Sanctification:  Restoring the Soul through Prayer

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PrayerDuring our previous exercise in Sanctification, we learned that it is the work of the Holy Spirit to…

  • Birth us as the spiritual children of God; then,
  • Mature us into sons and daughters of God who are committed to carrying on the work of Christ in the world.

While the birthing part of the Spirit’s work is accomplished at the time of our Regeneration, the maturing part is something which takes place over time, as the Spirit works relentlessly yet lovingly within us to restore our souls to their original function as mediator between our spirits and bodies—which is to say, as the conduit through which the knowledge of God’s will is transferred from the one to the other.  The goal of all this work is to bring us to the place where we are living in obedience to God, with our carnal or fleshly natures under the control of His Spirit, for the purpose of implementing God’s will on the earth.

The way in which the Holy Spirit accomplishes this great work of restoration in a Child of God is by…

Teaching him to talk to His Father through Prayer;
Teaching him to listen to and discern the will of His Father through the Study of His Word;
Teaching him to obey His Father through Worship… 

…with the wonderful end result of all this being the production of the Fruit of the Spirit—or, the reproduction of the very Character of Christ—within the emotions, mind, and will making up his personality.  Since talking to God is such an integral part of the sanctification process, this exercise will be given over to learning more about Prayer and the way the Holy Spirit works through it to restore our souls.


Talking to God through Prayer 

Since learning to talk is one of the earliest developmental milestones in the life of a child, it should come as no surprise that one of the first things the Holy Spirit does in the life a new child of God is teach him to talk to his Heavenly Father.  This extraordinary privilege is made possible when, as a result of the New Birth, the spirit of the new believer is awakened from its previously coma-like state and the lines of communication between his spirit and God’s Spirit are opened up and activated.  Once this system is operational, the two parties involved in this wonderful new relationship can begin to communicate with one another.  This is essential because…

People in relationships must be able to talk to each other;
People who love each other must be able to express that love; and,
Prayer is the language of love connecting the Father with His children. 

The late Dr. Myles Munroe expanded on this concept in the following way…

To understand its essence, we must realize that prayer began with the creation of mankind.  It was not instituted after the Fall but before it.  Prayer existed from the beginning of God’s relationship with man…

The essence of prayer is twofold.  Prayer is…
…an expression of mankind’s unity and relationship of love with God;
…an expression of mankind’s affirmation of and participation in God’s purposes for the earth.

To pray means to commune with God, to become one with God.  It means union with Him—unity and singleness of purpose, thought, desire, will, reason, motive, objective, and feeling.  It is also the medium through which the human spirit affects and is affected by the will and purpose of the divine Creator.  Therefore, prayer is man’s vehicle of the soul and spirit by which he communes with the invisible God.[1]

In other words, prayer isn’t just about us mouthing words to God; it about us learning to speak to Him in such a way that we…

Become One with Him in His Person; and,
Become One with Him in His Purpose.

 

Prayer Makes Us Like Jesus

 
Becoming One with God in His Person
 

Let’s face it—when we first came to faith in Christ, about the best thing that could have been said about anyone of us is that we were a big spiritual mess.  That’s because, up to that point, we had spent our entire lives dancing to the tune of the world; living according to its standards, with our carnal natures dictating the ways we thought, spoke, and acted.  The Apostle Paul accurately described our pre-salvation condition in Ephesians 2:13, where he said that…

…you were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were, by nature children of wrath like the rest of mankind (Ephesians 2:1-3).

However, when our spirits were reborn and the Holy Spirit came to live within us, He began breathing life into our once dead spirits by…

  • Assuring us of our salvation and of our new positions as sons and daughters in the family of God—thus, prompting us to go to our Father with prayers of thanksgiving and praise for His gracious gift of salvation;
  • Writing the laws of God’s holiness upon our hearts—thus, making us conscious of the sin in our lives and prompting us to seek His forgiveness through prayers of repentance;
  • Making us aware of and sensitive to the needs of others—thus, moving us to prayers of petition and supplication on their behalf; and,
  • Calling our attention to the injustices in the world around us—thus, compelling us to prayers of intercession in an effort to bring about change.

