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1718. Loving God Through Prayer

The Daily Platform / Bob Jones University
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February 28, 2024 5:58 pm

1718. Loving God Through Prayer

The Daily Platform / Bob Jones University

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February 28, 2024 5:58 pm

Dr. Ken Casillas continues the Seminary Chapel series entitled “Loving God.”

The post 1718. Loving God Through Prayer appeared first on THE DAILY PLATFORM.

The Daily Platform
Bob Jones University

Welcome to The Daily Platform from Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina.

Today's speaker is Dr. Ken Casias, a seminary professor at Bob Jones University. How many of you recognize the name Fred the Baker? Fred was the focus of a series of commercials that Dunkin' Donuts did, where he would drag himself out of bed every morning and force himself to work, to drive, to get there in whatever the weather was, and he would just keep repeating to himself, time to make the donuts, gotta make the donuts, over and over again. That was his motto, and there was a kind of a comical drudgery to it that I think working people could relate to, but I suppose that the main point was that he had this stoic commitment to carry out the donut mission.

No matter what the obstacles, no matter what he felt like, time to make the donuts, gotta make the donuts. Well, I must confess that that is often how I have approached the discipline of prayer, that I recognize it is a responsibility and I am committed to it by the grace of God, but there is a sort of a stoicism, time to have my devotions, gotta spend time in prayer, as opposed to the kind of thing that often comes out in scripture when prayer is being described, and that is that there is a real joy about it. That this is not viewed as some kind of a burden, but it is viewed really as a privilege and something that people, the people of God enter into with their whole hearts engaged. And that's really the attitude I'd like to encourage us with this morning, to help move us away from a sort of drudgery sort of spirit, with the topic that's been assigned to me this morning, loving God through prayer. It's a great subject, but it's one that I have been challenged about as far as this message, because I really have not been able to locate a particular passage that I would say is the sort of key passage on this, and that it gives us a kind of a comprehensive teaching on the relationship between love for God and prayer. And so this morning, we're going to be looking at various scriptures. This is going to be a topical message that is going to attempt to weave together various passages that relate to this theme. And really, even that, looking at key passages in various parts is not going to answer all our questions or deal with this comprehensively, because in fact, a number of the passages that I'm going to be citing don't deal explicitly with the relationship between love for God and prayer. There's going to be a lot of inferences in some cases, and connections that I'm going to be drawing as we consider this subject, what we call systematic theology. So yes, this morning, a BJU seminary professor is going to preach a topical message that is systematic theological in nature.

You didn't think we believed in those things. Actually, I feel the liberty to take this approach, because in the key passage on love for God, it seems to me that Jesus is doing exactly this. How can you say, out of a mass of Old Testament laws, this is the main one, and this is the second one? Apart from doing some analysis, apart from comparing and contrasting one law with another, apart from getting at the essence of the thing in the middle of all of its detail, apart from making some inferences and connections, when Jesus said love for God is the greatest commandment, and love for man is the second greatest commandment, he was doing systematic theology.

And that's what we're going to do this morning. What I'd like to do is to share seven propositions that I hope will move us pretty well down the road as we try to understand the relationship between love for God and prayer. And yet I hope that we're going to see this not just as a theological analysis, but that really it will have the effect, framing prayer in terms of loving God, will have the effect of, I trust, making us want to pray, helping us see the value of this, and really inspiring our hearts to do it more and more fervently.

These seven points, they're not arranged in any kind of tight, logical order, but there is a general progression from more basic to more complex and more significant, I think. On the most basic level, I think we all agree that prayer is a duty. It is an obligation. In other words, the Bible everywhere expects that God's people are praying people, and it doesn't stop short of actually commanding us to do this thing called prayer.

We need to look no further than one of the most famous and used and quoted texts on this, 1 Thessalonians 5, 17, pray without ceasing. It's not just a duty, it is something that is required of us as a habitual, even a constant kind of interaction with the Lord. And even though it is viewed there as an obligation, it is tied into love. And that's our first proposition here, that love compels the obedience that is involved in prayer. Jesus taught that if we love him, we will keep his commandments, and 1 John 5, 3 says, for this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. Prayer is one of those commandments. And then John writes, and his commandments are not grievous.

I'd like to dwell on that word for a moment here, they are not grievous. That's the Greek word barus, which basically means heavy or weighty. The people who are obeying God out of love do not find his commandments, including the commandment to pray, as something that is heavy, something that is burdensome. It struck me that that word heavy is used as well of the Pharisees, when Jesus is rebuking them and their approach to the life with God. He says about them in Matthew 23, 4, for they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be born and lay them on men's shoulders. When you think about the Pharisees and their approach to a relationship with God, their approach to obedience, Jesus presents it. They are putting things on people that are overwhelming, that are crushing, that are defeating, and that could be in the amount of expectations, or it could be in the way that those expectations are presented.

