Joel Virgo: Praying with perspective

Posted: February 25, 2010 by limabean03 in Christianity, Discipleship, Reformed Theology, The Christian Life
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courtesy of TheResurgence

“And I said, ‘O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments…’” (Nehemiah 1:5).

Get Your Eyes Off Yourself

Some teaching on prayer suggests that we begin by confession of our sins to get it all out of the way. It is striking that Jesus’ teaching on prayer does the reverse: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name” (Matt. 6:9). He gets to confession of sin pretty late in the prayer. He would be frowned upon by some, but Jesus is right (oddly).

Jesus knows our frame. He knows we generally don’t need to see our sin as the first item on the agenda at every meeting with God. Better in fact to get our eyes altogether off of ourselves. That way we gain perspective and hope. D. Kidner says, “There is more than [flowery language] in this… opening. It deliberately postpones the cry for help, which could otherwise be faithless and self-pitying. It mounts immediately to heaven, where the perspective will be right, and it reflects on the character of God—not only for its loyalty and love, but first of all for the majesty which puts man, whether friend or foe, in his place.”

The great prayers of Scripture resound with this heavenly perspective. I love the way Peter and John (with their backs bleeding and the threat of execution over their heads) pray with the others, saying “Sovereign God… Now Lord…” (Acts 4). Start with God and his mission. Look to him. That way you get know him better too, and “the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action” (Dan. 11:32). Practically this means we shouldn’t complain too much if prayer meetings are occasionally overrun with worship! It also means that, like Nehemiah, we should plead our relationship.

Pray According To Scripture

Nehemiah prays, “Remember the word that you commanded your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples, but if you return to me and keep my commandments and do them, though your dispersed be under the farthest skies, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place that I have chosen, to make my name dwell there’” (Neh. 1:8-9). Nehemiah knows his God and knows the story his God is telling. He knows the way it should be going and the plan God has in getting it there. He knows about Israel’s heritage, Israel’s astounding calling, and Zion’s destiny as God’s great city—and this makes him persistent.

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