The more we prayed these Spirit-led prayers, the stronger our spirits became while the weaker our flesh grew.  Then, with our spirits growing stronger, it became easier for us to…

…be imitators of God as beloved children (Eph. 5:1);

…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thes. 5:18);

…put off your old self, which belongs to your former way of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness (Eph. 4:22-24);

…set your minds on the things that are above, not on the things that are on earth…put to death, therefore, what is earthly in you:  sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desires, covetousness, which is idolatry (Col. 3: 2,5); and,

…put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience…forgiving each other…And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony (Col. 3: 12, 14)…

…changes in our attitudes and actions enabling us to become more like Jesus while, at the same time, becoming One with God in His Purpose.  And, just what is that purpose?

 

Prayer and the Purpose of God


Becoming One with God in His Purpose
 

We find God’s purpose laid out for us quite clearly in Ephesians 1:4-14, where it was revealed that…

…he [God] chose us in him [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.

In love, he predestined [pre-designed] us to be adopted as sons through Jesus Christ, according the purpose of his will…

…In him [Christ] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace…making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 

In him [Christ] we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will; and,

…In him [Christ] you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

In short, it was God’s purpose, before the world ever began, to have a family of spiritual sons and daughters who would be holy, just like Him.  In order for them to be holy, though, they would first have to be redeemed and forgiven of their transgressions of God’s holy law—something made possible through the gracious and atoning work of Christ on the Cross.  To those choosing to receive His gift of redemption and Sonship, God also purposed to reveal the mystery of His will, which is to bring the Kingdom of Heaven, or the rule of God, to Earth through Christ; and, His plan to provide them with an eternal spiritual inheritance, guaranteed by the Holy Spirit Himself.

So, then, what is the ultimate purpose of this great Purpose of God?  It is so that, as we become One with Him in His Person and Purpose—that is, as we are transformed from sinners into the image and likeness of His Son, Jesus, and carry that image and likeness to the four corners of the earth—

…the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (Hab. 2:14); and, 

…in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:7).

And, just how did our participation in this great Purpose of God begin?  It all began with prayer!
 

The Practice of and the Pattern for Prayer 

Now that we have familiarized ourselves with the purpose for and the restorative power of prayer, all that remains for us to accomplish in this exercise is to discuss the Practice of Prayer itself.  Since there are a number of guidelines for prayer scattered throughout the Bible, especially in the New Testament, as a means of providing ourselves with a handy reference, I have organized some of them into the following question and answer format…

  1. How should we come to prayer?

In faith…

…[for] without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him (Heb. 11:6);

With confidence…

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Heb. 4:16); and,

…this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him (1 John 5:14-15);

In humbleness

Humble yourself, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you (1 Pet. 5:6-7); and,

Without any unforgiveness in our hearts…

And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses (Mark 11:25).

  1. When should we pray?

At all times and without ceasing

…praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication…with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints… (Eph. 6:18);

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, giving thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thes. 5:16-18).

  1. Who should we pray for?

Everyone…

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.  This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:1-4);

But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you (Luke 6:28);

Is anyone among you suffering?  Let him pray.  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 of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up.  And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.  Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you might be healed.  The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working (James 5:13-16).

  1. What are we to pray about?

Everything… 

Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation.  The spirit indeed is willing but the flesh is weak (Mark 14:38);

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9);

The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few.  Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest (Luke 10:2);

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him (James 1:5);

…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:6-7); and,

Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father maybe glorified in the Son (John 14:13).

Many of these guidelines were covered, at least in principle, in the instructions and the Pattern for Prayer that Jesus gave to His disciples in His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:1-13, when He said…

Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.

But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.  Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

The Lord's Prayer

The Pattern for Prayer Given by Jesus

 

Finally, we are to pray, remembering always that…

…the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For [when] we do not know what to pray for as we ought…the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God (Rom. 8:26-27).

 

Smiley Face with Earphones2

 

Damaris Carbaugh reminds us that prayer takes us into the presence of God…

 

 

[1] Dr. Myles Munroe, Understanding the Purpose and Power of Prayer: Earthly License for Heavenly Interference (New Kensington, PA: Whitaker House 2002) 35-36.

…Where It Is Showtime for God’s One Big Story!

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Our journey to the Land of Revelation Knowledge has brought us here, to Stage #1, where Vignette #1: The Creation of the World is about to begin.  As the action of God’s One Big Story starts to unfold, we need to keep in mind that the events we will be witnessing here have been designed to serve more than one purpose.  Not only will they be teaching us important Life Lessons through the actions of the characters on the Earthly Stage before us, they will also be contributing to the story-behind-the-story taking place simultaneously on the Heavenly Stage above us.  More importantly, though, they will be providing us with priceless clues or insights into the very Person and Nature of God.  Now, with that being said, it is finally “Showtime” here at Stage #1—where it is time for our Earthly Story to get under way!

