Conquering Prayerlessness by Dr. Andrew Murray

Each Friday, our staff and occasional visitors come together to pray in the morning. It is something that I have learned to really look forward to because it engages another person as we come before God in praise and petition together. I think that often our meditation on God and His word, we often come to God through the activities of prayer and not seeing the source of that activity or the goal of that activity. I lead a time with this devotion and I wanted to share it with you as your “Pray Where You Are this week.” Please take your time to read it and please prepare your hearts to use this midweek time to consider our posture before God.


CONQUERING PRAYERLESSNESS

The greatest stumbling block in the way of victory over prayerlessness is the secret feeling that we shall never obtain the blessing of being delivered from it. Often have we put forth effort in this direction, but in vain. Old habit, and the power of the flesh, our surroundings with their attractions, have been too strong for us. What good is it to attempt that which our heart assures us is out of our reach?

The change needed in the entire life is too great and difficult. If the question is put: “Is a change possible? Our sighing heart says: “Alas, for me it is entirely impossible!” Do you know why that reply comes? It is simply because you have received the call to prayer as the voice of Moses and as a command of the law. Moses and his law have never yet given any one the power to obey.

Do you really long for the courage to believe that deliverance from a prayerless life is possible for you, and may become a reality? Then you must learn the great lesson that such a deliverance is included in the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, that it is one of the blessings of the New Covenant which God Himself will impart to you through Christ Jesus.

As you begin to understand this, you will find that the exhortation, “Pray without ceasing,” conveys a new meaning. Hope begins to spring up in your heart, that the Spirit – who has been bestowed on you, to cry constantly, “Abba, Father” – will make a true life of prayer possible for you. Then you will hearken, not in the spirit of discouragement, but in the gladness of hope, to the voice that calls you to repentance.

Many a one has turned to his Inner Chamber, under bitter self-accusation that he has prayed so little, and has resolved for the future to live in a different manner. Yet no blessing has come – there was not the strength to continue faithful, and the call to repentance had no power, because his eyes had not been fixed on the Lord Jesus. If he had only understood, he would have said, “Lord, Thou seest how cold and dark my heart is. I know that I must pray, but I feel I cannot do so, I lack the urgency and desire to pray.”

He did not know that at that moment the Lord Jesus in His tender love was looking down upon Him and saying “You cannot pray; you feel that all is cold and dark; why not give yourself over into My hands? Only believe that I am ready to help you in prayer; I long greatly to shed abroad My love in your heart, so that you, in the consciousness of weakness, may confidently rely on Me to bestow the grace of prayer: Just as I will cleanse you from all other sins, so also will I deliver from the sin of prayerlessness – only do not seek the victory in your own strength. Bow before Me as one who expects everything from his Saviour. Let your soul keep silence before Me, however sad you feel your state to be. Be assured of this – I will teach you how to pray.”

Many a one will acknowledge: “I see my mistake; I had not thought that the Lord Jesus must deliver and cleanse me from this sin also. I had not understood that He was with me every day in the Inner Chamber, in His great love ready to keep and bless me, however sinful and guilty I felt myself to be. I had not supposed that just as He will give all other grace in answer to prayer, so, above all and before all, He will bestow the grace of a praying heart.

What folly to think that all other blessings must come from Him, but that prayer whereon everything else depends, must be obtained by personal effort! Thank God I begin to comprehend – the Lord Jesus is Himself in the Inner Chamber watching over me, and holding Himself responsible to teach me how to approach the Father. This only He demands – that I, with child-like confidence, wait upon Him and glorify Him.”
If fear and hesitation still remain, I pray you by the mercies of God in Jesus Christ, and by the unspeakable faithfulness of His tender love, dare to cast yourselves at His feet. Only believe with your whole heart –there is deliverance from the sin of prayerlessness. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). In His blood and grace there is complete deliverance from all unrighteousness, and from all prayerlessness. Praised be His Name
forever!
Rev. Andrew Murray, in The Prayer-Life (1920)


Take a moment to understand what has gripped you about this and share it below in the comments.

