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Trying Times: Faithful Prayer

 

“God the good Creator of all things, in his infinite power and wisdom, upholds, directs, arranges, and governs all creatures and things, from the greatest to the least, by his perfectly wise and holy providence, to the purpose for which they were created. He governs according to his infallible foreknowledge and the free and unchangeable counsel of his own will. His providence leads to the praise of the glory of his wisdom, power, justice, infinite goodness, and mercy.”

1689 LBCF / Chapter V / Paragraph I

When we speak theologically of an apology, we are speaking of a defense of the truth, or more simply, to make a case for something.

We should begin any meaningful discussion on prayer as an act of worship of Jesus as Lord, with the Scriptures. It must be maintained that every word of Scripture is true, serving as our sole authority for all things pertaining to life and godliness; therefore, we would commit our life to such precious truths.

As the Spirit-inspired apostle Paul writes to the faithful body of the church at Thessalonica, preparing them for the coming Day of the Lord Jesus Christ, he issues a command: “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17). No simpler could the command get, yet no more difficult could the command be. This command, issued by and through the pen of Paul to the people of God, is at the very heart of our need for a rich and robust prayer life.

I am reminded constantly of our great need for prayer. As a minister of God’s Word, to God’s people, I am reminded ubiquitously of the need for prayer to be a regular reality in my life, just as in the life of every believer. So needful are we for constant and consistent prayer that the hymn writers would write of it as unceasingly as Paul commanded us to practice it (please see I Need Thee Every Hour by Annie Sherwood Hawks and Sweet Hour of Prayer by W. W. Walford).

Oftentimes it seems as though the reports of negative news come flowing in like Hell’s dam has broken loose. The lady in the back pew has just discovered that she has cancer. The deacon has been caught in adultery. The church down the road has become theologically desolate. The choir director has recently lost his son to a tragic accident. The church budget has dried up because of the previous pastor’s embezzlement scandal, so the kids’ programs have been temporarily delayed or, even worse, altogether canceled (see Pray for the Flock by Ryan Fullerton and Brian Croft).

Trials and turmoils abound in plenty, and along with trials and turmoils comes the temptation to doubt and question. However many may be the trials of the Christian life—trials, by the way, which are guaranteed to the true Christian (Matthew 5:10-12; James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 4:12-19)—we have a pillow to rest our head upon in the knowledge that the God of all creation, the God of all sovereignty, holds the whole world in His hands.

As we face these guaranteed trials, how shall we face them without being led into despair? How is the Christian to live in the “joy of the Holy Spirit” (1 Thess. 1:6)? How should we live, unafraid and undismayed, recognizing that Yahweh is with us wherever we go (Josh. 1:9)?

Savor Your Sovereign Lord of Providence

Inherently embedded in the discussion of soteriology, which refers to the doctrine of salvation, and the providence of God is the question of how much of a role God plays in the day-to-day events of human existence. Is man saved by giving some of what he can while God does the rest, or is man saved by the sovereign, single-handed, monergistic act of God in bringing into fulfillment the eternal decrees of His purpose and plan by regenerating man, such that the man who receives such regeneration would assuredly come to the God Who calls him unto salvation in willing and glad repentance and belief, the willingness and gladness which was gifted by a good and gracious God?

By the lengthier of these two definitions, I assume—that is, I hope—that my position is clearly stated. I believe that God sovereignly ordains whatsoever comes to pass. Does this mean that God is the author of evil? In order to answer this question, I lean upon the aid of the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith, Chapter V, Paragraph I:

“God the good Creator of all things, in his infinite power and wisdom, upholds, directs, arranges, and governs all creatures and things, from the greatest to the least, by his perfectly wise and holy providence, to the purpose for which they were created. He governs according to his infallible foreknowledge and the free and unchangeable counsel of his own will. His providence leads to the praise of the glory of his wisdom, power, justice, infinite goodness, and mercy.”

As God ordains whatsoever comes to pass, from the least to the greatest, from the smallest to the largest, of all world events, this leads us to the question previously posed: “Is God the author of evil?” Furthermore, the common question offered as an assumed rebuttal to such assurance of the Biblically-portrayed sovereignty of God is this: “Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?”

Let me deal first with the second of these questions. Since it is based upon a false premise, an erroneous presupposition regarding the spiritual condition of mankind, this latter question is easier to dismantle.

God does not allow bad things to happen to good people. For bad things to happen to good people, this would flow downward from a stream of assumed goodness, or natural righteousness, within the being of mankind. Scripture says clearly that this is antithetical to man’s natural condition.

Scripture plainly states that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). There we have it: there are no good people. Only One was and is good: the Lord Jesus Christ. He died upon Calvary at the hands of wicked and evil men not as Plan B, not as an audible call on the play at 4th and 10 on the football field of human history.

Jesus says of Himself: “No one takes [My Life] away from Me, but from Myself, I lay it down. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father” (John 10:18).

The command—indeed, the mission—of Jesus was from the Father. The Father commissioned it, the Son completed it. The apostles and early disciples of Jesus recognized this. When they were challenged to stop preaching the name of Jesus in Acts 4, they came back to the church to pray to the Lord. The content of the prayer of the whole congregation was a bold and unwavering affirmation of the predestining work of God the Father in the death of the Son upon the cross at Calvary (Acts 4:27-28).

So then, something bad happening to a good person only happened once, and it happened upon a bloody cross for the atonement of the sins of the elect upon whom God had set His saving and effectual love. This Person was Jesus Christ, the Lamb Who was slain for justification of the many as He bore our sins (Isa. 53:12).

To everyone else upon whom bad things fall, it is by God’s mercy, the holding back of His righteous wrath, and grace, His undeserved and unmerited favor, that we are not struck dead because of our cosmic treason against Him. Understanding this will lead us to an ability to rightly deal with matters of trouble and turmoil when they arise.

Understanding something of the grace and mercy, justice and wrath, of God is our first and foremost step to trusting God in prayer.

For further reading
The Power of Prayer by Charles Spurgeon
Taking Hold of God: Reformed and Puritan Perspectives on Prayer by Joel R. Beeke and Brian G. Najapfour
A Hunger for God: Desiring God through Fasting and Prayer by John Piper
E.M. Bounds on Prayer
Trevor Bates

Trevor Bates

Trevor Bates serves as the Senior Pastor of Muldraugh Baptist Church in Muldraugh, Kentucky. He and his wife, Sarah, are proud parents of two daughters. Trevor holds to the 1689 Baptist Confession and Post Millennial Eschatology. His deepest passion lies in preaching the whole counsel of God’s Word. Additionally, he has authored six books.

December 6, 2023

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