Thursday, May 4, 2017

Reflections On Seeking God In Prayer During The National Day Of Prayer 2017

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Daniel 9:19 "O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and take action! For Your own sake, O my God, do not delay, because Your city and Your people are called by Your name.”

1 Timothy 2:1 "First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men."


Today is set aside by many people in America by what is called: "The National Day of Prayer". In the above opening passages, we find two men, separated by six centuries of time, bearing the same message: seeking God on behalf of their respective situations, countries, cities and governments. 

The prophet Daniel is the first of these men. He is the one who wrote Daniel 9:19, which is the theme verse for the 2017 day of prayer. For those interested, the entire event - including its history, videos and other resources -can be found at the following website: http://www.nationaldayofprayer.orgDaniel sought the Lord in his day. He had been in a foreign land - Babylon - for some seventy years. He knew what it was like to be desperate for God.

The second man, the Apostle Paul, wrote a letter to a young pastor named Timothy some six centuries after Daniel. His concern was about making sure Timothy knew what it took to pastor the church of the living God. Among his important instructions, we see Paul urging this young pastor to lead the church to seek God in prayer. On this National Day of Prayer 2017, I thought it would be appropriate to consider what it means to seek God in prayer.  We will glean our observations from what Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 2. For this special "National Day of Prayer" post, we will utilize the acrostic s.e.e.k to discover how we can seek God in prayer.

Start with God.  1 Timothy 2:1
The Holy Ghost says through Paul in 1 Timothy 2:1 "First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men." Four Greek words for prayer are used by Paul in this first verse. Without going into the details, the four terms speak of a progressive effort to desperately seek God. As you study the subject of prayer, you discover that prayer is born of God in the context of need.  So why pray? Because only God can control outcomes.  He desires Christians to participate in prayer for the bringing about of His will in those outcomes.  When you start with God in prayer, you will also end with Him in prayer (Matthew 6; Luke 11).  So to "seek" God in prayer means you start with God. But notice secondly....

Expect God to respond. 1 Timothy 2:2-3
Paul continues on in 1 Timothy 2:2, noting that as we pray on behalf of kings, authorities and all people, we pray "so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity." Why do God's people and churches get so discouraged in prayer? we often do not expect God to respond. Prayers with no expectations lead to no results.  Leonard Ravenhill, a long-time evangelist and advocate of prayer, writes: 

"The lightbulb for us Christians is prayer and God has the power.  But it is faith that makes the connection."  

Expect great things from the Great God and watch the Great God do great things.  So you need to start with God, and expect God to respond. Notice thirdly....

Express prayers for non-Christians. 1 Timothy 2:4-6
We read these words in 1 Timothy 2:3-6 "This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time." So why mention Christ's Person and Accomplishment of salvation in the middle of a section on prayer? Because the cross is the ground of prayer.  

Furthermore, Paul is reminding His people that a praying people must not just pray for themselves but beyond themselves.  Praying for the lost means your are not just seeking the face of God, but also the heart of God.  Before you ever thought about your unsaved loved ones and friends - God had them on His mind before time began.  Prior to any tears the church of God may shed for the unconverted, God ordained the Son to assume humanity to shed His blood on their behalf. Prayer is the sail to which faith is attached.  The Good Gospel Ship is born along by the winds of the Spirit blowing into the sail of prayer.  

As Paul already wrote, praying on behalf of all people will ensure the necessary conditions for proclaiming the Gospel to those who would or could oppose it.  So when you seek God, start with God, expect Him to respond and express prayers for non-Christian people, but notice finally....

Keep Praying, stop complaining.  1 Timothy 2:7-8
Paul writes these words in 1 Timothy 2:7-8 "For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying) as a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. 8 Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension." Why would Paul tell this young pastor to warn the people not to pray in "wrath and dissension".  Why? Because the church to often is known more for fighting one another rather than fighting the good fight of faith.  The three underlined words (faith, truth and pray) signal to us how it is we must keep praying, and truly stop complaining.  

Faith, rather than fear, will ensure that we pray rather than complain.  Truth, rather than error, will encourage us to pray rather than complain.  Then prayer itself, rather than picking on one another, characterizes the church who is praying rather than complaining.  Paul's preaching in 1 Timothy 2:7 and the exhortation to pray in verse 8 go hand in hand.  

God has blessed us more than we deserve.  Churches who truly seek God in prayer and are about His kingdom work find far less to complain about.  In fact, I would suspect that the complaining that you and I find ourselves doing is a sure sign that we are not praying as we should nor sharing the Gospel as we ought.

Closing thoughts
Lord help us as your church in America and throughout the world to be a people who s.e.e.k you in prayer not only for this day, but everyday.

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