Saturday, July 10, 2010

Making sense of prayer

DOES GOD NOT GIVE TO US IF WE DON'T ASK OF HIM?

H's question:
If we don't ask,He won't give it to us?

Lip Kee's comment:

God is always giving
There are preachers and teachers out there who teach that we have to ask or else God would not give. Personally, I don't subscribe to that kind of teaching.

The God I know is always loving, always caring, always giving and always providing.
He knows what we need, and He takes pleasure in satisfying our needs.

"Your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him." (Matthew 6:8)
"...your Father knows that you need these things. But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you. Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father's pleasure to give you the kingdom" (Matthew 6:30-32)

Then why does the Bible teach us to ask of God in prayers? Why is there a need for us to ask at all?

God does not need to be arm-twisted or reminded for Him to give

I believe our "asking" is not to meant to arm twist God to remind Him to give to and provide for us. He is always giving and providing. Rather, our "asking" serves to remind us and the people around us that God is our faithful and gracious Provider.

God is not forgetful of His covenant. He does not need to be told or reminded of what He needs to do.

Prayer is meant as a reminder for us, not for God

We are the ones who are always forgetful and distracted. We are the ones who are un-faithful and unfocused. That is why God graciously provided us with a reminder tool called "prayer". Because we need it to remind ourselves of how He is always there for us - ever caring for us and providing for us.

To elaborate: Imagine someone who does not pray. She was facing a difficult situation which lasted 6 months. God eventually delivered her from the situation. But because she did not use the "reminder tool" (i.e. prayer), she is unlikely to be conscious of how God helped her out of her challenge. She would be filled with much stress and anxiety during those 6 months.

Also, in the absence of any prayer offered to God. She and the people around her will mostly likely credit herself, other people or mere good luck for the good outcome, when the whole challenge was over.

Now, imagine the same person, when faced with her situation, chose to pray to God, and to ask her friends to stand in faith with her. What difference would it make to her and to the people around her?

The benefits of praying

First, she would have a sense of hope, assuredness and restfulness, even in the midst of her 6-month long challenge. And when the breakthrough finally comes, she and her friends would be conscious of God's help. Their hearts will be filled with thankfulness to the Lord, instead of pride arising from the belief that their self efforts made the difference, or a vague sense of good fortune.

In the scenarios above, God intervened and helped, regardless of whether anyone prayed. So prayer did not affect how God acted. Like I mentioned, He does not need arm-twisting or reminder.

However, prayer did affect the quality of life, and the quality of the response of the people, don't you agree?

God meant for prayer to be used as a tool of reminder for us, not for Him. :-)

The Giver has given. Has the receiver received?

Besides, when a person is not conscious of God and His constant provision, God could be giving and giving, but she may not benefit because she is not receiving. Even though the giver has given, many a times, the receiver needs to actively receive what has been given in order to enjoy the benefits. A simple example would be that of someone who inherits a fortune but is ignorant of it or refuse to believe it.

DOES HAVING TWO OR MORE PRAYING IN AGREEMENT MAKE PRAYER MORE POWERFUL?

H's question:
"Again I say to you that if any of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ASK, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven." (Matthew 18:19). Does it means two or more agreed is more powerful?

Lip Kee's comment:
It is the power of our God (not our prayers) that makes things happen

Regarding your question on whether it is "more powerful" to have two or more agree on something in prayer, my answer is a "No" if you are referring to the power that changes our situations, that overcomes our challenges, that grants us our victories.

It is not our prayers, or the number of people agreeing with us in prayer that has the power to do anything. God is the One with the power to make things happen.

Prayer is powerful because it makes us conscious of our powerful God

But if by "more powerful", you are referring to the impact on the way people deal with and respond to their situations, then, my answer would be a "Yes". Please read my comment to your earlier question above.


IS JESUS ABSENT IF THERE WERE NO GATHERING OF TWO OR MORE IN HIS NAME?

H's question:
There is also a verse,which I forgot which verse, "Two or more gathers in My Name,I'm in the mist of them." But God says He never leave nor forsake us,so what is this verse saying?

Lip Kee's comment:
You are right, God never leaves us nor forsakes us. By His Holy Spirit, He is in us and with us forever.

The verse you referred to is found in Matthew 18:20 "For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them."

