Incentives to Prayer
May 11, 2017 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement
This is part three in a multipart series about prayer. The elders of Oak Hills recently have been reading a book on prayer during their session meetings called Praying Together: The Priority and Privilege of Prayer in our Homes, Communities, and Churches, by Megan Hill. This little book explores the biblical foundations, fruits, and practices of praying together. The elders have found it to be very encouraging and challenging. I want to share some gleanings from Hill’s book while adding some of my own observations about prayer.
We live in a culture that typically is not motivated by a sense of duty. We are motivated by incentives, privileges, and promises. Therefore, a sense of duty to pray does not always compel Christians to pray.
Thankfully, our God is gracious and merciful, abounding in steadfast love. He desires us to pray and promises blessings for our prayers. Megan Hill writes:
“The church father Tertullian rightly understood God’s promises when he described praying together as ‘a holy conspiracy [by which] we may set upon God by force that is welcome to him.’ The terms of our conspiracy are holy: they are established by the Lord and practiced at his direction. Our conspiracy is also welcome: it is attended by Christ’s intercession and encouraged by his promises. We ‘set upon God’ only because he has first thrown open the door to blessing and invited us in. Through his gracious promises, our loving Father declares what he intends to give and presents us with glorious incentive to ask him for it together” (pages 44-45).
Hill then uses her chapter to highlight five promises from Scripture related to praying together. Let me highlight some other promises from Scripture, aiming to lure us into more prayerfulness.
1. God Promises to Give Good Gifts. In Jesus’ teaching on prayer in Luke 11, he concludes with what may sound like an odd statement: “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father hive the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (v. 13). Parents, with all the flaws that we have, are able to give good things to their children. In comparison, our heavenly Father, who is infinitely good and holy, is able to give good gifts all the more! He specifically mentions the Holy Spirit, but certainly will not withhold good from his children (cf. Romans 8:32). Jesus encourages his disciples to pray because God is willing to respond with good gifts.
2. God Promises Justice. In his other teaching on prayer in the gospel of Luke, Jesus compares God with an unjust judge who gives justice to the persistent widow (Luke 18:1-8). How much more will the holy and just God of the universe give justice to his children? Of course, God’s justice is given in his perfect timing as well.
3. God Promises Peace. Perhaps you have memorized Philippians 4:6-7? They are worth the effort, but don’t let familiarity with these verses weaken the depth of the promise. Make your requests known to God “and the peace of God will guard your hearts and your minds…” God doesn’t want us to be paralyzed and afflicted by anxiety. He wants to give us peace so that no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in, we have hope.
4. God Promises to Exalt You. Peter calls us to “humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you” (1 Pet. 5:6). Prayer is a posture of humility as we declare our inabilities and cast ourselves onto God and his abundant provisions. The exaltation promised is a lifting out of our sin-laden, despair-filled life to a renewed life in Christ, ultimately fulfilled in the eternal new heavens and new earth.
Why pray? Because God promised so much to those who “set upon God by force.” These verses are just a snippet of what we find in Scripture. When we are prayer-less, we only cut ourselves off from the promised blessings God delights to bestow.