Monday, October 14, 2013

Prayer with Thanksgiving

Last week we talked about the duty of a Christian.  Here was part of the reading from last week from Luke 17:

17:7 "Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, 'Come here at once and take your place at the table'?

17:8 Would you not rather say to him, 'Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink'?

17:9 Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded?

17:10 So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, 'We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!'"

Our relationship to God, as Christians, are like slaves to a master. Our function, what we were made for, is service to our lord WITHOUT REWARD, without merit.  We were created for such a purpose.  When God created Adam, he set him to work in the garden.  It is our function, and we rebel against it, because we are fallen.  The effects of sin from the fall are not just us hurting each other and ourselves, it is merely the focus on self, instead of God, which prevents us from being full-time slaves.  When we DO serve, we serve only for a short time, and we get exhausted, and we begin living for ourselves again.  We can't seem to help it.

I touched on this last week, but a big part of the work that the Lord has purchased us to do, is the work of prayer.  This is good news, because we don't have to be in the trenches with Mother Theresa 24/7, but it is also bad news, because we don't want to pray.  When Philip inquired of prayer to our Lord, he didn't say, "teach us HOW to pray."  We know how to pray, we just don't.  He said, "teach us TO pray."  Give us the wills, Lord, to drop on our knees, and beg you to empty ourselves of all self, and ask you to use us as our slaves.

Here is today's reading from Luke 17.  It's no accident or random occurrence that this passage is right after what we read above:

17:11 On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee.

17:12 As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance,

17:13 they called out, saying, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!"

17:14 When he saw them, he said to them, "Go and show yourselves to the priests." And as they went, they were made clean.

17:15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice.

17:16 He prostrated himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan.

17:17 Then Jesus asked, "Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they?

17:18 Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?"

17:19 Then he said to him, "Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well."

When Jesus meets these ten lepers, they lift up their voices in united prayer.  And the prayer is the most simple yet deepest prayer of all: the Jesus prayer.  It goes like this: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner."  This is essentially what the lepers say, and as sin is spiritual leprosy, we should be saying this every minute of every day.

Jesus sends them all to a priest, who is the one who would judge if a leper is cleansed and can return to society.  He hasn't healed them yet.  They didn't ASK to be healed.  It is pointless to show themselves to a priest.  They obey, all ten obey.  On the way, they are healed, and they continue to obey, continuing on to the priest.  However, one DISOBEYS.  One of the lepers turns back to praise God and throw himself to Jesus' feet in thanksgiving.  The others haven't disobeyed. They are still healed.  They aren't going to become lepers again.

But the one who turned back is not in trouble.  He is DOUBLY BLESSED, because he has given thanksgiving.  He has prayed with the others, but unlike the others, he has given thanksgiving.  The kind of prayer we should be engaged in is not just prayer for ourselves, not just prayer for others, but prayer with thanksgiving.  This is an advanced form of prayer that is blanketed in thanksgiving.  We have heard about the three answers to prayer.  God says one of three things in answer to prayer: yes, no, or later.  When do we give thanks?  We give thanks after "yes" answers.  Do we give thanks for "no" answers?  No.  Do we give thanks for "later" answers?  Well, that depends on whether the later answer is yes or not.  Do you see what we do?  We should be giving thanks in ALL circumstances.

Philippians 4:4-7 says the following:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  

Couching our prayer in thanksgiving brings us the peace that passes all understanding.  It's the Christian life there in a nutshell.  Giving thanks in all circumstances, allows us to empty ourselves to Christ, allows him to use us as vessels for his ministry.  It is the difference between merely praying for others and allowing God to use us to help others.  This prayer, "Lord use me to help my friends," is a far more advanced prayer than a mere, "help my friends."

The best example of this is Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Here we get to peer over Christ's shoulder and see what he prays about in secret.  This is probably how he prayed all the time: Lord not my will but your will. Use me to help my friends.  That is exactly what happens.  Christ dies on our behalf.  He may not have actually said THANK YOU to the father, but his whole posture is one of thanksgiving.  He sweats blood, he empties himself.  He is thanking the Father for the answer NO.

Pray that the Lord will empty us.  Throw ourselves down on his mercy.  Let him use us for his ministry.  Lord, use us as your slaves.  And let us be thankful for such slavery.