Prayer is easily one of the most mysterious, misunderstood, and altogether missed opportunities that our Lord has given us… Even though it may be one of the most talked about and taught on subjects in Christian communities.
If we had even the tiniest inkling of who we are in Christ and the power of prayer, everything would change… Not just in our world, but in the entire world.
Prayer is the amazing privilege we’ve been given to be in the presence of the Almighty Creator of the Universe… not only for our own personal growth and edification… not just to present our own needs and requests. Although these are certainly important aspects of prayer, it is intended to be so much more! We are intended to be so much more!
As followers of Christ, we’ve been given the commission to be ministers of the new covenant. My prayer is that we would take a minute to consider what this means, and as we do, God will lead us to dive deeper into a life of prayer. Not merely to make a little time for prayer… but to make prayer the priority our life.
Let’s look at the big picture…
In order to understand who we are in Christ, we need to have a basic understanding of the purpose of the two Covenants (the old testament and the new testament). We were created in the image of God for the purpose knowing God and glorifying Him by bearing His image. As His image-bearer, man was put in charge of all God’s creation as God’s representative. God in His infinite wisdom created us with free will, giving us the capacity to choose to respond to Him in love, trust and complete dependence. But, this free will has a rather obvious downside – we can also choose not to. When man chose not to trust God – sin entered, he disobeyed and the relationship he had enjoyed with God was destroyed. He became afraid of God and hid from Him. The image of God that he was supposed to bear became distorted beyond recognition. God knew man could not save himself from the grip of sin. If man was to be saved, God would need to accomplish it and our salvation could only come through faith in God’s ability to accomplish it. This would take some strategic planning! We would need to be brought to the realization that all our own efforts to save ourselves are hopeless. We would need to learn that we can trust God. The root of all disobedience is unbelief. And with our free will running amuck, dragging us deeper and deeper into our self -absorbed pit of depravity, the tricky part would be to awaken our desire for salvation. God would also need to get our eyes off ourselves and onto Him so He could begin the work of restoring our relationship to Him with the intent of resuming His original purpose: to send us out into the world as His image bearers in order to bring glory to His Name.
This is the reason for the two covenants. It wasn’t …Plan A: Paradise… Plan B: The Law… Then Plan C: The Cross!… The Cross was always Plan A! Before the foundation of the world this was God’s plan. (Rev.13:18)
In the 1st part of this plan God gives 10 commandments to outline what it looks like to bear His image in order to honor Him and bring glory to His Name. The Law isn’t just a collection of random rules that God made just to prove we couldn’t keep them. God used the Law to say, I want you to bear my image and this is what it looks like. But we were never designed to bear His image apart from His indwelling presence. It’s absolutely impossible on our own!
In the 1st covenant man has a part and God has a part. Man’s part is to obey. God’s part is to reward obedience and punish disobedience.
Let’s take a quick look at it…
Deuteronomy 4:1 “Hear now, O Israel, the decrees and laws I am about to teach you. Follow them so that you may live…”
4:6 “Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations …”
6:25 “And if we are careful to obey all this law before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness.”
7:12 “If you pay attention to these laws and are careful to follow them, then the LORD your God will keep his covenant of love with you, as he swore to your forefathers.”
11:26-28 “See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse – the blessing if you obey the commands of the LORD your God that I am giving you today; the curse if you disobey the commands of the LORD your God and turn from the way that I command you.”
Notice the key word… “IF”
How do you think that worked out for them?
The point of the 1st Covenant… We can’t do this. We need a Savior!
The 1st Covenant was absolutely essential to God’s plan for our salvation.
Without an understanding of our great need, we can’t and won’t come to God on His terms… Without an understanding of our predicament, we will die in our sin. No matter how nice we are, we will never be nice enough to measure up to God’s perfect standard of righteousness.
Thankfully, we’ve been given a New covenant!
Hebrews 9:14-15 “How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance–now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.”
Remember, in the 1st covenant man has a part and God has a part.
In the 2nd covenant, God accomplishes both parts!
Now that’s A WIN – WIN situation!
After the 1st covenant had made our predicament obvious, Jesus steps in and pays our penalty for us!
And if that wasn’t enough, there’s even more… Not only does God provide for our justification, giving us right standing with God by declaring us not guilty. He also commits himself to accomplish our sanctification by promising to send the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth and restore the image of God that we discarded.
