I was talking with someone the other day and he was stipulating, as part of his position on the changes going on in church culture today, that ‘tradition’ is a good thing. I agreed that there are some really solid traditions we enjoy, but with reservation I added that it isn’t tradition that makes them good or solid, its what they are built upon. There are good traditions that support Truth… line up with truth… help us put hands and feet to truth; and, there are traditions that corrupt, pervert, and lead us away from Truth to dependence on man-made rules, beliefs… lies.
Some traditions have taken us far from where we should be as the church. Our ‘evangelical marketing’ programs for example. They were sown in poor soil and sustained by poor theology (sadly, many still embrace and pursue such methods). What do we say to the ‘traditions’ that turned the church from the preaching of the Cross to the pleading for acceptance of a lacklustre Jesus or for the praying of ‘the prayer’? Such dependence on ritual prayers, raised hands and walks down aisles to secure a salvation, often motivated on the creativity and atmosphere created by the preacher or evangelist or whomever, has become an ‘acceptable tradition’ has it not? Isn’t this approach to ‘getting people saved’ the most familiar evangelical tradition you’ve grown up with?
But is it true, is it right, is it biblical? No. “…it’s not the gospel we see being preached (in the Bible). Its modern evangelism built on sinking sand and it runs the risk of disallusioning millions…” says David Platt in this brief segment from a message he brings to the Church.
[ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JPhEEzjU8xQ ]
So what about prayer? Has our ‘tradition of prayer’ been waylaid too? What about our private prayer… our corporate prayer; have we lost our compass in this spiritual discipline?
I recognize in my own life and practice of prayer that much of what I think (i.e. really consider and believe as demonstrated by my response) about prayer and the priority of prayer and the focus of my prayers is somehow askew from that which the Bible teaches. Am I praying amiss? Are we being led in our praying by the Spirit of God according to the Word of God… or are we praying according to the traditions of man passed along to us?
Are we praying as we ought? Do we pray at all, really? What motivates our prayer? Are we making our humble requests known to the Creator God to be responded to according to His will for His glory… or is there an underlying sense that we’re going to the ‘genie of the lamp’ to see if he’ll grant our wishes?
It isn’t that I don’t know what the Bible says about asking God to supply my needs or how I should approach the throne of grace. I think most of us are familiar with the right answers, it just might be that our sinful desires press in and we pray with a mixture of motives and thus are easily led astray. Yes, we may want God’s will… but the mixture is that we also see and overvalue the temporal and so we pray amiss, asking/seeking what we’ve determined is needed for our happiness and success here in this dying world rather than for our peace and contentment in Christ now and in Eternity and for His will be to done on earth as it is in heaven… not mine, not ours.
There is the image of a child rushing in to dad asking for this or that… “fix this!”, “can I have…?”, “I want…” and then just as quickly rushing away to get back to what they really value… what their heart really desires. But then there is another picture that we are familiar with too… the child who enters his Father’s presence with hope, peace, expectation, pleasure to be with Dad and spend time in that place basking in the Person who is their all in all. Perhaps you may even be familiar with the image of a child permitted to reflect the grace and mercy of God in a somewhat different and appalling way… this child, much more than others is pressed in on. Much like the psalmist praying from dark deep caves they have little light and little comfort – but it is more than enough. God is more than enough. Their distractions are not the pleasures of life but rather the pains, despair, and darkness of life. We shrink back as though this is not somehow right or fair. But how is the child carried away with happy distractions any less lost and hopeless than the child of despair?
I love giving good gifts to my kids when they come and ask; and I especially love when the thing they want is me… ‘D & M time’… Daddy & Michael time as one of my son’s used to call it.
Are we desparate for time in God’s presence pouring out our hearts before Him or is He a wishful pitstop to see if we can get a few things from His hand without much delay? Is our Father God the destination and eternal hope of our prayers?
For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,
for my hope is from him.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
On God rests my salvation and my glory;
my mighty rock,my refuge is God.
Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your heart before him;
God is a refuge for us. Selah (Ps 62:5-8)
I find myself desparately wanting to see changes in my time with God in prayer. I don’t want to ‘send’ my prayer requests along to God… I want to bring them myself; even if the only way I can express them is through silent utterances understood and carried along by the Holy Spirit living in me. I don’t want to ‘send’ my requests along with someone else to a prayer meeting or a prayer-chain hoping upon someone else’s trust in God to move His heart/hand, I want to be the one casting all my cares on Him because I know He cares for me and that in Him I can and must find my refuge and my strength. I want to join with the body of Christ in agreement, unified in prayer, because we are certain that our petitions are undergirded by the expressed will of God breathed out in His word. Help me LORD.
Question for my heart to respond to: If I pursued God in prayer, much like in His word, would my heart resonate more and more with God, His character, His likes, His plans, His love, His grace, His forgiveness? Would drawing close to God in prayer help me to take up my cross and follow Him… would it help me bring His gospel to others… would it keep me from sin and would it complete my joy in this relationship He initiated and provides for?