Dedicated to the devotional, exegetical and philosophical study of theological paradox in Conservative, Thoroughly Biblical, Historically Orthodox, Essentially Reformed theology . . . to the glory of God alone!

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Paradoxes of Prayer - Part 1


Luke 18:1 "Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart . . ."

Praying is so essential to the Christian life that our Lord repeatedly commanded, exemplified, and extolled it. The Christian who has made any effort at all in prayer has discovered some things:

1. He does not do enough of it.
2. It is hard to do.
3. His flesh is irreparably bent against it.
4. It is easily neglected.
5. It is often contorted into a lifeless parody of itself.
6. When it is done in the right way, and with the right motives, it is unfathomably effective, pleasurable, and beneficial.
7. Yet perfectionism is sure to destroy it every time.
We pray only when things are going well; or we pray only when things are going badly. We pray only about ourselves; or we pray only about circumstances. We pray very brief and unfocused prayers; or we pray exceptionally good prayers that succeed in impressing ourselves or others. We condemn ourselves for our lack of prayer; or we exalt ourselves for our self-discipline. We find prayer dry and joyless, and therefore give up; or we find it ecstatically enjoyable, and therefore follow our feelings into inconsistency. There are many pitfalls, but there is no room for giving up. Like so many things in the Christian life - that is, the realistic life - praying is hard. But it is good. In fact, it is very good.

This series will examine two types of paradox regarding prayer. First, we will consider a theological paradox that can be a gigantic hindrance. Second, we will look at some practical paradoxes designed to encourage us in our praying. The goal is to help you (and me) to find encouragement from God's Word that will greatly increase our effectiveness and joyfulness in the life of prayer.

Before going any further, allow me to admit honestly that I am no expert on this subject. I struggle here, perhaps more than most. But I am long in the fight, and God has taught me a thing or two by hard experience. Years ago, some of my closest friends were apalled to hear me declare, "God ruined my prayer life." They thought it was a terrible thing to say. And it was terrible. But it was nonetheless true. My prayer life needed to be ruined, just as an old, rickety, mold-filled, dilapidated shack needs to be torn down. God had better gifts to give than I would ever find in my merit-minded, self-righteous, self-focused and self-satisfied prayers. He brought me down to nothing and gave me a new start. Then, for the first time, I did not merely approach the Lord. I connected with Him.

This series is all about connecting with God, on His terms and in His divinely mandated way. I hope you don't need to have your prayer life ruined as I did. But if you do, so be it. The God who "makes all things new" can give you a new start.
PS - To illustrate just how counterintuitive the phrase, "God ruined my prayer life" is, search for the phrase (in quotes) on Google. You're already looking at the only page that will be listed. "God ruined my prayer" yields the same result. Controversial as the phrase may be, I tell you truthfully that God will jealously destroy anything and everything that stands between Himself and His beloved children. Even spiritual things. And that is the GOOD NEWS!


  1. I really look forward to hear what you have to say about prayer brother! As of late this has become a theme for me. It is awesome how God works in our lives to bring to our attention the things we need to do or change. Praise God that He who began a good work in us will carry it to completion!

  2. Rob,

    You are always encouraging.

    I don't think I'll say anything new or profound about prayer, but hopefully some things that are helpful. I've read so many books that never acknowledge the genuine STRUGGLE involved. On the other hand, Andrew Murray wrote in his little book, "The Prayer Life," that it is nothing else than our sinful flesh that prevents us from having a consistent, fruitful life of prayer. And that's great news, because we have been given powerful weapons with which to defeat our flesh and overcome in the struggle. I hope I can provide a little bit of encouragement in that direction through this series (for myself as much as anyone else).

    Always great to hear from you.



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