Want to learn more about building a life of prayer? Me too. Meet me here on Wednesdays for an ongoing series exploring prayer using Dr. Andrew Murray's book, With Christ in the School of Prayer. I'm honored to learn alongside you.
Here we are at the crux of the whole thing: what on earth do we expect to happen when we finally do pray?
Dr. Murray tells us that we must take Christ at His word: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” If, like me, you cut your teeth in the word of faith/prosperity movements, this veers into dangerous territory. Is God at the disposal of my prayers? Is His will thwarted by my praying or my lack thereof? Is need in my life evidence of my lack of faith? If I am sick is it because I don’t have faith for healing? If a child dies is it the fault of his parent’s feeble praying? My whole spirit has a thousand objections, carefully constructed escape routes so that I can protect Christ from His own words. “Yes, I know He said it, but He didn’t mean it exactly like that.”
Dr. Murray responds,
“That the Lord should have thought it needful in so many forms to repeat the truth, is a lesson of deep import. It proves that He knows our heart, how doubt and distrust toward God are natural to us, and how easily we are inclined to rest in prayer as a religious work without an answer.”
“Let every learner in the school of Christ therefore take the Master’s word in all simplicity: Every one that asketh, receiveth. He had good reasons for speaking so unconditionally. Let us beware of weakening the Word with our human wisdom. When He tells us heavenly things, let us believe Him: His Word will explain itself to him who believes it fully. If questions and difficulties arise, let us not seek to have them settled before we accept the Word. No; let us entrust them all to Him: it is His to solve them: our work is first and fully to accept and hold fast His promise.”
As our lives enter the rhythm of regular prayer, we must decide what we really believe about it. Do we expect God to answer all these petitions? Do we really expect that the time we spend in intercession will bring real, earthly answers? I confess I don’t know what I expect…time in prayer certainly changes my spirit…but I am nearly always shocked when a real life answer to prayer comes. Just what am I thinking will happen when I ask the Lord for His help?
Again, Dr. Murray has a response:
“It is as if He would tell us that we are not to rest without an answer, because it is the will of God, the rule in the Father’s family: every childlike believing petition is granted. If no answer comes, we are not to sit down in the sloth that calls itself resignation, and suppose that it is not God’s will to give an answer. No; there must be something in the prayer that is not as God would have it, childlike and believing; we must seek for grace to pray so that the answer may come. It is far easier to the flesh to submit without the answer than to yield itself to be searched and purified by the Spirit, until it has learnt to pray the prayer of faith.”
Dr. Murray is telling us to reorient ourselves and begin prayer with trust in the Word of Christ: If we ask, we will receive. We must dare to believe it! From this position of faith, he then tells us that, “If we ask and receive not, it is because we have not learned to pray aright.” We are not changing God's mind with our prayers. His promises do not give us privilege to demand the Father's obedience to our will. No, we are submitting our prayers to His wisdom. We can trust that there will always be an answer to our prayers: “No,” and “wait,” may be the hard words we hear from Him, but our prayers do not go unanswered. When we hear such a word we learn to change our prayers to align ourselves with the will of the Father. If the thing I have asked for is not in His will, then what does He want for me in this situation? Prayer patiently shapes us and brings us into conformation with His plan. In the school of prayer our desires and our petitions become more like the Father’s.
“Let us seek, not only just in our seasons of prayer, but at all times, to hold fast the joyful assurance: man’s prayer on earth and God’s answer in heaven are meant for each other. Let us trust Jesus to teach us so to pray that the answer can come. He will do it, if we hold fast the word He gives today: ‘Ask, and ye shall receive.’
We have been studying in this school of prayer for several weeks now. Today, if you will, share in the comments what God is teaching you, how He is answering your prayers and bringing you into conformity with His will. One thing we know for sure, prayer changes us. I would love to rejoice with you in God’s good work!
Next week I will be sharing my thoughts on chapter six: “How much more?" or The Infinite Fatherliness of God
This new lesson stretches me beyond my comfort. I want to believe, but I am afraid that I will be disappointed...it's easier to think I misunderstood You when You said, "Ask, and you will receive," than to risk finding out You don't really answer prayer. But Lord, You don't need to be protected from Your promises. Your words were clear. What I need now is the faith to believe, the will to trust. Help my unbelief, O Lord. Help each of us step into this new place of belief in You.
And Lord, when You say "No," or "wait," please give us the courage to humbly seek You and change our prayers to come into alignment with Your will. Give grace, Lord, for we are weak and easily discouraged. Strengthen our hearts, Lord, to believe.
Thank You for Your kindness and love, for Your patient and tender work in our hearts.
In the precious name of Jesus,