don't stop praying

I was recently able to spend some good, rich time in the Psalms, and observed something that I'd never noticed before.
To You I lift up my eyes, O You who are enthroned in the heavens!
Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master,
as the eyes of a maidservant to the hand of her mistress,
so our eyes look to the Lord our God till He has mercy upon us.
Psalm 123:1-2
I learned a few things about myself and how I pray in this passage. I realize that I don't pray enough. I pray. But I pray for something a couple times and call it good, as though God is able to act because I merely asked Him for a favor. But clearly there are two conclusions to be drawn from this text that contradict the form of prayer I'm accustomed to, and challenge me to pray differently.


1. God is merciful.

If we can only grasp the fact that yes, God is just, and yes, God is majestic, and yes, God is sovereign, and yes, God is above all things, and yes, God is omnipotent, but yes, God is merciful, that ought to radically change the way we pray. 157 times the word "mercy" is used in the Bible. Most of these references are people of faith begging to God to have mercy or to show His mercy to them. The beauty of the mercy of God is that it is not weak. His mercy displays His strength. We often associate mercy with weakness in emotion or weakness in will, but God, in his justice and strength chooses to display mercy to the sons of men. God is merciful and is interested in the affairs and struggles and troubles of your life, but He is not lacking power to save.

2. Pray until God acts.

The fact that God is merciful ought to drive us to beg Him to show His mercy, as it did the psalmist. But how does this work? Does God pay special attention to people who pray more than others? Does God hear louder the prayers the people who talk more than others? Does God give more consideration to the prayers of those who pray instead of sleep or eat?

My initial response would be to say "no" to each of those, because God hated the prayers of the Pharisees. I am, however, confident in saying that the more prayers (the more expressions of dependence and pleas for salvation) the more glory God receives. The restlessness and humility and ferocity and faithfulness in prayer motivates God to act. It's as though the psalmist is saying "God, we will not stop begging You to act until You do!"


I recently asked several friends "Why do you pray?" A lot of the answers were surprising to me. Some went along the lines of: "because it makes me feel good." True. Others: "because it's a chance for me to just let everything go." True. But it's so much more. John Piper summarizes prayer like this in His book Desiring God:
Prayer is the open admission that without Christ we can do nothing. And prayer is the turning away from ourselves to God in the confidence He will provide the help we need. Prayer humbles us as needy and exalts God as wealthy.
You see that prayer does much more than make you feel good. Prayer is the avenue of God's glory being released, revealed, and reveled in. It is both a means and product of His glory. Prayer is all about God.

As you pray, beg of God to act. Beg God to show mercy for the sake of His name and reputation. And don't stop until He does. And when He does, don't stop then either.

Additional Reading: John 14:13, John 15:5-7, Psalm 123, Psalm 119, John 4:9-10, Desiring God pp. 137-156


the preaching is easy. the practicing is hard.

James Emery White on his blog "Serious Times" writes a challenging post about practicing what you preach.

“How much life insurance do you have?”

According to a recent blog by Seth Godin, Zig Ziglar liked to say that -with that one question, you could tell if someone was a successful life insurance agent. “If they’re not willing to buy it with their own money, how can they honestly persuade someone else to do so?”

Godin went on to note that if you are in the music business, but you never buy tickets or downloads, can you really empathize with the people you’re selling to?

His favorite: If you work for a non-profit and you don’t give money to charity, what exactly are you doing in this job? “And the shame of it,” Godin adds, “is that this inaction on their part keeps them from experiencing the very emotion that they try so hard to sell.”...

Godin is on to something here. Something that runs much deeper than business. Namely, how easy it is to embrace an ideal, a value, even a mission, and not participate in it yourself; to exhort others to do what you yourself do not...

For example, I interact with a good number of church leaders, and I am sensing a breakdown precisely along these lines.
They attempt to lead a church that reaches the unchurched, and admonish their folk to reach out to their unchurched friends and invite them to attend, but they could not name a single unchurched person that they have personally invited.
They desire to start churches filled with people who will die to themselves for the sake of the kingdom, but neither they nor their family seems to be willing to serve in the bowels of the ministry, whether mopping a floor or tending a child...

Result? Ministry becomes little more than a way to create a platform for our own fulfillment and ambition. And then, as Godin insightfully notes, we do not experience the life we so energetically try to sell.
And the more that disconnect grows, the less we will succeed.

I am far from immune from such temptations. So let me put myself into the mix with every other leader and say that for many of us, here’s a great New Year’s question to ask:

“How much life insurance do we have?”