Monday, September 01, 2008

More Prophetic Words ...

... from a suffering man:
Think about it - if I pray that my son gets up and walks, and then stick "not my will but Yours, Lord" on the end as I finish, aren't I really leaving myself a loophole so that if it doesn't happen I can say "Well, the Lord didn't will it"? Actually, as I read back over that last sentence, even writing that down demonstrates that my faith isn't where I want it yet - faith that moves mountains doesn't concern itself with "if it doesn't happen". So if I pray "not my will but Thine", Isn't it possible that what I'm really saying is "OK, I don't believe You're actually gonna give me what I want, so You go ahead and do whatever You think You need to do"? At which point I am not really praying, but expressing my unbelief instead. In that case, my muttering of the phrase allows me to give up anytime I want and say "Well, I guess the Lord doesn't will it", whereas NOT praying it means I have to keep praying until I am answered, or give up and call it what it is - throwing away my confidence. Muttering that rote phrase then becomes a cop-out, because it negates the whole meaning and purpose of my prayer, which is to lift my need to the throne.
Read the whole thing here: Day 77 - August 31 - My Atrophied Faith - Part 2

And here is the first: Day 60 - August 14 - My Atrophied Faith - Part 1

More and more, the psalmist's words ring true because I don't think this biblical insight would have come to Eric any other way:
It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.
Psalm 119:71
What follows is my response to Eric that I left as a comment to his post:

I go to WHCC and, though I have never interacted with Connor (I met your daughter this weekend), I have been following the blog pretty much daily since it started and have been praying daily for him, you, and your family. It is amazing how, though you have never met them, you can feel so invested in another. I guess that's what it means to be part of one body. Only in the Lord. You have challenged and encouraged me as I have watched God work in you and through you. Thank you.

As I started to read your post, my first thought was that the answer to questions 2 and 3 is surely no, but not the answer to question 1. The answer to that question must be yes. But by the time I had finished reading, I realized that through you God had put your finger on my lack of faith.

The amazing thing is that in God's providence I had just read an exposition of James 1:5-7 (only this part!) last night in a set of Puritan works I recently received that I was just getting into for the first time (out of 22 volumes, these 10 pages in volume 4, apart from the introduction in volume 1, were the ones I chose to read first out of the 22 volumes and hundreds of pages I could have chosen from).

Though James is specifically writing about asking God when we lack wisdom, do the same conditions (faith without doubting) not apply when we approach God to ask for anything? Now I'm going to quote you an excerpt at length that, even though I had read it last night, I still must not have fully understood it until I had finished reading your post because if I did I would have completely agreed with you on question 1 from the beginning:

(commenting on James 1.6: But let him ask in faith ,with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.)

When we have no certain assurance of his will, the work of faith is to glorify and apply [God's] power. Unbelief stumbleth most at that, rather at God's can than will; as appeareth partly by experience.--Fears come upon us only when means fail and the blessings expected are most unlikely; which argueth that it is not the uncertainty of God's will, but the misconceit of his power, that maketh us doubt. The present dangers and difficulties surprise us with such a terror that we cannot comfortably use the help of prayer out of a faith in God's power:--partly by the testimony of the scriptures. Search, and you shall find that God's power and all-sufficiency is the first ground and reason of faith. Abraham believed, because 'God was able to perform,' Romans 4.21. And that unbelief expresseth itself in such language as implieth a plain distrust of God's power; as Psalm 78.19, 'Can the Lord prepare a table in the wilderness?' It is not the will but can: 2 Kings 7.2, 'If the Lord should open the windows of heaven, how can this be?' So the Virgin Mary: Luke 1.34, 'How can these things be?' and so in many other instances. Men deceive themselves when they think they doubt because they know not the will of God; their main hesitancy is at his power. Look, as in the case of conversion, we pretend a cannot, when indeed we will not; so, oppositely, in the case of faith, we pretend we know not God's will, when we indeed doubt his can. Therefore the main work of your faith is to give him the glory of his power, leaving his will to himself. Christ putteth you, as he did the blind men (Matt. 9.28), to the question, 'Am I able?' Your souls must answer, 'Yes, Lord.' And in prayer you must come as the leper: Matt 8.2, 'Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.' Whether he grant you or not, believe; that is, say in your thoughts, Lord, thou canst (The Works of Thomas Manton, Volume 4, pp. 48-49).

Now, I don't in any way think that Thomas Manton is an inspired apostle. But it cannot be coincidence how what he writes here (about 400 years ago, can you tell by the grammar =P?) almost completely coincides with what you wrote yesterday, at least to me having read Manton last night and Eric Williamson this morning.

Perhaps what we might view Jesus' prayer in Gethsemane in light of is the fact that Jesus isn't a totally depraved sinner whose heart is filled with all kinds of unbelief like the rest of us. Jesus knew His Father's power, as well as everything else about His Father (Matt 11:27), perfectly. We don't (Is that not why there are so many exhortations and prayers in the epistles for us to grow in the knowledge of God? Jesus didn't have to). Therefore He, unlike us, isn't deceived by what is really in His heart when He prays "Not my will, but Thine." And though this prayer ought to be the posture of our hearts flowing out in the way we live our lives, we must be very careful with our use of it (we must know our hearts) because praying it could result in the very opposite of what we think and want:

For that person [who doubts in unbelief] must not suppose that he will receive anything [not just wisdom] from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
James 1:7,8

Scary words that we would all do well to ponder the implications of.

So thank you again, Eric. Your faith (according to the measure that God has assigned) is greater than mine.

I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.
Luke 7:9

And I join with you in continuing to pray for Connor with boldness, "Lord, if you will, you can raise him up."

Growing in the knowledge of His power,
Chris Gatihi

1 comment:

Mel said...

Wow! That's a lot of reading! (Not just this post, but the other two posts you linked to, and the corresponding comments.) But it's TOTALLY worth it. In my opinion, this is one of the most useful and meaningful aspects of blogging--the exploration and exchange of ideas, especially when it comes to these particularly painful and difficult situations and the questions that arise from them. May God be glorified as we press in to know Him more. May His truth be revealed in all things.