Showtime for God's One Big Story

It’s Showtime for God’s One Big Story

 

As the curtains open on the first part of our Story, we find ourselves viewing a stage that is completely and eerily dark. Not only is the stage shrouded in darkness, so is the rest of the theatre; a situation which gives rise  to several minutes of uneasiness for us as we wait anxiously for something to happen.  Suddenly, the blinding darkness, along with its accompanying deafening silence, is shattered by the sound of the deep, resonant Voice of an off-stage Narrator uttering Ten of the most powerful, revealing, and important Words ever spoken…

…In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

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Time, Space, and Matter all Come Into Being at the Word of God

With these Ten Words, God—identified here as Elohim, the God who is Plural in Person but Singular in Purpose—steps out of eternity to create what will become the Stage for all Human History.  Offering no explanation for who He is or where He came from, He immediately begins to demonstrate His Presence, His Power, His Wisdom, and His Sovereignty by laying out Time, intersecting it with Space, and then creating Matter, all out of nothing! 

While these telling Words are still reverberating throughout our darkened theatre, our attention is suddenly captured by the roar of a mighty wind.  We soon learn that this wind is none other than the Spirit of God Himself, hovering over, stirring up, and activating waters that are still invisible to us due to the all-pervasive darkness.  In His hovering, we somehow sense that the Spirit is poised, prepared, and waiting with anticipation for that which He knows is just about to occur.

Then, like the sound of a million thunder claps, we hear the Voice of God speaking forth the first of another set of Ten WordsHis Ten Words of Creation, which begin with…

…Let there be light!   

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“Let there be light…”

And, because “…the unfolding of [His] words gives light (Ps. 119:130),” light does appear; light that is diffused throughout the Stage, revealing what can only be described as a massive, formless, and useless watery Deep. 

We soon learn, though, that merely bringing Light into existence isn’t the only work that God intends to do; for as soon as He has spoken it onto the Stage, He proceeds to:

  • See or assess it—that is, He makes a moral judgment of it by declaring it to be good;
  • Separate it from the darkness—making a division or distinction between the two entities;
  • Demonstrate His authority over it by naming it Day, and the darkness Night; and,
  • Establish it, and the darkness, as fixed measures of time—or, as the Morning and Evening that will, throughout all of time, constitute one Day.

As the First Day of Creation comes to a close, the Stage we are looking upon is still a place of chaos and confusion; however, the Darkness is now contained and we have enough Light to see the Works of God that are yet to come.  Although we still cannot see Him, because of what He has done, we now know that God is, that God is Everywhere, that God is All-Powerful, that God is All-Knowing, that God is a Moral Being as well as a Judge, and, that God is Triune in His Person—or, in other words, He is God, He is the Word, and He is the Spirit—all of which is quite a lot for us to have learned in so short a period of time.

As the darkness of the First Evening passes and the light of the Second Day takes its place, God resumes the work that He began on Day One.  Because there is still a massive, formless, and aqueous Deep occupying our Stage, He begins by transforming it into something more productive through the pronouncement of His Second Word of Creation… 

…Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters. 

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“Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters…”

At once, we see the waters part as an expanse or a firmament—otherwise known as an atmosphere or sky—is inserted in between them; an act creating a vapor canopy above the expanse, while leaving the waters beneath it in their original amorphous state.  After God’s designation of this expanse as Heaven, the work of Day Two comes to an end and its Evening begins.

Because the reformation of the primordial waters is still only half complete, as the Third Day of Creation commences, God begins transforming the waters remaining beneath the Heavens.  Once again, He does this through the power of His Word—His Third Word of Creation… 

…Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together in one place  and let the dry land appear. 

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“Let the dry land appear…”

In obedience to this command, the waters immediately begin to come together, while a mass of dry ground rises up and out from among them.  Again, God separates and divides, assesses what He has done and declares it to be good, and again, exercises His authority as Creator by naming the dry land Earth, and the waters Seas. 