Prayer Prompt
Lord, help us see that our prayerlessness is a sign of our lack of faith in you. We must repent of unbelief.So much of our growth is a process of growing towards trusting you as our Lord with all our hearts (Proverbs 3:5).Remind us like you did with Thomas, that Jesus holds out to us his scarred hands to remind us that our unbelief is pathway to the invitation to each of us to your response; “Do not disbelieve, but believe” (John 20:27).

I hope you can join us for service this Sunday as we celebrate Thanksgiving and continue our sermon series on prayer and we will take a look at Psalm 8, as I will be preaching on “The Lord, Majesty, Mindfulness and Messiah.” We will have a potluck for the community and we hope you can us as we worship together as a family.


Blood Will Have Blood: Hard for Me to Say “I’m Sorry”

Dear King’s Cross Family and Friends,

As a budding 12 year old boy in Howard Beach, my sister used to buy 45’s; yes, we would play it with the adaptor (If you don’t know what a 45 is, here is a link to it). One of the 45’s that I remember the most was this song that still rings in my memory is Chicago’s “Hard For Me to Say I’m Sorry” (I am humming it now as I write this…sigh). The chorus was:

Hold me now
It’s hard for me to say I’m sorry
I just want you to stay
And after all that you’ve been through
I will make it up to you
I promise you, baby.

Hey, I didn’t say this was stuff of Shakespeare but for a 12 year old who didn’t even have an inclination of romance, this song resonated with me. Even at that age, I knew that “it’s hard for me to say sorry” I knew in my heart that I had to face with the things I have done wrong. I had friends who I let down with my fickle friendship, parents whom I constantly let down; and most of all to myself who I have made naive promises to be “better.”

This shadow of guilt is ever present and as we get older we still deal with this haunt in much more sophisticated ways. In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, there is an incredible scene after Macbeth murders King Duncan to seize the throne for himself, in his moment of guilty torment he cries out:

Better be with the dead
Whom we, to gain our peace, have sent to peace,
Than on the torture of the mind to lie
In restless ecstasy. Duncan is in his grave;
After life’s fitful fever he sleeps well.

Macbeth has no peace by satisfying his ambitions. He experiences this life as a “fitful fever,” that is, a fever that comes in moments or “fits,” the heat of ambition alternating where one might experience “restless ecstasy” but soon there will be the reality of eventual turbulence broken by only by transient calms. The dead, Macbeth concludes, are truly at peace; murderers and the rest of the living suffer only uncertainty and agitation, as if life were a constant unceasing alternating of torture of mind, restless ecstasy and fitful fever. I think this is where most of us are if we are emotionally aware, we have faced moments when you have to say “I’m sorry” because of some realized guilt. Most of the time we regret those we hurt and an underlying sense of violating our own sense of righteousness that makes our offense to God a secondary consideration. We ignore Him.

This Sunday, we will look at probably one of the greatest passages in the Bible about guilt and how to deal with it. Psalm 51’s title is “To the Choirmaster. A Psalm of David, then Nathan the Prophet Went to Him, After He Had Gone in to Bathsheba.” Here in Psalm 51, we are faced with King David and a sin that was laced with adultery, treachery, abuse of authority and premeditated murder. This is not a children’s story but one with explicit details of such murderous evil. if you want know more you can read it in 2 Samuel 11-12. What is central to the Psalm is the heart of a man who is confronted with the truth of this statement:

“But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.”

Psalm 51 gives us a portrait of repentance in response to what is done that has “displeased the Lord.” We often looked down upon repentance as a concept in our culture. We see as a judgment on us and often when we pray, we are hindered because we don’t feel that we have the appropriate credentials so we feel shame and unease. Some of us come to God with no regard to our guilt and arrogantly come before God with levity towards sin which deny the offense to God. Here is where we have distorted our gospel orientation because we have failed to see the Grace of God as well as His Holiness as God confronts our extraordinary inclination towards sin.