2 Corinthians 3:6 “He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant–not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”
We accept Salvation as a gift, but then something in us tells us we can manage from here on our own. Sin has taken such a toll on us that it doesn’t even occur to us that the reason God saved us was to bring us back into that close relationship that was lost in the garden.
Just as we needed God to do everything for our salvation, we also need God to do everything necessary to equip us for this new life!
When we finally come to the realization that God has redeemed us for Himself, and that it’s not about us, everything starts to make sense.
In the new covenant our freedom from the penalty and the power of sin has been accomplished by God. Faith is our only part and even that is a gift!
Jeremiah 24:7 “I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the LORD. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.”
1 Corinthians 4:7 “For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?”
The more absolute our surrender God… the more complete our dependence on God… the more wholeheartedly we trust Him to accomplish what only He can do… the more we will reflect His image to a lost and dying world!
God had a commission for Adam in the garden… to bear His image and manage His creation as His representative. Adam was to be in such an intimate relationship with Him, that this commission would be as natural as any son bearing his Father’s image and managing his Father’s business.
Under the 2nd Covenant Jesus is referred to as the 2nd Adam and He accomplished the commission of bearing God’s image to the world.
Hebrews 1:3a“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.”
Under the first covenant Israel also had a commission to represent God to the world, but chose their own way instead. Under the first covenant, the Levites were to be set apart for the Lord. They were given the right to be in God’s presence and the obligation to intercede for the people. To be a priest meant that his life was not to be his own. The Lord was to be his portion. His job had two aspects. He was to represent God to the people, and bring the needs of the people before the Lord. He was to stand before the LORD to minister and to pronounce blessings in his name.
The priesthood of the 1st covenant was just a shadow that would ultimately be fulfilled with Christ as our High Priest.
Col. 2:17 “These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.”
1 Peter 2:9 “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”
Every believer has been given the commission of interceding for the world!
Just as a son has the right and the boldness to ask his Father for the necessary provisions and laborers to conduct his Father’s business – we have the right and responsibility to bring these requests to God.
Heb. 4:16 “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
It’s our job as His ambassadors to bring the needs of the people to Him. It’s our privilege as His children to ask with confidence!
Realizing our Dependence on God is key! We are to represent Christ and the only way that’s possible is by staying in his presence throughout the day. We need to remain in Him, because apart from him we can do nothing!
John 15:7 “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.”
What does remaining in Him look like?
Even Jesus being fully God emptied Himself of his power to become the mediator of this new covenant. He became flesh and submitted to becoming completely dependent on the Father for everything. Over and over Jesus states his dependence on the Father.
Throughout the book of John we hear Him saying… “not my words… not my honor… not my own glory… I speak nothing of myself… I came not of myself… I do nothing of myself… I do nothing on my own, but speak just what the Father has taught me…”
And almost in the same breath we hear Him saying things like:
John 10:30 “I and the Father are one.”
John 8:24 “If you do not believe that I am [the one I claim to be], you will indeed die in your sins.”
John 8:28 “So Jesus said, ‘When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am [the one I claim to be] and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.’”
John 8:58 “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!”
If Jesus can say “It’s all God – Not me!” Why do we have such a hard time admitting this?
His attitude is to be our attitude… (please read Phil. 2:1-11) His commission is our commission!
John 17:18 “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.”
All the time I hear people wishing they knew God’s will for their life.
What if God is just waiting for us to do things that we already know are God’s will for us….
We are to bear His image to the world and this is only possible with Christ in us!
2 Corinthians 4:7 “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”
We are to Represent Him to the people…
2 Corinthians 5:20 “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.”
We are to Intercede for the people…
2 Corinthians 5:14-15 “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.”
In all this we are to have the same attitude as Christ, to know that it’s all about Him! Not my words… not my honor… not my own glory… I speak nothing of myself… I came not of myself… I do nothing of myself… I do nothing on my own…
This is God’s will for us…“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind”… Jesus said this is the 1st and greatest commandment and the 2nd is like it…‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Learning to pray by merely reading about it would be as silly as trying to learn to swim by simply reading about it. You might learn something, but honestly, you will only learn to swim by diving in.
If we really want to learn to pray, we to need to “dive in”! The only place we can truly learn to pray is right in the middle of it with Christ as our teacher. The more we “dive in” and invest ourselves to wholeheartedly to live this life in Christ, the more we’ll realize that we’ve only just begun to scratch the surface of what prayer actually is. There will always be more for us to discover about prayer because prayer is the avenue through which we live this life of faith. We were created for Prayer!