Monday, January 13, 2014

"Discipleship and Prayer"

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

Lesson 3: "Discipleship and Prayer"

The basic theme that permeates so much of what we hear in pulpits, and at camp meetings is that in order to be saved there are three things we must do: (1) read the Bible, (2) pray, and (3) witness. The theme is played almost endlessly. "Maintain your relationship with the Lord," which means get up in the morning, read something devotional, and pray. And the cure for spiritual maladies is "work for others." True, 100%. This can't be said too often. But a few weeks after camp meeting, we get busy again, and we're back in the same old problem of lukewarmness.
But is there some kind of prayer that we can be sure God will be delighted to answer? Jesus responded to that question in the story He told in Luke 11. It's a lesson about prayer, and it illustrates what Ellen G. White describes as "a divine science in prayer." "Our prayers are not to be a selfish asking, merely for our own benefit. We are to ask that we may give." [1] Pray this kind of a prayer, Jesus says in effect, and Heaven will rush to your aid.
That parable in Luke 11 does not say that He will give you enough bread to stock your pantry for years to come, or enough to feed "five thousand" as Jesus fed them in His day; it says specifically, "He will rise and give [you] as many as [you] need" (vss. 5-8). He answers your prayer for understanding of Bible truth, but it will not make you suddenly omniscient, nor wise enough to hold thousands spellbound with your wisdom.
The underlying idea is that you are asking for "bread" for that hungry person that the Lord has brought you in touch with. Instead of praying that some pastor somewhere or some TV evangelist will "feed" this person (we spend an enormous amount of time praying that someone else will do what the Lord wants us to do!), pray that the Lord will give YOU some "bread" for that person, some thought that comes through your own personal heart that will "feed" his soul. It will be more effective than anything the TV evangelist can say. And a great blessing will rub off on you in the transmission process.
It's asking the Lord to give you some bread, not because you are hungry, but because you want to give it to some other person who is hungry. It's "asking to give." You are praying that you can be the transmission agent in communicating to others a blessing that comes from God. To change the metaphor, you are asking that you might become a pipe through which will flow the water of life to some thirsty soul. This is discipleship.
The Bible is full of prayer, and we can't begin to cover all in this short essay, but the prayers of Jesus should be our focus. There's a prayer that Jesus prayed that you and I can pray, and we'll be happier for praying it. It was just before He worked the greatest miracle of His ministry--when He raised the dead Lazarus to life again. He wanted to be sure that the Father would hear Him, for everything depended on this prayer being heard and answered. "Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. And I know that You always hear Me" (John 11:41, 42). We can know this, too.
Whether Jesus in His human nature needed the personal encouragement that an answered prayer could bring Him we do not know; but you and I need the assurance that when we pray, the Father hears us. When He commanded the dead man to "come forth," He spoke as our Representative. "Most assuredly, I say to you whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. ... Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full" (16:23, 24). He is not making empty promises; obviously He intends that we know what He means when He says to "ask in My name." All egocentric motivation has become outgrown so that we are caught up in His motivation, not ours; we are "in Him." We have "overcome" our childish prayers for a crown and now are concerned that the Lamb receive His reward. We want "the Lamb's wife" to "make herself ready" so that "the marriage of the Lamb" may be no longer delayed century after century (cf. Rev. 19:7, 8). What we now live for is to have a tiny part in crowning Him "King of kings and Lord of lords." Thus our "joy" becomes "full." This embodies the new covenant truth, which was an essential element of the 1888 message, and lifts a load of doubt and despair from many heavy hearts.
