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.
Again this week we encounter a lesson from Dr. Murray that I find stretches my faith and understanding: that matter of prayer and our will intertwined with submission to the will of the Father.
We begin with Mark 10:51:
"What do you want me to do for you?" Jesus asked him. The blind man said, "Rabbi, I want to see."
“Our prayers must not be a vague appeal to His mercy, an indefinite cry for blessing, but the distinct expression of definite need.” For “Such definite prayer teaches us to know our own needs better. It demands time, and thought, and self-scrutiny to find out what really is our greatest need. It searches us and puts us to the test as to whether our desires are honest and real, such as we are ready to persevere in. It leads us to judge whether our desires are according to God’s Word, and whether we really believe that we shall receive the things we ask. It helps us to wait for the special answer, and to mark it when it comes.”
The inevitable question comes. Wouldn’t it be better to simply pray for the Father’s will to be done than to presume to ask for our own? Not always, says Dr. Murray:
"That would be the prayer of submission, for cases in which we cannot know God’s will. But the prayer of faith, finding God’s will in some promise of the Word, pleads for that till it come."
As we've been learning, we are able to know God’s will by an ongoing submission and intimacy with Christ. Because we are submitted, because we are in relationship, because we know His word and His Spirit, we are able to know His will and let that will become our own. Then we can stand before Him and boldly, persistently ask for the thing that has grown in our hearts from His love.
"As a son, who only lives for his father’s interests, who seeks not his own but his father’s will is trusted by the father with his business, so God speaks to His child in all truth, ‘What wilt thou?’ It is often spiritual sloth that, under the appearance of humility, professes to have no will, because it fears the trouble of searching out the will of God, or, when found, the struggle of claiming it in faith. True humility is ever in company with strong faith, which only seeks to know what is according to the will of God, and then boldly claims the fulfilment of the promise: ‘Ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.’"
Dr. Murray, I believe, is teaching us that prayer must engage our intellect as well as our desire and passion. God does not seek a mindless people to parrot back to Him what He wills, but sons and daughters, even friends, who will engage with Him heart, soul, mind and body: in relationship.
"It is for this, among other reasons, that the Lord warns us against the vain repetitions of the Gentiles, who think to be heard for their much praying. We often hear prayers of great earnestness and fervour, in which a multitude of petitions are poured forth, but to which the Saviour would undoubtedly answer ‘What wilt thou that I should do unto thee?’ "
I wonder if you, like me, feel that we are being stretched far beyond what is comfortable over these last couple of weeks? We are asked to accept intimacy with Him; we are asked to believe beyond all reason that God desires our participation; we are asked to believe that He wants to know our will. Prayer begins to seem far more dangerous, far more daring than I ever imagined.
I need courage. I am tempted to skip over this chapter, to stay - perhaps in the spiritual sloth that Dr. Murray describes – timid in my prayers, asking only that His will be done and never presuming to ask for my own. But the Holy Spirit urges onward to ask for the things He has promised to give.
Last week I was heavy with anxiety about an erosion problem at our house. We have already spent a lot of time and money trying to solve this issue and now we are out of financial resources as well as the know-how to fix it. I have become quite fearful and worried about how to deal with this issue. But with this chapter in mind, I realized that God has promised to meet all our needs; it is His will to provide safe shelter for our family and so I gained a new boldness in asking Him to provide. I began praying every day specifically for that need and its complete resolution, asking Him to accomplish what I cannot. I have no idea how He is going to answer my prayers, but asking boldly silences the anxiety and I am gaining freedom from my fear. I will be sure to tell you when the answer to my prayers comes!
Might we all be encouraged this week to sit with the Lord and look deeply into some areas where we need the Lord's answer? Perhaps we could ask the Lord to examine those very things we have been praying long and hard about and show us what we could ask for specifically?
If you do begin to pray more specifically, will you write it down somewhere or tell a prayer partner so you can see the Lord's answer when it comes?
We are learning so much. I am so thankful for the work You have done in me, in my friends, over these weeks. These lessons are taking us far beyond where we expected to go, far deeper into relationship with You than we hoped. Thank You Lord, for this time, for this fellowship.
These last lessons have been harder to take in, Father. We want to tread carefully, respectfully, always aware of who You are and who we are in You. Lead us into truth, Holy Spirit. Show us the way. Make us bold where You seek boldness and make us humble where You seek humility.
Lord, You ask what we will…We will to learn to pray. Please continue to teach us day by day, hour by hour. Thank You, dear Father.
In the precious name of Jesus,
Next week I'll be sharing my thoughts on chapter eleven: "Believe that ye have received or The Faith that Takes"