Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Repentance and Prayer

Prayer is not a religious abstract theoretical recitation of empty chatter that only derives some sort of temporary physiological relief or benefits for the mind of man. Also prayer should not be thought of as a mystical experience in which people lose their identity in the infinite reality. Neither does prayer involve a ritual of bowing the head, closing the eyes, falling to the knees, pounding of the chest and etceteera. Prayer is not propelling oneself into an imaginary realm of dreams, false hope and wishful thinking.

Prayer is simply speaking with God in a reverent conversational manner as a child speaking to a loving, compassionate Father who understands the immaturities and weaknesses of His children. Understood in this conversation is the fact that the one who is praying is both humble and expectant; absent of mere wishing or being demanding. Any outward physical acts such as closing of the eyes, bowing of the head and kneeling should be a spontaneous sincere expression of humbleness and reverence from the inner man before his God. Further, prayer is also an exchange of confidence: the one who prays assumes the posture of a trusting child and prays with faith that is made complete by obedience; God remembers his frailty, loves him as His child, hears and answers his prayers.

God speaks to His children by His Holy Spirit and His children in turn speak to Him, spirit to Spirit (1st Corinthians 2:10-13). Assured by the Holy Spirit through the revelation of Scripture that God is a personal, living, active, all-knowing, all-wise, all-powerful and caring Father; as a result of the work of His Spirit we know that He does hear and help us in our time of need.

Before entering into conversation with man’s righteous Creator one must be in right standing with his heavenly Father. Therefore prayer is a time of confession and repentance. Awareness of God’s holiness leads to consciousness of our own sin nature (Isaiah 6:5). Also, by learning of the vicious nature of sin we realize it not only destroys the sinner but also hurts those closest to him and destroys his relationship with God (Genesis 4:1-16); sin is violation of God’s laws which has been given to govern our relationships with Him and one another (Psalm 51:4).

The great prophet Isaiah wrote:

“Behold, the LORD’S hand is not so short that it cannot save; nor is His ear so dull that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.” (Isaiah 59:1-2)

Fellowship with God requires a heart that is empty of sin and worldliness. A heart filled with disobedience, earthly projects, carnal interests, ambition, thoughts of becoming rich in worldly goods, and with the love of the luxuries and pleasures of life is a candidate for repentance.

In order to repent one must recognize his sinful condition and turn his back on sin and turn with faith toward his Savior, Jesus Christ, for forgiveness. This is accomplished only through convictions brought about by the leading of the Holy Spirit; resulting in a deep sorrow and remorsefulness for crimes committed against God.

Thus repentance is the empting of one’s soul of sin through the merit of the shed blood of Jesus and preparing the heart for fellowship with a holy and righteous God. We must confess our sins to God and repent to get right with Him. He, in turn, forgives us of all unrighteousness (1st John 1:9).

“God is love.” (1st John 4:8)

To the “born again” prayer is a response to the love of God. This great love was expressed by our heavenly Father in the giving of His Son for the atonement of man’s sin at the cross of Calvary; and in His resurrection in victory over death, as well as His continuing abiding presence and fellowship through the Holy Spirit. Thus we understand that the love that is from God conditions the heart of the believer for prayer. And so it is that the very cornerstone of the prayer of faith is the love of God expressed in His living and abiding Word, Jesus Christ.

God’s greatest desire is that we love Him with our total being (Matthew 22:37). Our love should be expressed, as His has been expressed, in both deeds and words. Each time love is expressed, in words or deeds, it grows stronger. People sometimes find it difficult to say to others and to God, “I love you.” But when love for God fills our lives, we will express our love for God by loving one another and in prayer to the one who is ultimately responsible for all that we are or ever hope to be.

Prayer is not only a response to God’s grace as brought to us in the life and work of Jesus and the teaching of Scripture; it is also a tool to supply the needs of others. The prayer of faith can reconcile marriages, move mountains, change lives, heal the sick, raise the dead, cause the lame to walk, the blind to see and etc.; hence proper prayer releases and directs God’s divine love, authority and power into any given situation and circumstance.

What hinders answers to prayer? Several hindrances to prayer are mentioned in the Holy Scripture:

  • Iniquity in the heart (Psalm 66:18)
  • Refusal to hear and obey God’s law (Proverbs 28:9)
  • An alienated or estranged heart (Isaiah 29:13)
  • Sinful separation from God (Isaiah 59:1-2)
  • Waywardness (Jeremiah 14:10-12)
  • Praying to be seen of men (Matthew 6:5-6)
  • Pride in fasting and tithing (Luke 18:11-14)
  • Lack of faith (Hebrews 11:6)
  • For those of us who are married, relationship with one’s spouse (1st Peter 3:1-7)
  • And then there is also double-mindedness (James 1:5-8)
5But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.
But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.
For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord,
being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”
(James 1:5-8 NASU)

Our heavenly Father desires that we have a loving, compassionate relationship with one another. Therefore, He has promised to answer our requests when we:

  • Start helping the hungry and afflicted (Isaiah 58:9-10)
  • Forgive others (Mark 11:25-26).
  • Trust Him; thus He answers when we believe that we will receive what we ask (Mark 11:22-24)
  • Honor our Savior and ask in Christ’s name (John 14:13-14)
  • Abide in Christ and His words abide in us (John 15:7).

Also, God is Spirit, thus we must pray in the Spirit (Ephesians 6:8) and obey the Lord’s commandments (1st John 3:22); and lastly, ask according to His will (1st John 5:14-15). The Apostle James writes,

“Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praises. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” (James 5:13-16 NAS)

Thus, prayer can be seen as a practical and powerful tool granted to the penitent, humble believer by a loving and responsive, living, infinite and Almighty God.

Finally, repentance and the prayer of faith bring peace and rest to the soul and assurance that he has been heard by a loving and responsive Holy Father. Selah.

James C Sanford

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