Scholars agree that Psalm 22 is a transcript of the prayer that Jesus prayed on His cross, from the moment the darkness enveloped the land (and His soul!) to when He breathed His last. As we read the Psalm, we find that He was sorely tempted to think of Himself as less than human, "a worm" (vs. 6). But there in the middle of verse 21, the Holy Spirit reveals that a glorious change came: "Thou hast heard Me from the horns of the wild, treacherous African buffalo" (margin). In His last extremity, feeling tossed on those vicious horns, the darkness of His soul is lifted. "You have heard Me!" You have not forsaken Me! You have answered My cry! My faith has penetrated this impenetrable darkness of hell. I have triumphed! The great controversy with Satan is won! The Psalm closes with a glorious cry of eternal victory--one Hebrew word that proclaims, "It is finished." A light like the sun shines in His face. From His broken, crucified human larynx, like a trumpet comes His shout of victory that shakes heaven and earth. Then He bowed His head, and died. The Victor of eternity. If any "forsaken" sinner anywhere in the world reads this, let him/her take heart.
We cannot close without considering Daniel's prayer, which was mentioned in Sunday's lesson. Here the principle of corporate guilt and corporate repentance comes into sharp focus.
Our position before the Lord closely parallels that of Israel in the days of Daniel. He could have argued before the Lord, "Some of us and some of our fathers were true, Lord; look how faithful Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, and I have been! We have practiced health reform, we have received all the light You gave us! Remember how some of our 'fathers' in Jerusalem, as Jeremiah for example, Baruch, and a few others, stood nobly for the truth in times of apostasy. We are not all guilty, Lord!" But what did Daniel pray? Notice his use of the corporate "we":
"O Lord, righteousness belongeth unto Thee, but unto us confusion of faces, as at this day; to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and unto all Israel, that are near, and that are far off ... O Lord, to us belongeth confusion of face, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against Thee. ... Yea, all Israel have transgressed Thy law, even by departing, that they might not obey Thy voice; therefore the curse is poured upon us, and the oath that is written in the law of Moses the servant of God, because we have sinned against Him. ... For our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and Thy people are become a reproach to all that are about us. ... I was speaking and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel" (Dan. 9:7-20).
The result of this humble, honest recognition of corporate guilt is well-known. What will be the result of a similar recognition of our own measure of corporate guilt? How could it be anything other than the restoration of the "latter rain" and the "loud cry"?
The principle of individual and corporate guilt and repentance centers in the cross of Calvary. "The spirit of grace and of supplications" is poured on "the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem" when God's people "look upon [Him] whom they have pierced" (Zech. 12:10). The fact that we were not physically, personally present at Calvary is seen to make no difference.
The fact we were not personally present in 1888 likewise will be seen to make no difference. The sin of our "fathers" is "our" sin. Christ Himself, in His own flesh, has shown us the way to experience a repentance for sins of which we have not thought ourselves individually and personally responsible. If He, the sinless One, repented in behalf of the sins of the whole world, surely we can repent in behalf of the sins of our "fathers," whose denominational "children" we are today!
Christ's call to Laodicea to repent is the last in the Bible; it is the focal point of Revelation. All the victories that follow assume an overcoming, repentant, reconciled remnant church at one with Him in a heart and life commitment that is complete. It is a growing up into Christ that is symbolized by the Bride making herself "ready."
--From the writings of Robert J. Wieland
[1] "Christ's lessons in regard to prayer should be carefully considered. There is a divine science in prayer, and His illustration brings to view principles that all need to understand. He shows what is the true spirit of prayer, He teaches the necessity of perseverance in presenting our requests to God, and assures us of His willingness to hear and answer prayer.
"Our prayers are not to be a selfish asking, merely for our own benefit. We are to ask that we may give. The principle of Christ's life must be the principle of our lives. 'For their sakes,' He said, speaking of His disciples, 'I sanctify Myself, that they also might be sanctified.' John 17:19. The same devotion, the same self-sacrifice, the same subjection to the claims of the word of God, that were manifest in Christ, must be seen in His servants. Our mission to the world is not to serve or please ourselves; we are to glorify God by co-operating with Him to save sinners. We are to ask blessings from God that we may communicate to others. The capacity for receiving is preserved only by imparting. We cannot continue to receive heavenly treasure without communicating to those around us" (Christ's Object Lessons, pp. 142, 143).
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