12 September 2013

When Prayer becomes Consuming

Luke 18:9-14 NLT
"Then Jesus told this story to some who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else: 'Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: 'I thank you , God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else. For I don't cheat, I don't sin, and I don't commit adultery. I'm certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.' But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, 'O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.' I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.'"

The parable that Jesus shares of the Pharisee and the Publican (tax collector) shows us prayer in two forms. Here there is a profound contrast between each of them. The Pharisee comes to the Temple and stands by himself, thanking God that he's not a sinner like everyone else. He explains, and even boasts, to God how faithful he has been in fasting and giving tithes. 

Haven't we all had those moments where we feel like we're doing enough and now we think it's God's turn to bless us? 
This is where prayer must consume every part of us.

Now the tax collector, despised and unworthy, enters the Temple, stands away from the Pharisee, and would not so much as lift up his eyes toward Heaven. When I read the second half of verse 13 tears began to roll down my cheeks. This is a reminder (for me) of how I fail God daily and yet He is still constant with His open arms of love and His mercy that He showers over me. With the tax collector beating his chest, verse 13 says, "O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner." I can depict this image in my mind of the Pharisee, standing by himself, calmly having a chat with God over his own greatness. But when I see this tax collector, it's almost night and day. I can see him crying out to God with a heart that is far from contentment exclaiming, "GOD! HAVE MERCY ON ME! I'M A SINNER... BUT GOD HAVE MERCY ON ME!" 

That type of urgency and hunger for God should be our desire! 
How many times have we become so humbled before the throne of Almighty God that we just weep in the beauty of His presence? Crying, thirsting, pleading for forgiveness?

Our prayers need to be more than just skin deep and not just about ourselves like the Pharisee in the parable. When our flesh doesn't feel like praying, pray more! God is aware of our weaknesses and when we have a daily relationship with Him and His Spirit lives in us, we have a lifeline for those moments where we feel we can't utter another word. Romans 8:26-27 says, "the Spirit itself makes intercessions for us with groanings that cannot be uttered." Isn't it uplifting to know that when you feel bound by addiction, or that best friend did you wrong, or you experience a loss, or you just simply feel defeated, God says "I will fight for you" {Exodus 14:14}. Let that be encouragement to you on your journey.

God, let my prayer be that I never water the seed to complacency or get to the point where I feel that I am doing enough for Your Kingdom. Give me a servant's heart and a humble spirit for I am a sinner and I am unworthy. I never want to place my confidence in earthly things but on things above.

Let this be the point where you stop and do some personal searching of the heart. Seek to be like the Publican in prayer, consuming prayer, and know that you are a sinner saved by grace. Grow deeper in your walk with God so when you don't know what to pray, His Spirit living inside of you can fill the gaps. Allow yourself to become vulnerable and humbled in the presence of God and see what He has in store for you!

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