The "find-applicable-truth-by-reading-verses-in-reverse" method does not always work

Sometimes, when we read a verse in reverse, we can get a truth is applicable to us. For example, the verse in 1 Cor 11:30 regarding the effects of partaking the Holy Communion in an unworthy manner, which states "For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep." If we apply the opposite meaning, we get a truth that applies to us, i.e. when we partake of the Holy Communion in a worthy manner (i.e. remembering Jesus and focusing on the wholeness and forgiveness He wrought for us by His broken body and His blood), we can expect to be strong (instead of weak), healthy (instead of sick), and to live long good lives (instead of dying before our time).

However, I believe your attempt to do the same for Matthew 18:20 may be mis-guided. You are trying read the verse in reverse to imply this: "For where only one person is gathered in Jesus name, Jesus will not be there in the midst of them".

Jesus said where two or three (i.e. more than one) are gathered in His name, He will be in their midst. By that, He did not say where only one is present, He would leave the one. I think it is inaccurate and illogical to read that kind of implication into that verse.

Now, let's take a good look at the reverse verse "For where only one person is gathered in Jesus name, Jesus will not be there in the midst of them", and analyse it critically.

First it does not make sense to use the word "gathered" when only one believer is involved. Next, in this case, where only one believer is involved, Jesus would be INSIDE and WITH the believer. But Jesus cannot be IN THE MIDST of the person, because by the definition of the very words, for Jesus to be "in the midst", there will have to be more than one person.

Therefore, for this particular verse, I don't think the "read-it-in-reverse" method is applicable.

Jesus wants us to focus on Him, not on how big (or small) a gathering we have

I believe the verse (read normally) is meant as an encouragement to His people. I believe the key words in the verse are not "two or more", but "in His name", .

Jesus is telling us not to be overly focused on how big our caregroup/ church is. He is affirming us that when people get together in honour of Him, His manifest Presence will be experienced and enjoyed by those in the gathering, regardless of the size of the gathering - be it is two or three, or two or three thousand.

When we gather in His name, in His honour, Jesus will be "in our midst". He will be central. He will be exalted. And when Jesus is lifted up, the Light He shines forth will benefit the people.

Hope you will find my comments helpful in one way or another.

Pardon my long-windedness. I thought the questions you raised deserve more than just a cursory treatment. :-)

Shalom,
Lip Kee

18 comments:

eekpil said...

God does not need any reminder from us. But he WANTS us to put him to remembrance. Especially with regard to the redemptive work of His Son Jesus Christ.

"I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; And I will not remember your sins. Put Me in remembrance; Let us contend together; State your case, that you may be acquitted." (Isaiah 43:25-26)

eekpil said...

God is omniscient (all-knowing), yet He wants us to pray and communicate with Him not because He forgets, but because it brings Him joy and delight.

eekpil said...

He is a doting Father who loves to watch over and listen to His children.

姿柯瑩柯dgdd憶曾g智曾 said...

Poverty tries friends.............................................................

JasonBirk佳琪 said...

Readiness is all.............................................................

吳婷婷 said...

多譏樓主分享 正野緊係要回啦......................................................

張怡 said...

這麼好的部落格,以後看不到怎麼辦啊!!!..................................................................

淑娟淑娟淑娟 said...

i trust everything will be fine. bless you!............................................................

佳瑩佳瑩 said...

期待你發表的新文章!跟你說一聲加油。............................................................

李蔡文山家榮 said...

每日都有新日光,每日都有新希望。..................................................

群育航學 said...

好文章就值得回響,如果可以常常看到您的更新,應該是件很幸福的事情~~...............................................................

家唐銘 said...

.有價值的東西,都要付出代價。-................................................

沈貞李添睿儀 said...

我從來不認為不同意我的看法就是冒犯................................................

孫邦柔 said...

美麗的事物是永恆的快樂,它的可愛日有增加,不會消逝而去................................................

佳幸雨幸雨幸雨俐 said...

你不能改變容貌~~但你可以展現笑容.................................................................

至馬馬馬馬玄馬馬馬馬 said...

與人相處不妨多用眼睛說話,多用嘴巴思考,............................................................

8468 said...

愛情是一種發明,需要不斷改良。只是,這種發明和其他發明不一樣,它沒有專利權,隨時會被人搶走。.................................................................

孟湖聿軒 said...

死亡是悲哀的,但活得不快樂更悲哀。............................................................