Monday, January 08, 2007

Discipling at Its Most Basic

The fundamental purpose of this blog is to consider ideas about raising one's children in a manner where they are discipled as growing members of the body of Christ. I've written a lot about education, about social issues, about family unity, etc...but one thing I've neglected to write about (until now) is arguably the most important foundational principle: prayer.

Very little else will matter if we as dads are not on our knees in prayer for our entire family, interceding before the Throne of Grace for their souls, for their lives, for their growth in holiness, for their purity, for their protection from the world and its ways.... (not an exhaustive list, by any means).

So how do we do that? Our pastor always starts out the New Year with a sermon on prayer. (Should you want to listen to it, it can be found here.) This year our church offered a book with two sets of writings by John Bunyan regarding prayer. The first chapter alone is worth its weight in gold!

Bunyan defines true prayer as, "A sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of the heart or soul to God, through Christ, in the strength and assistance of the Holy Spirit, for such things as God has promised, or according to His Word, for the good of the church, with submission in faith to the will of God."

He then spends the rest of the chapter taking this apart. I hope to summarize that here.

Prayer that isn't sincere isn't heard by God. A sincere prayer comes from deep within the soul, encompassing the deepest of emotions and affections.

Prayer that is sensible is one that isn't "...a few babbling, prating, complimentary expressions...." but rather one that has a sense of mercy, either in the want of mercy, the gratefulness of mercy received, or of the readiness of God to give mercy.

Prayer that is affectionate is one that shows a deep longing for the things of God.

There is a pouring out of the heart or soul in that one's very life and strength are laid bare toward God.

Of course, this prayer must be to God and "...sees nothing substantial, and worth the looking after, but God."

Prayer absolutely must be through Christ, for otherwise it is simply eloquent speech.

Hand in hand with prayer being through Christ is by the strength or assistance of the Holy Spirit. If the Spirit isn't involved, it isn't reaching the ears of the Father.

Prayer MUST be for such things as God has promised. It has to fall within the "compass of God's Word" or it is at best vain babbling or possibly even blaspheme. I was listening to a sermon by John MacArthur where he dealt with this point. He advocated not using the phrase, "I pray this in Jesus' Name. Amen" but rather something to the effect of, "I pray this, believing that is the will of God in Christ. Amen" He said to put that phrase to the test. One quickly realizes that many of the things we pray for are questionable when it comes to the will of God.

Prayer MUST be for the good of the Church. Obviously God cares tremendously for the Church, for it is the bride of His Son purchased by the precious blood of the Son, Himself! Prayer needs to build up and purify the bride.

Prayer submits to the will of God. This is similar to the point above regarding for such things as God has promised. True prayer understands that our finite minds may not be able to make requests that are in line with God's will, so we will humbly and happily live with His answers...even if they aren't in line with our desires.

So consider how you pray for your children. How is your heart as you approach the Throne of Grace? Are you in Christ? Is the Spirit taking your prayers to the Father? Are you praying for such things as God has promised for your children? You must be in the Word to know what those things are! You can't just pray for the things of this world and for your own thoughts, hopes, and desires, thinking they line up with God's. Remember that your children are only on loan to you and God's primary desire involves their salvation and their sanctification. That is where your prayers should be centered. Beyond that, you could look to praying for the fulfillment of the roles God has given them. For example...if you are praying for your daughter to get an ROTC scholarship so she can be an officer in the Army...well...you won't be praying in God's will, for you would be hard-pressed to find any Biblical doctrine involving women in the military. You could pray for their Christian witness to the world, for the impact they might have on their circle of influence. The list could go on and on, but Bunyan has provided some excellent insight into how to pray in general, and it can easily be adapted into specific guidelines for praying for our children.

Be a praying Dad (or Mom), for your children desperately need your intercession for their salvation and growth in the Lord.


2 comments:

Tony said...

Thanks for this wisdom from Bunyan. I know in the busyness of my life prayer is either neglected or just as bad trivialized by how it is done and what is said. Another aspect of this is that we need to model prayer correctly for our children so they do not also take on our bad habits.

Again thanks.

Charley said...

You are quite welcome, Tony.

Your testimony to the neglect and/or trivialization of prayer is common to so many. Most of us, myself included, need to repent of our lackadaisical attitude toward coming to our Father in prayer, both in terms of manner and frequency.

For any who are interested, the actual book is published by Puritan Paperbacks and is entitled simply, "Prayer" by John Bunyan.

Also, Piper's sermon from 1/7/07 was on the Word. His first two sermons each year are on prayer and the Word. He connects the two powerfully and speaks of some changes he and his wife have made regarding their reading of the Word and their prayer life together. Good stuff. You can find all his sermons at http://www.desiringgod.org

Blessings,

Charley