Monday, 13 August 2012

Prayer... without wrath and reasoning

Paul shares his heart longings with Timothy.
I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting; 1 Tim 2:8 NKJV.
He prefaces this statement by showing us what he has in mind when he calls for such prayer;
for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time, 1 Tim 2:2–6 NKJV.
It is good to see just how comprehensive Paul's prayer-list really is. He asks for prayer for kings and all those who are in authority. When he says this he doesn't just mean the politician we voted for. In fact, his reference to 'the king' is a reference to Nero, one of the worst enemies that the Christians every had.

He says we are to pray for quiet and peaceable lives and the reasons he gives are important. God, he says, 'wants' tranquility and then he reveals what he really wants prayer for. God he says …desires 'all men' to come to the truth. And all man can be saved because the ransom that Christ paid was for 'all men';
For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time, 1 Tim 2:5–6 NKJV.

He then instructs us how we are to pray and specifies that our prayer is to be without wrath or reasoning. We may have expected the first but what are we to make of the second. I am taking my text from the Darby Translation;
I will therefore that the men pray in every place, lifting up pious hands, without wrath or reasoning. 1 Tim 2:8 DRBY.
Most versions translate it along the lines of 'without wrath or doubting/quarrelling. The Greek word is dialogue. The word means to 'talk something through'. It is not necessarily a conversation between two parties but points to the kind of thought processes so loved in modern education. We debate within ourselves, we question our positions, we keep asking the questions… although not in prayer, apparently.

Real prayer must be allowed to flow. Who knows where it will take us. I wonder sometimes whether someone prayed like this in the early days of the Acts. Perhaps in their flow of prayer they found themselves praying for their chief persecutor, that man Saul from Tarsus. It would have been easy to pray with 'wrath' after all as Ananias once complained;
Then Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem." Acts 9:13 NKJV.
That would have been the problem that brought in the reasoning. Surely, it doesn't make sense to pray for Saul the Persecutor. You can almost hear the stream of 'buts'. Perhaps someone just prayed and in the flow of their prayer they found themselves praying for unimaginable things.

Sometimes we can have too much information when we pray. Our experience of life has taught us that often people do not get 'saved' or 'healed' so we need to be a little cautious in how we pray, or do we? Is our prayer the deliberate reasoned argument of the barrister or is it the instinctive cry of the child to its father?

Way back in a time of much trouble Habakkuk complained to God of the behaviour of the people of God. "I have it in hand" said God "I am bringing the Assyrians to punish them". "Surely not" protested Habakkuk "that solution is worse than the problem". There was, apparently, no reply from God to this protest. Habakkuk set himself to pray;
I will stand upon my watchtower, and station myself upon the fortress, and will watch to see what He will say in me, and what I answer to my complaint. Hab 2:1 Keil & Delitsch.
That subtle correction of Habakkuk 2:1 is important; (I) will watch to see what He will say in me. The next verse continues the story; And Jehovah answered me Hab 2:2 ASV.

Somehow we need to withdraw to the Watchtower and hold our tongue until God 'answers' by saying something 'in me'. Then we can flow in our prayer. We may even discover, as did Habakkuk, that such prayer is but a short step from prophecy.

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