The motivations behind them, what drives the obedience. It could be done out of external pressure that they put on people. It could be done merely out of a sense of obligation.

Worse yet, it could be done as a kind of a payment to God for our acceptance before him. And what 1 John 5, 3 is telling us, and I'm applying this to prayer, it is suggesting that if that is what my prayer life is like, something done out of pressure, something done just because of duty, something done as a kind of a payment to God, if that is what my prayer life is like, if I view it as a burden, there's been a breakdown somewhere. I have come to view prayer as a mere duty instead of as a love duty. Love compels the obedience that is involved in prayer. Now that's not to deny that prayer is hard work, that it requires self-denial, that it requires persistence, that it entails difficulty, overcoming obstacles, dying to yourself.

When you look at some of the things about prayer in the New Testament, there are a few times where Paul talks about prayer with the Greek word agnizomai, right? That word family that has to do with struggle and fighting and exertion, that's not too strong of a word to describe prayer. And if sometimes when I pray, I feel like I've been working really hard, like I've been wrestling, like there's been this opposition that I've been trying to pin down so that I can accomplish this time of interaction with God, that doesn't necessarily mean there's something wrong. Prayer is hard work. Something can be hard, something can be challenging without having this burdensome spirit that 1 John talks about. And we need to link the hard work of prayer to love as well, and that's my second thought here. Love not only compels the obedience that is involved in prayer, but love as well motivates the discipline that is needed for prayer. It's not just agnizomai, but the Bible in many other ways is frank about what prayer is going to demand from us.

Listen to what 1 Peter 4 and verse 7 says. The end of all things is at hand, therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. That is, in order to be effective, in order to be successful, in order to be persistent in prayer, it's going to demand self-control. And it's going to demand sober-mindedness. It's going to take spiritual alertness, a with-it-ness.

It's going to require mental concentration. It's going to mean that I have to endure even physically to stay awake in order to connect with God through prayer. Having my other desires kind of reigned in and under control in order for this spiritual discipline to happen. And we want to remember what Jesus said to his sleepy disciples there in the garden. He said, Watch and pray that ye enter not into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.

I'm so glad that he made that acknowledgement, that he put it in those terms, so that again, I know it's not necessarily a problem that I feel weak physically and sleepy, but the question is, am I, by God's grace, resisting this? Prayer involves fighting against even natural bodily desires. And so the question is, what is it that is going to keep a person fighting against that? What is it that's going to stir you up and give you a desire greater than your bodily desires, than your mind drifting to keep you at this discipline? Well, I think it's the same thing that so often moves people to do a lot of hard things in life. When you have an objective that is precious to you, when you are striving to accomplish something that is important to you, you are willing to die to yourself. You are willing to deny lesser desires in the process in order to make it happen.

And this comes out in all kinds of ways, in all kinds of stages of life. I was thinking back on some key circumstances in my own life when I was just out of college and working for a summer. Almost all that I made that summer went to one object that is relatively small, that in terms of its size didn't seem very worth it financially in all the hours that I worked. But because of the significance of that one little thing, it really was worth it to expend all that energy and all that money in order to obtain it. All my wages basically that summer went for an engagement ring.

And kind of my theme verse for the summer was Genesis 29, 20. So Jacob served seven years for Rachel. And they seemed to him but a few days, why? Because of the love he had for her. The love made the work bearable.

The affection enabled Jacob to persevere and do something hard and for a very long time in his case. You go to the next stages of life as you are newly married and then God blesses you with children. Why does a mother for months and months get up in the middle of the night in order to feed her child, in order to change her infant, in order to try to get the baby to sleep and take care of any other need that may be involved there. Why go through that kind of annoyance, that disturbance to her life, that denying herself of something as basic as sleep. And in my case doing it five times over.

Why? Because of the natural love that a mother has for her child that moves her to deny herself that way. Now we're in a different stage of life, very much like Dr. Hankins was mentioned today, caring for an elderly father. And in many respects it's kind of like going through having an infant all over again. As your loved ones begin to decline and they lose their ability to do very normal things, you have to take on these sort of responsibilities that are constant and that require self to know why do that. There have been a number of times in that process that I have said to myself, this is my dad, I love him, I can do this, I want to do this.

