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| The Sovereignty of God |
Arthur W. Pink
Chapter 9 - God's Sovereignty and Prayer
May 7, 2017
Hello to another beautiful day given to us by God! Today we continue our book, The Sovereignty of God, by the author Arthur W. Pink. And we’re looking at chapter 9, God’s Sovereignty and Prayer.
And as usual, the author gives us a verse coming from 1 John 5:14:
“If we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us.” (1 John 5:14)
Up till now, the main objective was to exalt God while lowering ourselves, or in general, the creatures. However, in our day, the tendency is to magnify the man while dishonoring and degrading God. With everyone that is spoken about, even about the spiritual things, the human side and element is stressed while the Divine side, if not altogether ignored, is relegated to the background.
This is true especially when we consider the modern teaching on prayer, which is our main consideration today. It is often taught that our prayers will only be granted if we have met a certain criteria or did a certain thing. But with such a lesson, which is often taught, then it degrades and dishonors God when prayers aren’t granted when Christians believe that their prayers “deserve” to be granted. Almost as if we are persuading God to change His purpose and to fulfill ours. Or even something of the like when we state that God’s eternal purpose cannot be fulfilled unless we pray to bring it about, moving God with our own prayers to fulfill his own purpose. What people are taught today, often, is a concept, although hidden, that the prayers are answered to himself, and instead leaving the Lord to “open the way” for him.
Now, all the misconceptions and bad lessons concerning prayer of today is all due to a low and inadequate concept of God Himself. But there should not be any comfort found if we were dealing with a God who changes every single day. There wouldn’t be any encouragement if we reached out to the One who changes their mind daily. It is because He is “without variable-ness or shadow of turning” we are assured that if we ask anything according to His will we are most certain of being heard. As Martin Luther said, “Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance, but laying hold of His willingness.”
So the question must be asked, “Why has God told us to pray?” The vast majority of people will reply that it is in order to obtain from God the things that we need. This is certainly true because we do pray to God for even our “daily bread.” But, while this is one of the reasons why we are called to prayer, this isn’t the very purpose of prayer.
First and foremost, prayer has been appointed so that the Lord God Himself would be honored. God requires that we should recognize that He is the Most High Lord. God requires that we acknowledge His universal dominion. For example, in petitioning God for rain, Elijah did confess about God’s control over the elements, and we certainly acknowledge that “salvation is of the Lord.”
On that note, God requires of us to worship Him, and prayer, real prayer, is an act of worship. Prayer is an act of worship inasmuch as it is showing our soul to Him at Sunday church, it is our recognition of His power and greatness and goodness. In our prayer we are acknowledging our dependency upon Him. When we humbly come to God we cast ourselves apart and fall dependent on His power and mercy. In seeking His blessings we are saying that He is the Author and Fountain of every good and perfect gift. It is highly significant for us to realize that the Temple was not termed by Christ the House of Sacrifice, but instead, as a House of Prayer. That prayer brings glory to God, which is further seen as our exercise of faith. If we didn’t have faith, why would we pray to God? We are exactly exercising that faith by showing our dependency on God.
Secondly, prayer is given to us by God for our spiritual blessing because it is our means for our growth in grace. When we learn to pray, we can only give real prayer by a growth in faith. Prayer, real prayer, is designed by God for our humbling and for us to come into the Presence of God, and get a good sense of His majesty. Faith is given to us by the Holy Spirit, certainly, which is motivated by the Word of God. If we wish to learn real prayer, we can only learn from the Word of God, which will simultaneously, allow for us to reach a greater height in our Christianity.
When we grow, we grow in love for Him, we grow in dependency for Him, and the Lord delights in that love and dependency. When we love God we cannot be long away from Him, very much so with our human relationships. We want to keep talking to Him in prayer, which is our means of speaking with Him. Read Psalm 116:1, King David says, “I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice and supplications.” Prayer is designed by God to teach us the value of the blessing we sought from Him, and it causes us to rejoice him more when He has bestowed upon us that blessing!
Third, prayer is given by God for our seeking from Him the things we are in need of. But the difficult may present itself to those who have read carefully the previous chapters of this book. If God has foreordained, before the foundation of the world, everything that happens, why do we need prayer? If it is true that everything will happen according to His will, what use is there to pray? A difficult question, certainly, we all must face. But we are then mistaken in our belief that prayer is just a means of providing information to God. Prayer is NOT for the purpose of informing God, as if He was ignorant and didn’t know what we needed. Rather, it is to acknowledge He does know what we are in need of. Prayer is not given to us for us to send God a shopping list of things we need, but a confession to Him of our sense of the need. In this, as in everything, God’s thoughts are honored by our asking, just as He is to be thanked from us after He bestows his blessings upon us.
To clear upon some misunderstandings, prayer is NOT intended to change God’s purpose, nor is it to move Him to form fresh purposes. God has decreed that certain events shall come to pass, but He has also decreed that these events shall come to pass through the means He has appointed for their accomplishment. God has elected certain ones to be saved, but He has also decreed that people shall be saved through the preaching of the Gospel. The gospel, doesn’t bring salvation, neither does preaching, but rather is a means for salvation and for working out the counsel of the Lord.
Prayer is another one of these means. God has decreed the means as well as the end, and among the means is prayer. We read in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, “Prayer without ceasing.” Why would the Lord tell us to pray if it is useless. Rather, praying is a means by God for Him to exercise His decrees. As Haldane states, “if indeed all things happen by a blind chance, or a fatal necessity, prayers in that case could be of no oral efficacy, and of no use; but since they are regulated by the direction of Divine wisdom, prayers have a place in the order of events.”
Our current views about prayer need to be revised and brought into harmony with the teaching of Scripture on the subject. The prevailing idea seems to be, that I come to God and ask Him for something that I want, and that I expect Him to give me what I asked for. But this is not only dishonoring God but also degrading Him. The popular belief reduces God to a servant, our servant, doing as we tell Him to. However, prayer is a coming to God, telling Him our needs, committing our way to the Lord, and leaving Him to deal with it as He sees best. This makes our will subject to His, instead of seeking Him to bring His will into subjection to ours. No prayer is pleasing to God unless the spirit is saying, “not my will Lord, but yours.”
When God bestows blessings on a prayerful people, it is not for the sake of their prayers, as if He was inclined and turned by them; but it is for His own sake, and of His own sovereign will and pleasure. This is the way and means God has given to us for the purpose of communicating the blessing of His goodness to His people. For, although He has purposed, provided, and promised us, yet He wants us to seek for prayer as a duty and as a privilege to ask. When we are blessed with a spirit of prayer, it appears then as if God intended to give to us the good things asked, which should bring us into further submission into Him. These are wise words given to us by John Gill. And let us pray these words really stick with us and brings us into a more fervent prayer with God. And that concludes chapter 9, God's Sovereignty and Prayer.
1) What are some misconceptions of modern day prayer?
2) What is the point or purpose of prayer?
3) How do you pray? How will you pray?