This regular expression of Biblical repentance is something that is essential for gospel-centered living; it is becoming more aware of God’s holiness and our sinfulness that leads us to repent and cling to the gospel of Jesus that provides forgiveness, restoration and an invitation to intimacy.

This kind of repentance frees us from our own manufactured moral uprightness and makes a way for the weight of the gospel to bear fruit in our lives. But sin taints our repentance and robs us of its fruit. So our aim in today’s prayer is to expose the ways in which we practice counterfeit repentance and move us toward genuine repentance as expressed in Psalm 51.

In one of the closing scenes of Macbeth, he writes “It will have blood, they say. Blood will have blood.” It is an old saying that the dead will have their revenge. In the gospel, the blood is Christ’s blood and every one of our sins demanded justice but instead of our blood, Christ became our justice ;by not taking revenge against us with our blood but by giving of His. This is where we are moved to humility because we come before God we recognize that our apology is not a payment but rather it is a plea for mercy. David discovered this in this Psalm as he pleas for mercy.

This is why so many of us to react in surprise when sin surprise us: “I can’t believe I just did that!” In other words: “ it’s not what I’m really like!” So when we fall into self-centered remorse or “be better” resolution; this causes division between us and others as well. Because we think so highly of ourselves when others don’t measure up and we respond to others’ sin with harshness and disapproval. We are very lenient toward our own sin but we resent theirs! And because we think we can change ourselves, we are frustrated when other people aren’t changing themselves faster. We become judgmental, impatient, and critical. This also applies to us when we see others who manage their sins better than we do. We feel like a failure and we don’t want mercy but we want to show we are “right.” The gospel reminds us over and over again that we are recipients of grace and the only thing we can contribute to grace is our sin. Does that just wreck you? We have nothing to give but everything to receive. To receive abundantly.

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16.

Prayer Prompt (From “The Worship Sourcebook”)

As we draw to the close of this year
and claim the year ahead, our Father,
we need to confess to you those pieces of the past
that persist in pulling us backward.
Through admitting our failures and sharing our sin,
we would like to put away those things
that nibble and nag, de-energize and depress.
With boldness, then, and a certain measure of embarrassment, we admit to squandering time and talent,
good intentions and better ideas,
opportunities for growth and occasions for grace.
We admit that we have most often taken care of ourselves while others have stood in line.
We have defined our interests carefully and our goals precisely, using energy and expertise gainfully
to the detriment of family, friends, community, and church
We agonize with memories that sit heavily
and images that cause us to blush
and ask that you would grant us your forgiveness
as we confess our individual regrets and remorse in silence. . . .
Through Jesus Christ, our Lord, Amen.

I hope that you will join us in prayer today at 1 pm and consider this truth. Also may we continue to gather together this Sunday in this invitation to corporate worship.

Remaining in Him,
Peter Ong


“What a man is on his knees before God, that he is, and nothing more.”― Robert Murray McCheyne.

Dear King’s Cross Family and Friends,

Greetings, I hope this finds you well. November is upon us and we have only 57 days left in the year. Yes that is right, only 57 days until we can look back on 2015 as a marker of what is past and what is new is approaching. It is appropriate for us to take a moment to consider each year and all that you have learned and unlearned. If you are honest, it will be filled with a great deal of disappointments and regrets but there will be these moments of tremendous thanksgiving for how each of us has grown.

