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One of the most consistent search items that leads people to relates to “how to pray God’s Word.” This certainly isn’t a comprehensive article on the matter, but it hints at a few of the ways we should “claim” the promises of Scripture. -CP

If you study the prayers of the Bible, you begin to notice that the prayers God honors and answers are those that repeat his promises back to him. Go and read the story of Jacob, for instance. At the beginning of his life God had prophesied—before Jacob was even born—that the blessing would be his and not Esau’s (Gen 25:23). But it was not until Jacob took it in a prayer-wrestling match with God that it really became his. He laid hold of the promise of God through a night of prayer.

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I’ve recently been reading through Tim Keller’s book Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God. That combination—awe and intimacy—has always been a central one as I reflect on my faith. On one hand, we approach God with awe, knowing how transcendent and majestic he is. But the wonder of the gospel is that we can approach that same God with boldness and intimacy, because he welcomes us as his sons and daughters.

This passage shows how our longings aren’t in competition with God; in fact, he is the source of all that is good and beautiful in this world.

In the Garden of Eden, we sinned and lost the face of God. This was the greatest disaster possible, because we were designed to live in the unique, perfect, marvelous light of his countenance. We have wandered empty and destitute. Moses realized that, in the beatific vision of the face of God, all his longings would be fulfilled. He asked to see it—but his sin was a barrier. In Jesus that barrier is taken away and we can begin to see, though only partially and by faith, the light of the glory of God in the face of Christ. When we meditate and pray the gospel and its attendant truths into our hearts with the power of the Spirit, those longings are slowly satisfied, and other things in life become gifts rather than gods, and we slowly but surely and radically change in our character and in all our relationships. Augustine expressed it perfectly in the Confessions. He realized that all the things he loved were in God, the headwater of all streams of desire:

But what do I love when I love you? Not the beauty of any body or the rhythm of time in its movement; not the radiance of light, so dear to our eyes; not the sweet melodies in the world of manifold sounds; not the perfume of flowers, ointments and spices; not manna and not honey; not the limbs so delightful to the body’s embrace: it is none of these things that I love when I love my God.

And yet when I love my God I do indeed love a light and a sound and a perfume and a food and an embrace—a light and sound and perfume and food and embrace in my inward self. There my soul is flooded with a radiance which no space can contain; there a music sounds which time never bears away; there I smell a perfume which no wind disperses; there I taste a food that no surfeit embitters; there is an embrace which no satiety severs. It is this that I love when I love my God. (Confessions 10.6.8)

(Tim Keller, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God, pp. 184–185)

When We Pray, God Goes to Work

Posted by Pastor J.D. on November 24, 2014

Sadly, we American Christians aren’t known for our prayer. So when we come across Jesus’ teaching on prayer, we’re left either confused or frustrated. “If you have faith like a grain of mustard seed,” Jesus told us, “you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you” (Matt 17:20). That’s an astounding promise—so astounding, in fact, that I think most of us just don’t believe it.

Our unbelief is, in one sense, understandable. After all, many of us know what it’s like to ask God to move a mountain, only to have it stubbornly sit there, immobile. If we’re honest, few of us even look for God to move mountains; we’d be satisfied with our prayers leading God to move an anthill. But even that seems foreign to our experience.

When our prayers seem to fall on deaf ears, our natural response is to assume something is wrong with us. Maybe we don’t have enough belief. Maybe we need to work up a little bit more feeling to qualify as “mustard seed” faith. But faith isn’t simply a positive emotion toward God. It’s not some presumptuous optimism that God will give us what we want if we just believe hard enough. No, in Scripture, faith is a response to what God has revealed. So if you want to pray in faith, discern what God has revealed, and then ask him for it.

God reveals himself through his Word. So if we want him to move mountains, we need to first look to the Word to find out which mountains he wants us to move. The more we ground ourselves in his revealed promises, the more we can pray with boldness. The prayers that are heard by heaven are the ones that start in heaven.

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