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“Let the earth bring forth vegetation…”

Although the formation of the Seas and the Earth has been quite an undertaking, the work of this Day is by no means over; for, no sooner than the Earth is given its name, God speaks His Fourth Word of Creation when He commands it to produce vegetation in the form of plants, shrubs, and trees; the first of the living things to come forth from the Earth, containing seeds within themselves that will enable each of them to reproduce “after its own kind.”  This design principle is so important that it is repeated eleven times throughout the remainder of the Creation Story; not only establishing the basic physical law of reproduction for everything in God’s material creation, but also becoming a picture to us of God’s spiritual law of reproduction, as it is later spelled out for us in Galatians 6:7-8:

Do not be deceived:  God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.  For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the spirit reap eternal life.

At this, Day Three comes to a close, and as it does, we need to pause for a moment to consider what God has accomplished so far.  He has, through the giving of His Word and the empowerment by His Spirit…

  • Brought Light into a world of Darkness, and created Realms or Kingdoms of Light and Darkness by making a division or separation between the two;
  • Divided and refashioned the chaotic primordial waters into the two distinct Realms or Kingdoms of the Sky and the Sea; and,
  • Separated the dry land from the remaining waters, thus creating the Realm or Kingdom of the Earth—then filling it with the vegetation that will later be used for food.

In other words, from nothing, He has progressively and systematically created realms of existence within the natural world that are now standing in the need of their Rulers. 

In response to this need, and with the arrival of Day 4, God sets about the task of making Lights to rule over the kingdoms of the Day and Night by speaking His Fifth Word of Creation…

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“Let there be lights…to separate the day from the night…”

…Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night.   And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.  And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night.  And God set them in the expanse of the heavens…And God saw that it was good. 

At the end of Day 4, and having received their Rulers, the Kingdoms of the Day and Night are now complete.  However, because the two remaining kingdoms are still without their designated lords, as Day 5 begins, God proceeds to remedy that situation as He speaks His Sixth Word of Creation…

…Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens. 

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“Let the waters swarm with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth…”

Once this Word goes forth, God Himself begins creating the very things that He has just called into being—that is, every form of fish and fowl, according to its kind, that will rule over the seas and the skies.  Upon His completion of this task, and following His assessment of His work to be good, God then goes one step further, by speaking a Seventh Word of Creation, a Blessing upon all of those things that He has just created…

…Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the Earth.

And, with the Rulers of the Seas and the Skies so blessed, the Fifth Day of Creation comes to a close.

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“Let the earth bring forth living creatures…”

Since the Earth still in need of its Rulers, at the onset of Day Six, God speaks yet another Word of Creation—His Eighth—saying…

…Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds—livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds. 

As this Word is still echoing throughout the atmosphere, God begins fashioning the Creatures that will soon be making the Earth their home.  Like all of the other things that He has so recently brought into existence, each of these Creatures is designed to reproduce “after its own kind”—and to Rule over its respective sphere on the Earth.  Once again, when He is finished, God pronounces this work to be good.

At this point in the production, as we sit awestruck and overwhelmed by the magnitude of the sights, sounds, and changes that have taken place on the Stage before us, it is hard for us to imagine that God could or would do anything more spectacular, or add anything more significant, to that which has already been done.  And yet, as we very quickly learn, He has more work—a special work—planned for this, the Sixth Day of Creation.

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“X” Marks the Spot

We get our first indication of this when a spotlight suddenly begins to shine on the Stage from overhead, focusing on what seems to us to be a rather non-descript plot of land.  Once our gaze has been directed to this particular patch of ground, we hear the Voice of God again as He speaks His Ninth Word of Creation…

…Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.  And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.

At this pronouncement, we all move to the edges of our seats, where we wait expectantly with wonder and excitement for the unveiling of this new work by God;  instead, we are stunned to see the curtain suddenly drawn across the Stage.  Although we can see nothing, we hear once more—amid all the gasps and groans of disappointment from the audience—the Voice of the Narrator, as he boldly yet reverently proclaims…

…So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 

Then, immediately after this, we hear the Voice of God speaking His Tenth and Final Word of Creation, in the form of another Blessing, saying…

…Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.

At this, all sounds cease to emanate from the Stage, the lights in the theatre go up, and we begin to realize that Vignette #1 is now over; and that this—the most important part of God’s Creation Story—will have to wait until the start of Vignette #2.  As disappointed as we are by what seems to be an unnecessary delay in the telling of the Story, this time between Vignettes will actually provide us with some much-needed time to reflect on all that we have experienced and learned so far.

Smiley Face with Earphones2

 

As we prepare to do that though, let’s first join with Carman in rejoicing that “There is a God”…

 

 

Creation images courtesy of http://freebibleimages.org.