving them of their sins—and keep them free. He will preach the acceptable year of the Lord—the time is now—and instill them with urgency. Each of these steps is Him working on our mind.
Hardly any of us have moved an inch, as it were, since our calling. Most of us live in the same general area in which we were called. Even if we did move around the country, we're still under the same human government. Our location doesn't matter to God. He's after our mind. He wants to change the heart until it's pure like His Son's. In all of these functions, God is working on the mind by means of His word, His truth, empowering us through an educational process, and by the addition of His Spirit to make the best possible use of our free moral agency in our lives.
John 1:12 says—in the chapter where Jesus is identified as the Word of God, the logos, and as the Light of the world, which is the truth of God that points out the way—that we're given the right to be sons of God. The word "right" is an accurate translation, but the marginal reference is better: "authority." Perhaps an even better word is "empowered," which is the Greek word's real meaning. We're empowered to become part of the Kingdom of God. That empowerment has come by means of God's calling, the revelation of His purpose through His Word, and all the other instruction that's necessary for the accomplishment of the great purpose, God is working out.
That Word He has revealed to us is pure and unadulterated.
It's the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.