Monday, August 10, 2009

8-10; I John 5:13-15 True Prayer

(Christ praying- not my will but thine be done- Warner Sallman)
Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

8/10- I John 5:13-15

13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. 14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.

Calvin abridged: Believers should daily progress in their faith. In accordance with this, he writes that they may believe more firmly and with greater certainty, and thus enjoy a fuller confidence about their eternal life. Doctrine is not to be used just for the beginners, but it also confirms those who have already been taught some things. It is our duty, therefore to wisely pay attention to our studies, that our faith may increase throughout our lives. There are still remnants of unbelief in us. Our faith also is weak in areas that we do believe so fuller confirmation of our faith helps us. Our faith is confirmed in Christ because there is no other place to seek eternal life but in Christ. It is the duty of the godly teacher, to extol as much as possible the grace of Christ, so that disciples may be confirmed in their faith and seek no satisfaction in anything else. Christ here is seen as the peculiar object of faith, and to this faith is annexed salvation. The purpose of believing is seen here as becoming children and heirs of God. 5:14- “This is the confidence”- The godly dare confidently to call on God because of their faith (Eph. 3:12; Rom 8:15- the Spirit gives us a mouth to cry “abba Father”). Faith gives us an access to God, an asylum opened to us, that decreases our misery and helps us to be happy even in extreme evils. In fact, this one thing renders our troubles blessed, because we know that God will be our deliverer, and relying on his paternal love towards us, we flee to him. Calling on God is the main test of our faith, and God is not rightly called upon unless we are persuaded our prayers will not be in vain. The Apostle denies that those who doubt or hesitate are endued with faith. “According to his will”- Here is a rule for right praying- we need to subject our own wishes to God. Though God has promised to do whatever his people may ask, yet he does not allow them an unbridled liberty to ask whatever may come to their minds, but has given us a law about prayer. Nothing is better for us than this restriction; if God were to indulge our every wish, it would be a bad provision for us. For we don’t know what is best. We boil over with corrupt and hurtful desires. God provides a two-fold remedy: 1) he teaches us by his word what he would have us ask; and 2) he has also given us the Spirit over us to guide us and restrain us, so that our prayers may not wander beyond proper boundaries. Paul says we do not know for what or how to pray but the Spirit helps us in this weakness, and encourages us to pray (Romans 8:26). We also ought to ask the mouth of the Lord (the Bible) to direct and guide us in our prayers, for his promises have written for us the right way of praying.
5:15- this is not superfluous repetition; for he now specifies what has been said in general. For when he says that all the petitions of the godly are heard, he was speaking of right and humble petitions, which are consistent with the rule of obedience. The faithful do not pray loosely about anything, nor indulge in anything that may please them, but always pay attention in their prayers to what God commands. This ease and security should not stop their earnestness to pray. The one who is certain of a happy event ought not to stop praying to God. Certainty of faith doesn’t generate indifference or sloth. Everyone should be tranquil in these necessities when he has deposited his sighs in the bosom of God.

Thought: Prayer is a universal phenomenon. We universally feel the need to pray. People of different faiths, even deists and atheists practice this. In our pluralistic, and secular day this is a point in which we can reach others. Prayer is not just talking to ourselves (as is some forms of meditation), but it is accessing the presence and power of God. Faith in Christ, our mediator, is the key to open the door to answered prayer. It is a part of our own innate selfishness to think we can pray to some secret power within us. The Spirit is not the only guide to prayer- but the Holy Spirit and the Word. True faith does not separate these two. When I was on the jet flying back from Peru I met two ladies who had come to the country from Australia to meet with shamans to find secrets to their happiness and secrets of prayer. I do not doubt that they experienced something spiritual. The question would be did this spiritual experience simply help them to enhance their own selfishness and pleasure, or did this give them access to the Creator God. It was clear to me that the shaman added a lot of confusion to their lives with secret formulas and mumbo jumbo. Thus John said earlier to test the Spirits to see if they are from God. Prayer is not talking to ourselves or to false spirits, but to the One who has the greatest power in the universe- who made it and cares for it and for you and me.

Prayer: Guide us, Holy Spirit, into all truth. Help us in our infirmities to pray- and to pray only to you who are worthy of our worship and are able to offer true help.

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