Tools of Faith: Prayer

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. [Matthew 55 ESV]

Pray without ceasing. [1 Thessalonians 5:17 ESV]

If you have never read The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis then you are missing a huge part of your training as a Christian. I would say it is better to understand righteousness than evil. But we are accosted by evil on every side and I think it impossible for us to not come to some understanding of how our adversary works, how the world in which we live influences us, and how our own evil passions enslave us.

I’m fascinated, like most people in the world, by evil, how it works, how people think. This can be both healthy and unhealthy. G. K. Chesterton’s Father Brown, the main character in the Father Brown Mysteries short stories, in solving the mysteries presented tried to think like the perpetrator, seeing things others missed because they thought only like they thought. How he, or Lewis, could think evil to understand it, while remaining mostly free from evil thinking can be attributed to an honest prayer life.

I have written the following short paragraph m emulating Lewis’ style of a letter by Screwtape to his pupil.

Whatever you do don’t let him pray. Especially honestly. If he must pray, sneak in and tempt him with pride so his focus is wholly upon himself. Pride mitigates every evil thing possibly accomplished by prayer. Does he have an attitude of humility? Then put in his mind the thought he is accomplishing something and getting our Enemies approval for whatever it is he wants to achieve. Anything will do as long as he thinks he’s doing it. Your job is to keep that creeping self-congratulation always in the back of his mind. Don’t ever let it come to the fore. Pride in humility, or anything, is the most effective weapon in our arsenal. Should it come forward, especially during a time of prayer, make them short times by distracting him with silliness. Again, anything will do, as long as it take his mind off his true condition and away from our Enemy. He wants these ugly little bipeds to adore Him. We don’t. Fix his mind on politics, which counterfeits righteousness, or entertainment, especially non-participating sensuousness. His expectations will grow exponentially without ever a chance of them being met. There’s great value in him admitting how unworthy he is while demanding everyone around live up to his unrealistic standard. Our job is to make him believe a lie. Under most conditions, he’ll believe anything.

It is too easy to write negative thoughts. It is exceedingly difficult to write positive thoughts which don’t pander to selfishness and self absorption. This is true not because Christians ar more negative than positive but because war, by its very nature, is negative. We are at war and God not only demands constant vigilance but training. A big chunk of our training in righteousness is consistent prayer resulting in constant intimacy with Him who created us in His image for that purpose.

Paul, in Ephesians 6, describes the tools of faith as instruments of war carried by every Roman soldier he met. While the implements carried by soldiers are used for war they are also used to maintain peace. Truth when used to combat the lie is both a weapon of war and a tool of peace. Righteousness is never negative, unless it is viewed through the eyes of the unrighteous. For God to bring us to a place of peace with Him cost Him more than we can ever, even eternally, know. Faith itself becomes strong only as the pressures of sin and the will to obey are brought to bear upon the citizen. Salvation is a double negative: Jesus died ( a negative) for my sins (a negative) so I am viewed by God covered with His righteousness (a positive). Most of the actual Word of God, the Scriptures, is a description of His grace to a fallen, rebellious world. He describes the fallen, rebellious world in detail but also describes how He delivers His grace in detail. God’s Word cuts to the soul of the person because of it’s vivid, gory details of the inner sinfulness of every life.

All of the tools described in Ephesians 6 are wielded by the citizen of the Kingdom through prayer. Our adversaries greatest, most insidious accomplishment is making prayer seem ineffective. I distinguish between true prayer and counterfeit prayer. True prayer focus all of one’s attention from first to last upon the person of God. It includes us and those around us but only as recognized citizens of His kingdom living in a world in absolute rebellion against Him.

Read Jesus’ prayer in Matthew 6:

Pray then like this: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [Matthew 6:9-13 ESV]

Though we and our needs are well represented in this prayer it still revolves around God. He is the center, the focal-point. It is obvious from Scripture God wants those who are His to have an intimate and uninterrupted relationship with Him. We do this through prayer.

To accomplish this He has given us faith, the conduit through which He delivers all we need, to maintain this relationship while living in a world bent upon destroying that relationship. We will not know the truth or righteousness or peace unless God gives it to us. Nor will we understand salvation, the Word of God, or even faith, unless we honestly allow Him to teach and train us. To use these tools our attitude must be meek, which is His strength in us under His control. There is no other way. Honest prayer, listening to God more than excusing ourselves before Him, cuts to the soul and reveals the truth of the innermost being, both of self and of God’s Self. Relinquishing control to Him does not release His power in us for nothing we do will inhibit Him. Relinquishing control to Him is an attitude of worship and service through willful and responsible obedience.

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