Saturday, February 28, 2009

March 1- Prayer as Repentance

March 1- Prayer as Repentance
“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love, according to your great compassion, blot out my transgression…Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you.” (Psalm 51)

Calvin: To this let us join a third rule: that anyone who stands before God to pray, in his humility giving glory completely to God, abandon all thought of his own glory, cast off all notion of his own worth, put away all self-assurance—lest if we claim for ourselves anything, even the least bit, we should become vainly puffed up, and perish at his presence. We have repeated examples of this submission, which levels all haughtiness, in God’s servants; each one of whom, the holier he is, the more he is cast down when he presents himself before the Lord. (IV. 20.8)

The first rule of prayer for the believer in Calvin’s opinion is to believe that prayer will be answered. For Calvin prayer is a miracle because “It is not within the power of man either to convert himself or to pray” (Comm. Jer. 29:12). For Calvin “Prayer is a response to the forgiving grace of God in Jesus Christ..the prayer of faith will thus be the prayer of self-abasement and humility as faith is inseparably linked to repentance” (Wallace 272,3). Prayer means a combination of two seemingly contrasting things- fear and hope. We are to come humbly and reverently out of respect to God as God alone. Yet we also come with assurance and confidence which is faith. Prayer is thus a combination of repentance and faith- humility and belief.
Calvin rightly points out that the holier we are- that is the closer we are to God- the more we recognize our need to be humble. Isaiah, in the presence of God said, "Woe to me for I am a person of unclean lips." We might add that the more humble we are, the more likely will it be for us to be able to discern the presence and hand of God in life. As we confess our sins, we are brought one measure closer to the holiness and presence of God. When we refuse to admit our failures, we are proud. Jesus said he came to heal the sick not the well. He said the one forgiven much loves much. He came to help the sinner not the righteous. All this would point to the need to pray humbly before God.
As a nation, we have been humbled. One commentator said yesterday on National Public Radio, for the first time since 1929 our gross national product is the same as our debt. Stocks this week tumbled to 12 year lows. This COULD be an opportunity to humble ourselves before God- if we will take it. In the Bible, often when the people were humbled they called out to God for help (the Book of Judges shows this seven times). The result has been that when the people called out, God helped them and rescued them from their trouble.
Practically speaking, we need to confess our sins to God. Confessing is not just saying things, but sincerely turning away from our sin. Too much prayer today is simply praising and asking. Praise is important. In some ways confessing our sins to God is praise to Him as well. For confession is humbling ourselves before Him as the one and only who can forgive us. Confession is a way to turn wrong into praise.

Prayer- Help us O God, to turn around and give ourselves anew to you today. Amen.

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