Wednesday, March 07, 2012

“The Promise of Prayer”

First Quarter 2012 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
“The Promise of Prayer”
For the week of  March 4 - 10, 2012
In the Morning
“Evening and morning and at noon I will pray, and cry aloud, and He shall hear my voice” (Psalm  55:17).
     In the morning, when I rise,
     In the morning when I rise,
     In the morning, when I rise,
     Give me Jesus. 
     Give me Jesus,
     Give me Jesus,
     You can have all this world,
     Give me Jesus. 
These lyrics from a beautiful Spiritual (#305 Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal), echo both Psalms 55 verse 17, and Psalms 5, verses 1-3.  Psalms 5: 1-3 says, “Give ear to my words, O Lord, consider my meditation. Hearken unto the voice of my cry, my King, and my God: for unto thee will I pray. My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.
King David’s words could have easily been penned by the prophet and statesman Daniel. Clearly he was a man who lifted his voice to the Lord throughout the day, for in Daniel 6:10, it says “…. Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed (the written legislation forbidding prayer to any god but the king, upon pain of death), he went into his house; and his windows being open (he was getting fresh air while he interceded to the God of heaven) in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.”
Many of us who profess to love the Lord, and who have time consuming responsibilities, often feel that we are too busy to pray, and that God ‘knows our hearts’.  But here is busy statesman Daniel, a man hunted and pursued because of envy by his colleagues and neighbors, kneeling to pray, three times daily, in the relative privacy of his room – with his windows open.  I would be remiss not to add that Daniel was, by faith even then, engaging in the principles of healthy living, for his windows were open, and we know in his early life that he championed the eating of a simple, uncomplicated diet.  Obviously Daniel was a man of faith and prayer.
For Daniel to exercise the faith that he did, he must also have been a man of the word, for ‘faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 5:17).  How did Daniel, a captive of a conquered people, living in a political environment hostile to the true worship of God, have access to the Word?  While we may not know for sure what physical access he had to the written word, we do know that prior to being taken captive to Babylon, he had been trained by his godly parents to know and love God, and to respect and depend on His word.  Thus Daniel like David, could say, “Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against Thee” (Psalms 119:11).
Mary the mother of Jesus was also a follower of God who hid the word in her heart, for in Luke 2:19, the scripture says that Mary kept all these things (the things prophesied to her) and pondered (or considered) them in her heart.” When we Know the word, and keep it in our hearts throughout the day as Mary, Daniel and David did, when we consider and ponder its past meaning and context, it informs our ongoing prayers.  Praying the word is conversing with God.  This is the means of keeping the promises of God fresh in our minds.  This is living by faith—which is to say, living by every word that proceeds out of His mouth, for food, for clothing, for friendships, for love, for work (Deuteronomy 8:3; Matthew 4:4).
 “It is a wonder we pray so little! (When) God is so ready and willing to hear the sincere prayer of the humblest of His children… there is much manifest reluctance on our part to make known our wants to God.  What can the angels of heaven think when (we) humans are so poor and helpless and subject to temptation? God’s infinitely loving heart yearns toward us, ready to give us more than we can ask or think, yet we pray so little and have so little faith.  The Angels love to bow before God; they love to be near Him.  They regard communion with God as their highest joy; and yet (we) the children of earth, who need so much the help that only God can give, seem satisfied to walk without the light of His Spirit, the companionship of His presence” (Ellen White, Steps to Christ, p. 94 paraphrased).
The Psalmist has said, ‘My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O Lord: in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up” (Psalms 5:3).  “Why the morning,” you may ask.  “What is so important about the morning?”  It is because in the morning our minds are usually more rested, calm and free of cares prior to getting going for the day.  The early morning hours are usually quieter, allowing us to hear what the Lord will say to us concerning our circumstances for the day or the time.  In the morning, His special promises to us come unbidden (by us), as we wait on Him in expectation for His answers to our concerns.  
But oh how we hate to wait!  We have things to do, places to go, and people to see.  We must get going now!  We are controlled by the “tyranny of the urgent.’  But stop, and imagine if you will, the Psalmist David seeking the Lord early in the morning before running off once again to hide from murderous King Saul.  Think about the fact that David, the divinely appointed heir to the throne was running for his life for thirteen years!  In this context, our excuses of busyness fall flat in regard to missing morning devotional time with our Lord.  We may feel that we are being pursued by various agendas, plans, and the ongoing pressing needs of children, spouses and work – even church work, surely we are not being physically pursued so that our life might be taken.
Daniel knelt to pray three times a day under all circumstances.  In his chambers in his room, by his open window (not hidden away) he prayed even then being pursued by murderous neighbors.  You may say, “Well, he was praying for deliverance, for his life.”  Do we not need deliverance?  Is Satan not ‘a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour’ (I Peter 5:8)? Our only means of deliverance is hearing the Lord through the word for ourselves, preferably, in the morning.
Let’s not fall into the same trap that the Israelites did at Mount Sinai.  They told Moses to hear the word for them, and tell them what God has said.  They said, “If we hear, then we will die” (Exodus 19 & 20).  In the morning, the Lord wants to increase our faith, which comes by hearing the Word of promise which the Lord will tell us.  He wants to renew the impress of the law on our hearts and minds; that we might be willing to eagerly listen attentively to His voice, as He unfolds the gospel -- willing to do, even before we know what He is even asking of us (Hebrew definition of Obey -- Shama).  
There is a little known quote which seems appropriate to conclude our thoughts on prayer.  It is attributed to Ellen White in the Review and Herald, dated October 7, 1865. 
“Prayer is the answer to every problem in life.  It puts us in tune with divine wisdom which knows how to adjust everything perfectly.  So often we do not pray in certain situations because from our stand point the outlook is hopeless.  But nothing is impossible with God (Matthew 19:26).  Nothing is so entangled that it cannot be remedied.  No human relation is too strained for God to bring out reconciliation and understanding.  No habit is too deep-rooted that it cannot be overcome.  No one is so weak that he cannot be made strong.  No one is so ill that He cannot be healed.  No mind is so dull, that it cannot be made brilliant.  Whatever we need or desire, if we trust God, He will supply it.  If anything is causing worry and anxiety, let us stop rehearing the difficulty and trust God for healing, love, and power.”
--Raul Diaz