Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Before You Pray...
I found it amazing to read Karl Barth's "Prayer" and find that he does not begin his discussion of prayer with the "how," "why," or "what," (as important as those matters may be) but with the answer! This was shocking to me (though in all honesty it shouldn't have been). What does he mean by stating that we begin with the answer and not with the questions? Well, our questions (more often than not) are actually not straightforward questions, but attempts to skirt the heart of the matter. When we question God (which I believe Scripture teaches clearly that God welcomes while also confronting this) we must be willing firstly to hear the answer. And the answer is 'YES!'
But this 'YES' is the 'YES' to the question posed (and necessarily answered) by God Himself (2 Corinthians 1:19-20). It is the 'YES' that is found in Christ Jesus, but it is also an emphatic 'no' to our sins and our sinful and deceitful nature. The 'YES' and the 'no' are bound up in God's Self-giving Love: incarnation, suffering, crucifixion, death, resurrection and coming again. Thus, his 'YES' (and 'no') is only to be identified in Christ Jesus. This is what is meant by "praying in Jesus' name" (John 14:13-14; 15:16; 16:23-26), instead of simply as the conclusion often thoughtlessly tacked onto the end of our prayers.
In Jesus Christ, we find all our prayers answered with this YES (or AMEN if you prefer to sound more spiritual :-). In Jesus Christ, prayer is offered according to God's good and perfect will and not according to our own desires and plans. In Jesus Christ, all our questions are taken up in the question He poses to us, "Who do you say that I am?" and we must answer with Peter (being led by the Holy Spirit), "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God" (Matthew 16:15-16).
In the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples, he begins with "Our Father..." (Matthew 6:9), because all prayer that is genuine prayer begins with the 'YES' of Jesus our Lord and Savior. The relation of God as "our Father" is not accomplished except through faith in Jesus His One and Only Son. Our relation to the Father is only as our "Father" because of our relationship with (and 'in') Christ. We can pray in faith with assurance, because Jesus prayed (and continually prays) for us...and not only does he continue to make intercession for us, but His Spirit does so in and through us (Romans 8:26-27, 34). His Spirit testifies that we are indeed in Christ and therefore are heard and the answer is...YES! Praise His Glorious Name!!!