August 15, 2013

"Only by prayer"*

Isn’t it interesting (and helpful) how God often repeats Himself? He speaks to you about a certain truth in the Sunday sermon … and then reaffirms it, the following week, in Our Daily Bread. Or you read a certain passage in your daily devotional time, and then hear the same scripture on Christian radio a few days later. And you say to yourself: ‘God must really want to get this into my head!’

It happened to me this past week:

I preached, this past Sunday, from Psalm 109.4: “But I am in prayer.” And – both as I prepared, and as I preached – I really sensed that I needed (even more than usual, perhaps) to be preaching these things to myself. I need to pray myself, instead of only always asking others to do it for me (“but I am in prayer”). I need to pray, even when my circumstances (and lack of faith) conspire to make me not want to do so (“but I am in prayer”). And I need to pray today … not just in the past; and not putting off better habits until the tomorrow (“but I am in prayer”). So I was challenged by the sermon as much as many of my hearers, I hope, were.

And then, on the Monday or Tuesday following … my Bible reading ‘just happened’ to be in Mark 9. In that passage, Jesus’ disciples find themselves unable to cast out the demon that is wrecking a young man’s life. And, after Jesus casts it out Himself, they ask Him (v.28): “Why could we not drive it out?” Jesus' answer in verse 29? “This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer.”

What a rebuke! What a challenge – both to the disciples, and to me! “This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer.” Thank you, Father, for another reminder of the necessity of being on my knees before you, seeking Your strength, instead of just acting in my own!

It’s true, I haven’t been called upon to cast out any demons lately. But Mark 9.29 is instructive nonetheless. For there are surely a whole host of other difficulties and challenges in my life that may not be solved until I become earnest about bringing them before the Lord in prayer. There are closed doors that may not open until I find myself on my knees, seriously, fervently, persistently praying God’s direction and blessing. And that is probably true in your life, as well. Some hurdles will not be cleared “by anything but prayer.”

What are those hurdles in your life? Is there some area of your experience in which a passage like Psalm 109.4 really strikes a chord? Any difficulty or need, in the midst of which you knew that you simply must be able to say: “but I am in prayer”?  You probably already knew you should be praying about it.  But are you? Am I? If not (and even if so), let us consider this little article another one of those times when God is helpfully repeating Himself! Sometimes His word to us may be, very simply, “this kind cannot come out by anything but prayer.”

Let us, therefore, take Jesus’ words to heart, apply them to our own neediness before the Lord, and be always able to say: “but I am in prayer.”

*The phrase "only by prayer" is taken from Mark 9, v.29 of the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™  The remainder of the Bible quotations are taken from the NASB®.

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