How does one grow? How does one know they are maturing? I think one is to see how we are when we pray. “What a man is on his knees before God, that he is, and nothing more.”― Robert Murray McCheyne. Christians are used to thinking about prayer as a way to get their personal needs met. This is the sentiment I often hear when people first enter into a relationship or their desire for marriage. They want to get the benefits and they do a cost analysis when they first consider the “other” as a potential. They often consider, “will I get a profit margin for my time invested in this relationship?” or they would say at the very least “will I come out with a deficit” if I pursue this relationship. This is often the posture we often have in coming before God in prayer; but when one grows in prayer, they understand that prayer as a means to delight and adore God. To know Him, to come into His presence and by transformed by the richness of his presence. So that is why as individuals we need a consideration of the “why” and “what” in our prayer life so that it will move towards the “who.”

For so many of us, our joy is based on the “why” and “what” and not on the “who.” So we are constantly looking at things are fleeting. The explanations are cold comfort to us. Anyone who are on the receiving end of bad news of a loved one’s health is not comforted with a full explanation of what disease it is and how they succumbed to it. Our desire for material things are exhilarating for a time being but it soon fades until something bigger and better comes along.

This past Sunday, I exhorted each of us to consider the psalmist’s expression of God’s invitation to find refuge in God by ending the Psalm with “Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” The implicit view of the psalmist is that we are all finding refuge in someone/something other than Kingship of Christ. We are all trying to establish our “kingship” by either subjecting others to our kingship or we put ourselves in subjection to be our king. So in the gospel growth, we recognize that it is hardest to submit to the way in which he is ordering your life that doesn’t go as “planned.”

This is harder.

Some people are very obedient when things go right but when God lets difficult things come into our lives that we might think, “This isn’t right. This isn’t fair. Look at how God is letting the circumstances of my life go awry,” you won’t treat him as a King then. Do you know what it means to treat him as a King? To say, “You must know best.” This posture doesn’t come naturally for us. It something that each of us have to wrestle and we have to struggle through it with hope in Christ.

This is one way we know if we are accepting the kingship of Jesus in our lives. We have to be honest and say “I don’t understand what’s going on, and it is terrifying…I wrestle, but I know if I accept what he is giving me, if I am faithful in the midst of this great trial, I will come forth as pure gold. This is what happened to a person in the Bible named Job who suffered greatly. In one of the most profound moments is captured in Job 23, he says “I don’t sense God’s presence, and the things God is allowing to happen fill me with terror. But he knows my way, and when he has tested me I will come forth as pure gold.” He submits to the reality that his circumstances are purifying. Do we give Jesus the kingship like that?

There will be times when you will state “I don’t understand what you are doing God…” and I think that is an appropriate statement because we are not God and we don’t understand, but if you are asking in a posture of “I don’t understand what you are doing God and it is obvious you don’t care and you don’t have things in control…” Then you have usurped God with your earthly wisdom. At the end of the day, I am convinced that we don’t want an explanation but the assurance that God is with us. Our greatest fear is not so much that we might suffer, but that we might suffer alone. So, what does God give us in prayer? Throughout history, God has always provided His presence in the crucible of isolation that suffering brings.

In Christ, God is assuring us that the Lord is with us and whatever darkness we experience in our lives; it is through Christ’s death he enters into that pain and in his resurrection, God brings the promise of restoration. So let’s take a moment today to pray that the truth of the final verse in Psalm 2, “Blessed are those who find refuge in the King” be an invitation to take refuge. To take rest. To take a respite from our adversity in our lives.

Prayer Prompt

Lord Jesus Christ,
we come to you sharing the suffering that you endured.
Grant us patience during this time,
that as we live with pain, disappointment, and frustration,
we may realize that suffering is a part of life,
a part of life that you know intimately.
Touch us in this time of trial,
hold us tenderly in your loving arms,
and let us know you care.
Renew us in our spirits,
even when our bodies are not being renewed,
that we might be ever prepared to dwell in your eternal home, through our faith in you, Lord Jesus,who died and are alive for evermore. Amen. 

Please join us this Sunday as we continue our sermon series on “Considering Prayer: A Pilgrimage through Psalms, Epistles and Gospels.” I will be preaching on Psalm 3 and the sermon title is “From Suffering to Salvation.” I hope you can come and join us.