Not because I enjoy the work and the nature of it, but because this is my father. Love drives you to deny yourself. That's what's going on in all of those hard cases of work and discipline. It's what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13 that love bears all things and love endures all things. And what I'm saying here is that the same applies to prayer and the self-denial that prayer requires. Love for the Lord motivates the self-discipline that it takes to spend time talking with him. Now these first two points have been foundational, they've been kind of basic, but they have focused on the basic act of prayer. What we need to do now is ask how does all of this about love also inform the content, the actual content of what we pray to the Lord. And that brings us to our third thought here that love inspires the prioritizing that the Lord expects in prayer. The Bible tells us not only to pray, but it tells us how to pray, it gives us the kinds of things that we are to pray for, and of course what comes to mind right away is Matthew chapter 6 and what Jesus taught in the disciples prayer.

Here are the leading requests. Hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven. We understand that Jesus is not laying out a rigid order of request, a sort of formula that you have to go through every time or it's not good or it won't work, but certainly there is something to be learned from the emphasis of that prayer. That half of the requests have to do not with ourselves and our needs, but with God and his concerns.

And that those requests, that first half does occur at the beginning as the first ones to make that point, to emphasize that he ought to be the focus. For me to truly pray that way would mean this. It would mean that I have subordinated my concerns to God's concerns. It would mean that I want my own needs met primarily so that his purposes can through me be accomplished.

It would mean in short that I am loving him more than I am loving myself. The very requests that we are taught to pray have this idea of love for God as a supreme theme woven right into them. Maybe you've heard of a famous letter that Augustine wrote to a noble woman whose last name was Proba, and she had written to him asking for some advice about prayer, and he wrote back a fairly lengthy letter giving her some counsel. When he got to the request that he was encouraging her to pray, here is how he started off. A short solution of your difficulty may be given thus, pray for a happy life. This all men wish to have.

How does that strike you? Augustine, what should I pray for? Pray for a happy life.

Everybody wants to be happy. Sounds like Joel Osteen. Is that in fact what he was recommending to her? Is that the way to understand his instruction?

Actually, quite the opposite because that was fairly well into the letter. And before he got into what you should pray for, he had a section where he was teaching her the kind of person that she ought to be in order to be able to pray. And he dwelt for a while on 1 Timothy chapter 6 verses 17 and 19, verses that have to do with the rich like she was, encouraging them not to set their hope and their affection on the uncertainty of riches, but on God who gives us all things to enjoy and to seek to enjoy eternal life, not so much the things of this life. He was pointing this woman to the absolute necessity of loving God first. And he said this, it becomes you out of love to this true life, eternal life. To account yourself desolate in this world, however great the prosperity of your lot may be.

In other words, wean away your affections from all this stuff that you have and all this more stuff that you may want, and recognize that in principle you have nothing but God. View yourself as desolate, as absolutely reliant upon him, beholden to him, attached to him, finding everything in him, and within that context then you're going to know what it means to pray for your own happiness. In other words, she was in a coma, needed to cast all of her reliance on wealth and circumstances aside, to put away any idolatry related to those things, cast herself on Christ alone, seek him supremely, and only then was she going to understand what happiness really means. And she's going to understand how her desires could be satisfied in a way that did not compete with God's desires, but that actually contributed to the desires the Lord had for her.

First, she had to love God supremely, then she would be able to learn how to pray. Now one evidence of this connection, the content of our prayers, is how we pray with reference to our own sin. And after all, one of the requests in the disciples' prayer has to do with confession, forgive us our debts as we also forgive our debtors. That's our forethought here, that love prompts the confession that is included in prayer. Remember what David said in his famous penitential prayer? He said, against thee the only have I sinned, and done what is evil in thy sight, that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest. What is he saying as he confesses his sin? It is not just I feel guilty, so I'm going to tell you what I did, and say I'm sorry so you'll forgive me, so I'll feel better.

He did feel relieved, and he does celebrate that. But here he says, this is not primarily about myself, this is about a God-centered purpose. I want to say that I was wrong so that you will be shown to have been in the right. I want you to be vindicated. I want to declare that you were correct in your assessment of what is right and wrong, and where I stood, and what I have done.

By saying that I am in the wrong, I am really drawing the attention, spotlighting you and how you are right. This is all about taking sides with God, and against ourselves. You know, next time you find yourself unwilling to confess your sin, thanks be a wonderful thought to process and to dwell on, the Lord might humble you, is to view confession as an act of love. To view confession as an act of commitment to God, an act of devotion to him and his ways.

