29 November 2010

Brutish Prayers

What fills your prayers? For what do you spend most of your “knee-time”? In many cases the focus of our prayers fixates on earthly goods and temporal welfare. We ask God to bless our work, fill our coffers, heal our bodies, provide our food, increase our giving, enlarge our church and protect our nation. But if animals could speak, would not this absorb their devotions as well? If ease and comfort occupies first place, do not our prayers resemble the howls of hounds crying at the slightest inconvenience? He would be justified who classifies such petitions as nothing other than brutish prayers.

Jesus says Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you (Matt 6:33). Herein lies the answer to what should fill our prayers. Our first concern, our great request, our primary petition must involve our Lord’s kingdom. The one whom God chooses and who enjoys His favor is he who places Christ’s reign and righteousness before all temporal blessings such as food, clothing and other earthly comforts. Like a deer that pants for flowing streams, his soul pants for the living God. He thirsts for God (Ps 42:1-2). He longs for the place where the sacred assembly gathers (Ps 84:2) and is most glad when he can attend the worship of God (Ps 122:1). He is most concerned about Christ’s kingdom and considers that his first priority in life. Not surprisingly his prayers are both well ordered and God-centered. He is content with any circumstance as long as he enjoys God (Ps 73:25). As Thomas Manton points out, this only is how to be freed from complaining about God’s providence and questioning His love. Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His presence continually (Ps 105:4). This is the secret to living a contented, steady, fruitful Christian life. In all things Jesus Christ is preeminent.

07 November 2010

A Lottery Life

There is something beautiful about symmetry. It is pleasing to the eye. By contrast, irregularity and unevenness and lop-sidedness seem distasteful and ugly. The Law says No one who has a blemish shall draw near, such as one who has a limb too long (Lev 21:18). Such a man could not serve the altar because, being asymmetrical, he was blemished. Symmetry is beautiful. Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than in a uniform life. When a man’s thoughts, words and actions harmonize the result is like a beautiful fugue. Yet too many in our day have lives that are disorderly and irregular. Their minds, mouths and manners are all at odds and disproportionate. Their experience is not all of one piece. Sometimes right, sometimes wrong, normally confused, often inconsistent, there is no uniform godliness. Their lives are like a lottery in which thoughts, words and actions are jumbled together and governed by “chance”.

This helps to explain David’s prayer, Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name (Ps 86:11). He longs for a well-ordered life, when all is done well with a single focus, a united heart. Not a multiplicity of ends but one overarching purpose predominates. For us it means an eye fixed on Christ and a clear sense of final judgment. Under the Spirit’s blessing this brings harmony to all the disparate aspects our lives. Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom (Ps 90:12). A divided mind and wavering heart will produce an inconsistent life, a man who is unstable in all his ways (Jas 1:8). But one who knows Jesus and his own mortality, expecting the consummation of all things, will enjoy increasing symmetry in knowledge to think well, grace to speak well and power to live well to the glory of God.