Saturday, June 30, 2018

Don't Pray So Often

In Isaiah 1:15, God says, “When you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you; even when you offer many prayers, I am not listening.” God tells Isaiah to tell the Israelites that their prayers and sacrifices are offensive to Him. The message is don’t pray—you’re wasting your time—at least until you walk in obedience, love and faith. 

In Isaiah 37:4-6, King Hezekiah sends officials to Isaiah, asking him to pray on behalf of Israel, given the blasphemies and threats of the king of Assyria. Isaiah’s response: “Tell your master, ‘This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid of what you have heard…” Perhaps Isaiah prayed, but nothing is recorded. It’s as if he already knew what God wanted to say without asking Him directly.

In Joshua 10:5-8, Joshua goes into battle against the five Amorite kings without praying. In previous chapters, he had walked closely with God, receiving God’s commands and counsel for the battle of Jericho and the battles at Ai. But here, Joshua jumps into battle to save the Gibeonites, with whom he had made a covenant. Joshua honors his word and responds to their distress—without prayer. God delivers victory including the famous miracle of making the sun “stand still.” 

What do these examples have in common? Prayer is not “the answer.”

In fact, prayer can even be counterproductive to obedience. Why? In the first case, prayer was accompanied by rank disobedience. Asking God for anything while we thumb our noses at Him is ridiculous. 

When you’re disobeying God, cut it out. Pray to Him—not as Santa Claus to bail you out, but as the God of your salvation. Repent and embrace His gracious lordship in your life. 

In the second case, Isaiah already knew the answer. So asking God was unnecessary and wasteful. How powerful was it that Isaiah could speak God’s words to them immediately—from his relationship with God—without directly asking God again! 

In the third case, Joshua already knew what to do. So asking God was a temptation to inaction and a potential cop-out. If you know what to do, just do it. Don’t pray. 

In 1 Thessalonians 5:17, Paul instructs us to “pray continually.” This speaks to the distinction between prayer as a lifestyle and an event. We commonly think of prayer as an event—something to do before meals, during one’s quiet time or before a big moment in one’s day. But prayer is more important as another angle on living a “Spirit-filled life”—a lifestyle or something akin to breathing.

Our most common error is failing to pray when we should, as an event or especially as a lifestyle. But when prayer is a prospective event—and you already know the answer—don’t pray; just obey.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home