10 minutes to read
I do not go to a lot of movies, but a year or two ago, I went to a movie with my grandchildren, called ‘The Lion King’ about an African lion that grew up. You may remember the story. You watch the movie in what they call ‘3D.’ They give you 3D glasses, and it enhances your viewing pleasure by producing the picture in three dimensions. I have taken off on that, and am saying that when it comes to motives in prayer, we need to pray in 3D. What do we mean? Desire, Dependency, Discipline. Men who pray have a desire to pray; men who pray must have dependency as they pray; men who pray must have a disciplined habit to pray. Let me mention those three things briefly.
Men Who Pray Have A Desire To Pray.
David said in Psalm 27:4, “One thing I have asked of the Lord, that I will seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his tabernacle.” He said in Psalm 16:17, “in your presence, there is fullness of joy at thy right-hand pleasures are forevermore.” He said in Psalm 42:1, “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.” And again in Psalm 63, when he was in the cave and he was running from King Saul, or perhaps his son Absalom, and he knew not what tomorrow would bring. Basically, he rose up and met the dawn early, and he said, “My soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.”
Men who pray have a desire to pray. Psalm 27:7-8, “You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, Lord, do I seek.” Now the Bible describes God as having body parts. Of course, God is spirit and he has no body. The different descriptions of body parts, as you well know, describe and represent certain aspects of God’s characters, attributes, and nature. For example, His arm represents God’s power extended; His hands represent His provision provided; His eyes represent his omniscience and omnipresence and all-knowing gaze; His ears represent his willingness and ability to hear. But read carefully: his face. Because the psalmist says “Thou dost say ‘seek my face,’ my heart says, ‘Thy face, O Lord, I will seek.’”
The face of God represents the being of God, the essence of God, and the personality of God. The face of God represents his attributes, and his characters. The face of God represents who He is, and to see His face and the person of His son means to have close intimate communion and fellowship with the living God. This means we are not seeking the provision of his hand, and not even seeking the power of his arms. God is roaming to and fro through the earth seeking men whose heart is fully His. God is spirit and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth. For such the Father seeks: those who would worship Him. Men, I urge you to pray that God would give you a heart to love Him for Himself and to love the Saviour with the beauty and blessedness and the glory that is revealed in Jesus Christ. Because the Bible says, “As we behold in a mirror the glory of the Lord,” 2 Corinthians 3, “We are transformed into that same image.” And where is the glory of the Lord revealed? The Bible says that the glory of the Lord is revealed in the face of Jesus Christ. You see men, as well you know, Christianity is not just an intellectual understanding of abstract theological truths. That is crucial. That is important. That is absolutely necessary. The church and the world desperately need solid biblical doctrine and Theology. And it is your responsibility to grow in your comprehension and understanding of biblical truths. But, there is more. Christianity is, you well know, not just fervent diligent sacrificial service and ministry for the Lord. Certainly, we are to serve the Lord with gladness. Certainly, Paul says, we are to be fervent in spirit, serving the Lord. Certainly, we are to use our gifts in the exercise of our ministry and serving the Lord. But you well know, Christianity is not just intellectual apprehension of theological truth or active engagement in ministry opportunities. Those are crucial, but they are not foundational.
The heart of Christianity is a person and that is the living God who has revealed Himself through Jesus Christ. A man may know the right Theology, a man may have certain gifts, a man may be very sincere in his motives, a man may even actively engage in responsible ministry, and yet not truly know the living God. Jesus said in John 17 in his high priestly prayer, “This is eternal life that they might know you the one true God and Jesus Christ whom Thou has sent.” Paul echoed the same reality in Philippians 3:9, when he said, “That I may be found in him not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.” He was talking about justification, his legal position and legal acceptance before God through not his own righteousness but the righteousness of another, imputed to him and received by grace through faith. But Paul wasn’t satisfied simply to know his sins were forgiven; simply to know he was justified freely by grace; simply to know that he was pardoned from all his iniquities. Because the next verse tells us. Philippians 3:10, in which he shifts gears and he moves from a legal positional perspective to a personal experiential desire. And he says, “That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings.” And all in our insistence upon being gospel-centered, and yes let us be gospel-centred, let us always be rehearsing the righteous life, the sacrificial death, the glorious resurrection of the son of God, and all that comes from that. But that is what Christ accomplished in the past. Paul had seen and heard from the living Christ and he knew He was exalted, alive at the right hand of God and he wanted to have fellowship with this living person now. He wanted to have fellowship with this living person now. So, we have the desire to know Jesus Christ.