Remaining in Him,
Peter Ong


Why Do We Recite the Creed?

About a month ago, King's Cross introduced the Apostle's Creed to our regular Sunday Worship liturgy.

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit
and born of the virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to hell.
The third day he rose again from the dead.
He ascended to heaven
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.
From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic* church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.
Amen.
*the universal church of all times and all places

And while we are still adjusting to the new elements (we'll figure out the projector issues... I promise) and service order (I'm sure it will feel very natural soon!), I've had a number of people ask me, "Why do we recite the creed?" It's a very fair question, especially if you did not grow up reciting it at church every Sunday morning. I have many answers for this question but I'll try to limit myself to just a few.

It gets into us and is formative for us as a church.

I believe the practice of reciting the creed is formative for us as a church. There is something in the practice of what we do that shapes us internally through repetition. If you've been worshiping with us for a while, perhaps lines from The Lord's Prayer have made their way into your daily life? (e.g. "Lead me not into temptation..." or "[maybe a sigh here]... Thy will be done.") In my early childhood, my parents put me in preschool at a neighborhood church and every morning we recited Psalm 23 in the King James Version---I had no idea what it meant! For example, the very first verse is, "The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want." As a four year old, this was extremely confusing; why would I not want the shepherd? It wasn't until high school that I found a translation that, instead of "I shall not want," had, "I shall not be in want."---and then another: "I have everything I need." But as a child, I recited it anyway and while I may not have understood it and had merely recited itas an exercise, I cannot count the number of times this word has taken life in me and reminded me, "Even though I walk through the valley... I will not fear for you are with me."

It is my hope that our regular practice of the creed will get into us to remind us daily of---and challenge us regularly in---our faith.

It is public witness

Not only is it something that forms us, it is also a very succinct proclamation of our faith. It expresses the content of our faith when many today may want to associate religion and faith as something that we feel or experience (it includes that, but it also has content). When the nation of Israel gathered for worship (and this continues today), they often rehearsed their faith together, "Hear Israel, the LORD your God, the LORD is one!" (Deut 6:4) not just to remind themselves but also so that the surrounding nations and peoples would know the LORD, the God of Israel. It is a practice that God's people have rehearsed through the ages and is still a practice that continues today.

It reminds us of our corporate identity

The last reason I'll highlight is that this practice, which has been exercised through the ages, reminds us that our faith is beyond us. We have the faith because God has sustained it in his church through his people by the Holy Spirit. We have the faith today because people have suffered for the Gospel in order that the message may come to us untarnished. It is a gift from the church to the church, and as we recite this creed, we join and identify with the historical church that has preserved, protected, and proclaimed this faith all over the world, throughout time, and in every language. Before we recite the creed, the presider of service often will likely say something to the effect of, "And now let us confess our faith together, joining with the church in all times and places." It comes quick, but there's a lot in that statement for us to chew on.

Again, this is by no means an exhaustive list of reasons, but it is my hope that as we grow as a church, that our worship would also grow in breadth and depth as we live into our identity as the Body of Christ.


Prayer Beyond Petition Towards a Person

Dear King's Cross Friends,

This Sunday we kicked off our new sermon series called “Considering Prayer: A Pilgrimage Through Psalms, Epistles and Gospels.” It was something that was stirred as we approached our third year anniversary as a church congregation that we as a community have so much to give thanks for. For the way God has grown the church, the depth of community that is centered on conversations on the gospel and also a deep conviction that our faith is to be engaged with a larger Flushing community. Over the last three years, we have seen our Flushing neighbors from different walks of life enter into the life of the church. Friendship were formed from spheres that I am convinced would have never crossed into. I saw a group of unchurched nomads get rooted in our community and sought to bring others into a covenant community of worship and also to serve our neighbors in a meaningful way of self giving.

