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Do your prayers reflect your purpose in life? I suspect they usually do. If the purpose of your life is success, your prayers will be driven by your ambition. If you just want to have fun, that purpose will certainly taint your prayer life. Is your ultimate purpose luxury or comfort? Do you live for pleasure? Is your life driven by fear or avoiding pain of any kind? Is your goal to always be at peace in yourself? That was not the purpose of our Lord.

In Matthew 12:27 Jesus said,

“Now is my heart troubled, and what shall I say? 'Father, save me from this hour'? But for this purpose I have come to this hour.”

Scripture could not declare that Jesus was tempted in every way we are, (Heb. 4:15) if He were spared inward disturbances. Does that mean we should never pray to be delivered from them? Not praying such prayers may never have occurred to you. But I think this is an important question to ask.

We know that Paul prayed for his thorn to be removed. (2 Cor. 12:8) Whatever Paul's thorn was, it disturbed him. He prayed three times for the Lord to take it away. Then he heard the Lord telling him that His power was made perfect in weakness.

Let me suggest some principles of God's purpose in our prayers.

First, you need to understand that God has a purpose for your life too. His ways are certainly as far above ours as the heavens are above the earth. (Isaiah 55:9) And we may need God to shake us pretty hard before we can can understand that pain may be an important part of His will, even His joy in us.

And we need to know that God will tell us what His will for us is. This may be too small of a way to look at this. God may be telling you His will for all the earth, for all of history or eternity. Such cosmic perspective is crucial to our prayers and even our comfort in difficult and painful situations.

We need to trust that God's will is good. But to see problems as good we have to see the larger picture. You have to cultivate a whole life view of happiness. You need to see your growing faith and promised hope to properly rejoice in God's grace. The life of Annie Johnson Flint was crushed by grief, sorrow, disease and physical pain. I am convinced that God used her suffering to show her glories the rest of us hardly glimpse. Among many others she wrote this hymn.

He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater.

He sendeth more strength when the labors increase.

To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,

To multiplied trials His multiplied peace.

 

When we have exhausted our store of endurance

When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,

When we reach the end of our hoarded resources

Our Father’s full giving has only begun.

Here is the chorus.

His love has no limits. His grace has no measure.

His power no boundary known unto men.

For out of His infinite riches in Jesus

He giveth and giveth and giveth again!

Is God molding your perspective and growing your prayers? Are you praying for or against God's purpose?

 

http://thinkinginthespirit.blogspot.com/

http://watchinginprayer.blogspot.com/

http://writingprayerfully.blogspot.com/

http://daveswatch.com/

 

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Comment by David Young on August 18, 2017 at 1:38am

Wow! Amen, Andrew.

Comment by Andrew R. Wheeler on August 17, 2017 at 8:31am

David, such wise words, as always - and borne not out of distant musings but from your own walk, I know.

I totally agree with the idea of praying God's purposes for us - which means, of course, aligning our purposes with His.  And His purposes are more than just our health and well-being, despite what the "health and wealth" preachers constantly tell us.

Having said that, I believe that bringing our physical needs to God - if done with our hearts fully submitted to him - is actually a way that he can use to draw us near.  Let's suppose for a moment that Paul had never prayed about his thorn in the flesh, but had just decided he would "bear up under it".  Would he have ever heard God's words, "My strength is made perfect in weakness"?  Would he have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation?

Paul's heart was so in tune with God's purpose for his life that he came to understand the reason for the thorn in the flesh - to keep him from becoming conceited as a result of the visions he had seen.  I imagine these were no empty words but a real possible temptation for Paul, given his Pharisaical background.  I would not dare to presume that all suffering is brought into our lives in order to accomplish a specific purpose (Luke 13:1-4) - but I do think that if we're open to it, God can work through whatever we might be suffering.  And I think that this should be our focus in prayer.  Not that we don't ask him for healing or relief, but that in the meantime, we pray also for growth. 

I think it was CS Lewis who said that God whispers in our pleasures but shouts in our pain.  He often uses pain to get our attention and to fix our thoughts and hearts on him.  This is why those who are not as well-off in the world tend to be more open to the Gospel.  It penetrates the lower castes in India, but not so much the upper castes.  Why?  Because they don't know they need God.  When we're comfortable, experiencing no pain - then we're most vulnerable, in some ways.

The key isn't to refrain from praying for relief, but to make that only part of our prayer and to have our hearts and minds focused on things above (Col. 3:1-2). Someone said that God responds more to the heart behind a prayer than to the words of the prayer, and I believe that.  Paul prayed for the thorn to be removed, but his heart was even more set on knowing God - and God answered that heart prayer even if he refused the request of Paul's words.

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