I take sides against myself, not because I'm just beating myself up, but because I want God to be honored. The heart of a true believer resonates with that. When he views things in light of what this means for God, he's willing to come to this point of confession. And just like I've done there briefly for confession, we could go through every other aspect or kind of prayer, and tie it in some way to the love of God, but we want to hasten on to talk about answers to prayer. And number five is this, love grows through the answers that are granted through prayer.

That was the point of the passage that was read at the beginning of the service, Psalm 116 verses one and two. I love the Lord, why? Because he hath heard my voice and my supplications. Because he's inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live.

And there's this kind of a cycle. God answers your prayer, it deepens your love for him, and so you want to ask him for more, and you want to see more of his involvement in your life. The first verses of Psalm 18 say the same sort of thing. And haven't you found that dynamic true in your life as well? When God gave you something you asked him for, there was this instinctive warming of your heart, this instinctive response of gratitude, and this deepening response of love.

Probably all of us could tell stories of things that we remember. For the sake of time, I won't give examples, but you think back on your life, and I'm sure, I hope that there are kind of high watermarks in your relationship with the Lord, where you prayed about something very specific, and God intervened and specifically granted you what you asked for. And how did you feel toward the Lord after that?

We call them high watermarks, not just because we got what we wanted, but because those events the Lord used to prove to us in a very personal way that he cares for us, that he is attentive to us, that he is ministering to us on a very individual level, that he's aware of what we need and what we ask. And Psalm 116 says when we experience that, it grows us in our love for him. I'm sure that if we didn't focus only on the big things, but if we tracked even the small ways on a regular basis in which God works in answer to prayer, we'd find our heart warmed back toward him in the same way. But that's not really our struggle primarily. I think our struggle is more in what happens and how our love for him is related to when he says no, or when we do not get exactly what we ask for.

That's point number six here. Love is related to that as well. Love impels the surrender that is required in prayer. I could have said love impels the trust, but I think surrender is a better word. It's stronger because it emphasizes that often trusting God includes our response toward him when we would naturally tend to be disappointed with him or complain or resist or respond that somehow he's made a mistake. And that sort of surrender, that willingness to accept however he chooses to answer our prayers, that surrender is a form of love because it's about being so committed to him that we are willing to defer to his wisdom instead of insisting on our own. That attitude is a form of love. It is a prioritizing of God and his ways.

And it takes various forms. It can take the form of waiting on God for a long time. Psalm 62 here is one of many passages in the Psalter that highlight the need for waiting, that suggests that sometimes there are these delays from our perspective and the answer does not come right away. This language here about relying on him, waiting only on him, expecting him to work, trusting him at all times, those are responses of a loving heart. They are an indication that our affections are fixed on God.

And when it gets really indicative of where things are in our hearts is when we not only have to wait before he says yes, but when he actually says no and denies a request. Love moves us to take that posture of surrender even when God says no. And wasn't that the attitude that Jesus displayed when in the garden? He says, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will but thine be done. There is one of the greatest connections between love for God and prayer. I know that my love for God is truly engaged in prayer when my attitude is, Lord, yes, here's what I want, but most of all, I want what you want. And I might say that that's the greatest connection between love for God and prayer, but I've left actually the best and the greatest for the end. And that is this, that love delights in the communion that is enabled by prayer. If we are viewing prayer as a means of conversing with God, then no matter what the answers may be, we're going to be thinking that actually prayer in a sense is its own reward.

Why? Because it gives us the opportunity to spend time fellowshipping with the object of our love. There's a reason that prayer theologically is called a means of grace. It's because through this means we're able to draw near to the Lord and experience his personal ministry back to us by way of sanctifying us, by way of comforting us, by way of giving us a deeper sense of his presence. No matter what may happen in terms of the requests that we're making, it is a means of grace in and of itself. And this is suggested by our last passage here from Jude, who speaks of keeping ourselves in the love of God. Have you ever looked at this passage? That really is the kernel of that passage, keep yourselves in the love of God.

How do I do that? That sounds kind of weird. How do I keep myself in the love of God? Well, there are a couple of participles at the beginning of the verse that give you the means, and one of them is praying in the Holy Spirit. As you led by the Spirit are praying and communing with God, you are being enabled to stay within the sphere of God's love. You are experiencing his love. You are knowing it in a deeper way. And this has got to be the greatest connection between love for God and prayer, that prayer brings us into personal connection with the one that we love. You've been listening to a message preached at Bob Jones University, which was part of the series, Loving God. Join us again tomorrow as we continue this series on The Daily Platform.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-02-28 19:31:01 / 2024-02-28 19:41:39 / 11

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