Thursday, 20 October 2011

The Pride of Prayerlessness

There are many reasons for our prayerlessness - lack of time, lack of energy, the pressures of caring for a young family, lack of concentration. All of these are significant things that make the battle for prayerfulness a difficult one. However, I want to suggest that the battle goes much deeper.The battle against prayerlessness goes to the heart. At its heart our prayerlessness is not ultimately because we are disorganised or pressed for time. Rather, at the heart of prayerlessness is pride.

There are two major ways that prayerlessness reveals our pride, both of them are inseparably linked:

1) We have too high a view of ourselves
One of the reasons why we find it a struggle to pray is that we have too high a view of ourselves. One major way that this shows itself is our failure to see ourselves as helpless. We do not clearly see ourselves as a creature dependent upon our Creator. That is, we fail to recognise that we're utterly dependent upon God for all things.

This is pride. the reason we do not see ourselves as dependents is because we want to see ourselves as self sufficient. Essentially what this means is that we want to make ourselves God. Think about it. God is the only one who is completely self-sufficient and who depends upon nobody. He is the Creator who "gives to all mankind life and breath and everything." (Acts 17:25) Therefore, he is not "served by human hands, as though he needed anything." (Acts 17:25). He is the source of all life, therefore He is not dependent upon anybody of anything. If He was He would not be God.

When we try to see ourselves as self sufficient we are seeking to put ourselves in the place of God. We want to be those who have no need of anybody else. This is a denial of the fact that we are creatures, and a necessary part of our creatureliness is that we are dependent upon our Creator. When we seek to be independent we seeking that which belongs to God alone, we are seeking to enthrone ourselves in God's place.

It will be quite helpful for us to think awhile on Daniel 4. Nebuchadnezzar saw himself as self-sufficient, when he said "Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power..." (Daniel 4:30). He prides himself on his power, on his ability to provide for himself. As soon as he says these words, God humbles him, making him like one of the animals of the field. He shows him just how dependent he really is upon God. God is the one who has given him this power and his kingdom. He is utterly dependent upon God. If this is true of the most powerful man in the world at the time, how much more is it true of us.

2) We have too low a view of God
A wonky view of ourselves will naturally mean that we have a wonky view of God. Our knowledge of God andour knowledge of ourselves are inseperably liked. If we change one we change the other. If we alter our view of oursleves, this will have profound effects on our view of God.

In light of what we've seen above this means that our prayerlessness stems from too low a view of God. If we don't come to Him as those who are utterly dependent upon Him for all things, what does this say about our view of God? Implicitly say that we do not recognise that He is the Creator upon whom we are dependent. Essentially it means that we try to de-God God. We try to make Him less than God.

Instead of seeing God as the Creator, this thinking tries to lower Him to the level of a Creature. By failing to depend on Him for all things we are implicitly denying that "from him and through him and to him are all things." (Romans 11:36). We are denying that He is all-sufficient, that all we need comes from Him. We are also denying His power, that He is able to give us all we need.

Paul's sermon in Acts 17 is worth taking time to think over. Paul reminds us that God is the Creator God  (verse 24) who is not dependent upon man for anything (v25-26). Psalm 104 also gives us a powerful reminder that all things are dependent upon their Creator. All look to Him "to give them their food in due season." (verse 27). When God humbles Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 4, it reveals that He alone rules, and that none can restrict Him, "none can stay his hand" (verse 35). He is all sufficient and all powerful. The more we recognise this, the more we will be humbled to regognise our rightful place before Him.

Where do we go from here?
"God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble." (James 4:6). Where we need to go from here is to humble ourselves before God. We need to recognise afresh who we are and who God is. He is the Creator and we are His creatures.

More than this, we need to recognise ourselves as sinners dependent upon His grace. We need to recognise our sinfulness in exalting ourselves over God, and dishonouring Him by denying His all-sufficiency. We need to bow humbly before Him saying with the tax collector: "God, be merciful to me, a sinner!" (Luke 18:13), and look to Him for forgiveness. We can do this with confidence because of the cross of Christ. He is the one who is the propitiation for our sins (1 John 2:2). Therefore, "[i]f we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9).

The more we recognise who we and who God is are this the more we shall be humbled before God and forced to kneel before Him. Humility is the soil in which the flower of dependent prayer grows. The more we meditate on the greatness of God, which He has revealed to us in Scripture, the more we shall see ourselves in our proper place and be humbled. The more we are humbled the more naturally we will give ourselves to God-exalting prayer.