As I look back, there were so many moments when we gathered as a church to pray; Our community Praise and Prayer that people gathered to pray for the church and for its witness to the Flushing community, in our Community Groups at King’s Cross, we would have joint prayer meetings, then in our Sunday service, I am always moved by the rich corporate prayers as well as the time of reflection at the end of service.

I realized that so much of what has stirred in the life of the church has been through a constant thread of consistent prayer. It was not something that was evident but like all precious things, they are often hidden and whispered instead of being trumpeted or proclaimed. I know that as a church men and women were gathering weekly to pray; it was not driven by a program or an obligation but a disciplined of grace.
So, we are going to go on a pilgrimage towards an intersection of the divine with the earthly. I pray that the sermon series will be a time of directed attention to how God brought us through as a community and also individually. It is with a great expectant heart that I hope these weeks will be one of nourishment to the grace that is availed to us in prayer.

Prayer Beyond Petition

One of the first instinct of prayer is to pray of petition, to ask God for something. Usually it is a simple personal desire or sometimes is a crisis that has moved us to a sense of helplessness that only God can rescue us. It is through that moment there is a clarity…Who we are and how little control we have in our circumstances and God draws us near. It is He who initiates and in that initiation, He is bringing us close. Not as some cosmic fast food cashier who is there to take your order of what you want to have this particular day; But a God who drew near so you can commune with him and to not simply conduct the activity of prayer but rather to have a posture of prayer that is shaped by intimate dependence, desperation, delight and desire for God.

Eugene Peterson writes, “there is a difference between praying to an unknown God whom we hope to discover in our praying, and praying to to a known God, revealed through Israel and in Jesus Christ, who speaks our language.” It is a God who is there. That is what is so profound about this precious moment of prayer, God is making Himself vulnerable to us. He is giving of His presence to us.

Towards a Person

Last night, as I tried to teach our boys ( 5 and 7 year old) to pray through each finger of the hand that represents an item for petition. The thumb is the closest finger so we pray for those who are closest to us; index finger, because it points to pray for those who points us to something we can learn from, so we pray for teachers; the middle finger because it is the longest and tallest, we pray for the leaders of government here and abroad; the ring finger because it is the weakest finger, we remember to pray for those who are sick, poor and weak (they boys loved this one because they were reminded to pray for my parents who are suffering a cold this week) and lastly the pinky finger to pray for ourselves because we are to consider others before ourselves. This was a practical way to cover different spheres and the kids really caught on. Throughout scripture, God invites us to raise prayers for the concern for His kingdom and we should be driven to resist coming to God for need but rather for a prayer that is “kindle by grace.”

After we put the boys to bed, my wife Jamie said there were all petitions and we need to teach our kids about who God is. His attributes and His character of sovereign grace, tender mercies and intimate empathy as our prayer is fused into the presence of a God who has shown his character. That is why the opening Psalm, the writer sings “Blessed is the man … [whose] delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:1-2). The law is the instruction and it points to knowing and finding delight in the character of God. The Psalm doesn’t start with a prayer of petition but rather a prayer of showing our delight and later in Psalm 2, our refuge. So, we come to God knowing who He is and also who we are; we are not beggars, slaves or enemies but rather as sons and daughters of the living God.

So today, let’s take a moment to consider who we are praying to today. Consider who He is and what He desires for us to know about Him. Think upon that attribute and give praise for that. If you are in a distant place with God then consider…Is the God of the Bible ever considered distant…If you feel shame for what you have done this past week, then where does God shame us beyond what was accomplished on the cross? If you are feeling angry because God didn't come through for you in a situation you asked for…Is it your will or His? If it is His then is His will ever been shown to be bad?

Let’s warm our hearts to God. Not just simply for what we want but rather for who He as revealed to us in Christ.

I look forward to seeing you on Sunday Worship as we consider this invitation to pray and it is my desire that it will strengthen our church to His will for us to be Kingdom Minded, Kingdom People.

Remaining in Him,
Peter Ong