And Peter puts it this way, “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not see him now, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.” What drives a man to pray is a heartfelt love for an unseen person. John said, “We write unto you these things that you might have fellowship with us and indeed our fellowship with the father and with his son Jesus Christ.”
You remember we are talking about motives for secret prayers. We are insisting that foundational ministry for the life of the preacher is to give himself to prayer, to preaching, and to pastoring. But foundational is the work of prayer. We said we must develop the habit of disciplined prayer. And we indicated that in terms of motives, there must be first of all a desire: a desire to know a real living person that we can’t see but by faith we apprehend through the Word of God and by the help of the Spirit of God. So, the first crucial ingredient in developing a habit of prayer is desire. Only God can give us that desire, men. We need to ask to continue to help us and to strengthen us for that desire.
Men Who Pray Must Have Dependency on God.
Second, I mentioned dependency. There must be a desperate dependency upon God. That is what Jesus Christ himself did. He said, “I do nothing apart from my father.” Even He had to be, in his human nature, anointed and filled with the Holy Spirit to fulfil His ministry, and He was dependent upon God. It is desperate, broken men that pray. They must pray. They will pray. And if they don’t pray, then they can do nothing. Now the problem with many men is that they are so gifted, they are so intelligent, they are so educated, they have vision, and that is all good, but they have never been broken, they have never been crushed in their self-sufficiency. They can get up and do many things without the felt-help of the power of God.
For an Old Testament example, you remember Jacob, who was a deceiver. Jacob spent most of his life lying, cheating and deceiving to get his way and to get the blessing of God. And then he sought to return back to the promised land to inherit the blessing. But you remember what happened. Someone met him there at the Brook of Jabbok, and wrestled with him all night. The angel finally and fully reached out and hit him on the thigh, and he became crippled and he quit wrestling and self-sufficiency and he began to cling in desperate dependency. For the rest of his life, he walked with a limp because his self-sufficiency had been broken. It is desperate men that pray. And I encourage you to pray that God may make you desperate, and to do whatever is necessary to further break any sufficiency and dependency we have in us. Now God uses our gifts, he uses our intelligence, he uses our education. But he wants men that are dependent and broken before him and seek his face because of their need.
Men Who Pray Must Have A Disciplined Habit To Pray.
And thirdly, not just desire. Not just dependency but discipline. John Calvin said, “The heart of the Christian experience is self-denial; that leads toward godliness.” We must have a disciplined habit, men. By that I mean we do not operate on the basis of feelings and circumstances. By God’s grace, we would seek him out of the sense of holy discipline. Some of us might be lazy, some of us may be irresponsible, and some of us may have a tendency toward overwork. But, the key is to be disciplined by the grace and power of God. Jesus said in Luke 14, “If any man comes after me, let him take up his cross and follow me. And if he is not willing to take up his cross and follow me, he cannot be my disciple.” And part of following Christ is disciplined self-denial. And if you are going to serve God, you’ve got to be willing to say this: “Others may, but I cannot.” We must be willing to give up legitimate liberties in self-denial by the power of God, motivated by the love of God in order to pursue serving in the kingdom of God.
We will look at what this looks like in practical terms in the next part of this series.
This article is the second part of the transcript of a talk by Brother Andy H. in June 2021 entitled ‘The Preacher’s Private Prayers and Ministry of Intercession.’