As I briefly shared in my last blog, I have recently had a whole lot of changes within my personal life, as well as within the ministry of which I am a part of. When someone shares something like that most people, at least in my experience, seem to generally lean toward thinking that that means the person is usually referring to some unwanted or negative change in their life. While it is often true that changes do bring forth challenges and sometimes unexpected or even undesired things in one’s life, there is another side to that coin that I hope to share in this blog. Those same things that may be unexpected or even undesired also brings the opportunity to progress forward and grow. Besides that, the last time I checked crops never grow on the mountain tops but always in the valleys. So sometimes in order to grow we have to leave those mountain top highs and head down into the valleys.
Anyways, one of the greatest ways in which these changes in my life have been challenging me is to grow in learning to walk in greater faith and in trusting in the Lord. This, as of late, has given me an unquenchable desire to want growth in my prayer life. And aside from being more deliberate and intentional about trying to spend more time with the Lord in prayer, I have also been trying to read the writings of great men and women of prayer who have gone before me. In that pursuit, I have recently been introduced to Dutch Reformer Andrew Murray. Murray was a true man of prayer and very passionate about being alone with His Savior. I am currently working my way through one of Murray’s most famous written works: “With Christ in the School of Prayer”. It is a book that is really speaking to me and feeding the hunger to grow in my prayer life and I highly encourage you to pick it up for yourself if you too desire greater intimacy and prayer with the Lord.
Last week I was very much challenged reading Murray and felt it would be valuable for me to share some of what he had to say as it may also provoke you as it did me.
Murray uses the story in Luke 18 of the blind man crying out to Jesus to have mercy on him…and even after being told to be quiet he persists in crying out to the Lord…when Jesus has him brought to Him, and the man draws near to the Lord, Jesus asks him: “What do you want Me to do for you?” or in the King James (of which Murray quotes from) “What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee?” and the man responds: “I want to see!” And Jesus says: “Receive your sight! Your faith has healed you.”
Murray sees this plea and petition as true and heartfelt prayer to Jesus and has great insight on how we should take the lesson from this blind man in our own prayer life. Murray starts off addressing Jesus’ first verbal response to the man’s plea “What do you want Me to do for you?” Murray says:
“He (Jesus) wants to hear from his own lips, not only the general petition for mercy, but the distinct expression of what his desire was. Until he speaks it out, he is not healed…There is now still many suppliant to whom the Lord puts the same question, and who cannot, until it has been answered, get the aid he asks. Our prayers must not be a vague appeal to His mercy, an indefinite cry for blessing, but the distinct expression of definite need. Not that His loving heart does not understand our cry, or is not ready to hear. But He desires it for our own needs better. It demands time, and thought, and self-scrutiny to find out what really is our greatest need. It searches us and puts us to the test as whether our desires are honest and real, such as we are ready to persevere in. It leads us to judge whether our desires are according to God’s Word, and whether we really believe that we shall receive the things we ask. It helps us to wait for the special answer, and then mark it when it comes.
And yet how much of our prayer is vague and pointless. Some cry for mercy, but take not the trouble to know what mercy must do for them. Others ask, perhaps, to be delivered from sin, but do not begin by bringing any sin by name from which the deliverance may be claimed. Still others pray for God’s blessing on those around them, for the outpouring of God’s Spirit on their land or the world, and yet have no special field where they wait and expect to see the answer. To all (of that) the Lord says: ‘And what is it now you really want and expect Me to do?’”
Murray goes on to about the difference between unproductive repetitive prayers and prayers truly from the depth of a man.
“As long as in prayer we just pour out our hearts in a multitude of petitions with the purpose and expectation of getting answer, not we bow before the Lord, we were to ask such questions as these: What is now really my desire? Do I desire it in faith, expecting to receive? Am I now ready to place and leave it in the Father’s bosom? Is it a settled thing between God and me that I am to have the answer? We should learn so to pray that God would see and we would know what we really expect.
It is for this, among other reasons, that the Lord warns us against the vain repetitions of the Gentiles, who think to be heard for their much praying. We often hear prayers of great earnestness and fervor, in which a multitude of petitions are poured forth, but to which the Saviour would undoubtedly answer, ‘What wilt thou that I should do unto thee?’”
Murray then brilliantly does a final comparison regarding the plea of the blind man’s praying plea to Jesus between that of what we want or desire and that of which comes from the place of the transformed will of a person who has true faith in the One in whom they are supplicating to, as He bestow His grace on them to have such faith.
“He (Jesus) does not say, ‘What dost thou wish?’ but, ‘What dost thou will?’ One often wishes for a thing without willing it…The sluggard wishes to be rich, but does not will it…The will rules the whole heart and life…But, it may be asked, is it not best to make our wishes known to God, and then to leave it to Him to decide what is best, without seeking to assert our will? By no means. This is the very essence of the prayer of faith…the prayer of faith, finding God’s Will in some promise of the Word, pleas for that till it comes…Faith is nothing but the purpose of the will resting on God’s Word, and saying: I must have it. To believe truly is to will firmly.
But is not such a will at variance with our dependence on God and our submission to Him? By no means; it is much rather the true submission that honours God. It is only when the child has yielded his own will in entire surrender to the Father, that he receives from the Father liberty and power to will what he would have. But, when once the believer has accepted the will of God, as revealed through the Word and Spirit, as his will too, then it is the will of God that His child should use this renewed will in His service. The will is the highest power in the soul; grace wants above everything to sanctify and restore the will, one of the chief traits of God’s image, to full and free exercise. As a son, who only lives for his father’s interests, who seeks not his own but his father’s will, is trusted by the father with his business, so God speaks to His child in all truth, ‘What wilt thou?’ It is often spiritual sloth that, under the appearance of humility, professes to have no will, because it fears the trouble of searching out the will of God, or, when found, the struggle of claiming it in faith. True humility is ever in company with strong faith, which only seeks to know what is according to the will of God, and then boldly claims the fulfillment of the promise: ‘Ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.’”
In this season I am learning many things and experiencing a greater need for being close to my Father than I have experienced in seasons from the past. I am realizing more and more every day that I can no longer just accept having casual generic conversation with the Lord. But as His son must run to Him in specific definite prayer; crying out during deep moments of intimacy, in absolute faith that my Father’s Will be given to me as my own and that it, above all else, will be done and realized.