Spiritual Formation: The Power and Privilege of Prayer

The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops. James 5:16b-17

Rain-stopping prayer–that’s the kind of prayer life most of us would like to have. In reality, we often describe our prayer lives as inconsistent and feeble. I hear many Christians say that they would pray more if they knew what to pray for. A quick remedy for this would to be to check the latest news headlines. Truthfully, there is no shortage of things to pray for; what’s lacking is faith in God’s promise to answer our prayers. In these moments, our prayer should be “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief (Mark 9:24).”

1 John 5:14 says, “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” Perhaps the reason some of our prayer go unanswered is because we are asking that God would bless our will instead of “Thy will be done.” It is a tremendous blessing to be able to approach the God of the Universe through Christ in prayer. Not only that, but God hears us! With this in mind, may we boldly approach the throne of grace in our time of need (Heb. 4:16)

Application:

Make no mistake; prayer is work. It is glorious, worthwhile work, but it is work nonetheless. In the introduction of his book, “Christ in the School of Prayer” Andrew Murray writes, “when we learn to regard [prayer] as the highest part of the work entrusted to us, the root and strength of all other work, we shall see that there is nothing that we so need to study and practice as the art of praying aright.” Whether we are praying through Scripture, attending a prayer meeting, or praying quietly to ourselves for the soul of our neighbor, may we never lose sight of the power and privilege of prayer. It is essential to our spiritual formation.

Spiritual Formation: Loving God’s Word

Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. Psalm 119:97

Could this verse be said of you? Do you break out into praise over the mere thought of God’s Word? The Psalmist who penned these words had more than a simple appreciation for the law of God. It was all he could think about! He thought about it the whole day through.

We know that “all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16).” Yet, so many of us keep our Bibles neatly tucked away on the shelf. Or to put it in more modern terms, we download the app, but never actually use it. To be clear, loving God’s Word is more than just checking a to-do list. True love for God’s Word manifests itself as obedience to God’s Word.

The psalmist spoke of mediating on God’s Word. Not to be confused with the Eastern practice of ’emptying one’s mind,’ biblical meditation involves filling one’s mind with the Word of God. Often times when we read the Bible, especially when reading early in the morning, we will forget what we read before breakfast. How tragic! It can be beneficial sometimes to slow down and focus in on a word or phrase. It is better to read a little and obey every word than to read a lot and forget every word…or worse, disobey.

Application:

We need God’s Word. To quote Job, we should desire it more than our necessary food (Job 23:12). Our morning devotions can involve a lot of good things (i.e. praise and singing), but if they do not include the intake of the Word (reading, memorization, listening, meditation) there’s a problem. Likewise, when we gather together to worship corporately we should prioritize the public reading and preaching of Scripture. Last, as we make disciples, we must teach them to observe all that Christ commanded (Matt 28:18-20). How can we accomplish this apart from reading and studying God’s Word together?

Spiritual Formation: The Gospel

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. 1 Timothy 1:15

If you were to ask a group of Christians “do you believe the gospel?” most of them would emphatically answer, “of course!” Yet, if you then asked them what the gospel is, odds are you will get a lot of ‘ums’ and blank stares. It is imperative that we know and understand the gospel we say we believe. Romans 1:16 says that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation for those who believe. If eternal salvation hangs in the balance, shouldn’t we make sure that we understand the gospel?

In its most basic understanding, the gospel is the ‘good news’ that Jesus Christ came to die for sinners. Why is this good news, you ask? It is good news because you and I are sinners. All have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (Rom. 3:23). We are all deserving of death and hell for our sins against the one, true, and holy God, according to Romans 6:23. But, as we see in the second part of that verse, “the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus our Lord.”

Jesus, the perfect Son of God, came from heaven to earth to die the death that we deserved. He bore our sins on the cross where He died the death of a criminal. He was buried in a rich man’s tomb. Then, three days later, He rose victoriously from the grave, defeating the power of sin, death, and hell! If we believe in Him, we will be saved from God’s coming wrath and receive that incredible gift of eternal life (John 3:16).

Application:

Every Christian should become well acquainted with the gospel. In the words of Jerry Bridges, we should (literally) preach the gospel to ourselves daily. The gospel is like a jewel with many facets, so we will never stop learning new things. But at a minimum, we should be able to tell others the simple, yet powerful, good news that Jesus came to save sinners.