June 15, 2018
21 Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was childless. The Lord answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant. 22 The babies jostled each other within her, and she said, “Why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the Lord.
23 The Lord said to her,
“Two nations are in your womb,
and two peoples from within you will be separated;
one people will be stronger than the other,
and the older will serve the younger.”
Most everyone believes in prayer, salutes the practice and generally supports the idea. And truth be told, at one point or another, everyone does pray. In the United States, we still live in the wake of Christendom, and most people over thirty can recite the Lord’s Prayer.
Becoming a person or a people of prayer—those who walk with God in a life of prayer—is another thing entirely. The real biblical vision of prayer has been obscured by the overwhelming tide of casual prayer; the fruit of a church who “believes” in God but does not follow Jesus.
We see something of the biblical vision in today’s text. Isaac and Rebekah could not conceive a child. Welcome to the family of God, right?! Just because God willed for Abraham to be the Father of a great nation did not mean it would come easy. We are prone to believe that if God wills a thing, it will come easy. Scripture seems to prove just the opposite. The more God wills for a thing to happen, the greater the opposition and difficulty. God’s will cannot be thwarted, but it can be severely taxed.
Today’s text gives us a glimpse into the normative, non-casual life of prayer carried out by Isaac and Rebekah. Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was childless. Isaac’s prayers are answered and we move into difficulties in the pregnancy. Something disturbing was going on in Rebekah’s womb. We would turn to the ultrasound scanner. Rebekah, we are told, “went to inquire of the Lord.” Note how the first impulse and immediate response is to seek the Lord in prayer. They do not turn first to human invention and innovation. They begin by seeking Divine intervention.
Prayer will either be our navigational operating system or the window dressing of an otherwise nominal faith. As much as we want to believe in a comfortably reasonable in-between space, I’m sorry to say it does not exist. Prayer will be consuming or it will be casual—everything or nothing. Our salutes and stated belief in prayer count for nothing. I say these things not to shame or condemn but to awaken.
In my own life I have lived through long periods of time where prayer was my navigational system only to let it slowly slip away into casual nothingness in other seasons. Instead of a piercing self honesty, I opted for the sloppy self deception of self assurance that last season’s efforts would somehow carry over into this season’s requirements. It doesn’t work that way.
I will forever remember a line from a sermon I heard 25 years ago by a great man of God and leader of the Church, Dr. David Gyertson. He was preaching on my favorite biblical text, John 15, and while referencing the words in vv.2-3 on pruning, he said, “You will never get this year’s fruit off of last year’s branches.”
If I’m honest, and God knows I want to be, I need to proffer a confession. In 1990 I experienced a profound awakening to the presence and power of God. Along with this came the gift of a protracted season of intensive prayer. It was comprehensive and consuming and those branches produced an enormous amount of fruit in my life and work.
As I reflect on it, I think I have attempted to harvest fruit from those branches ever since. I never ceased praying, but I believe my prayer life has receded in those intervening decades. I think the problem is I have aspired to get back to that place. In the life of the indwelling Holy Spirit, there is no going back to the glory days of a bygone era, only pressing forward.
It is being revealed to me even now that the time has come to awaken again; to a new gift of prayer in a new season of life and work. Something tells me a pruning is long overdue in my life. The old branches are dead and rotten and must be cast down so new growth can appear. This new growth will be, well …, new, unfamiliar, and maybe even uncomfortable. My present norms, forms and methods of prayer (i.e. the old wineskins) cannot hold the new wine the Spirit desires to pour forth.
I will stop there before I mix in yet another metaphor; however, I believe this word may not only be for myself but others. My sense is there is a word of prophecy here for perhaps a few others or maybe for many. I will leave that with you.
Lord Jesus, you are right here, right now. Thank you for always telling me the truth and further for telling me that the truth will set me free. Give me the gift of gut level honesty about where I am and have been, yes about sin, but more about casual faith. And open my eyes to the new thing you want to do. Right here, Jesus. Right now, Jesus. Amen.
- Try this analogy from the tech world–is prayer in your life more like an “app” on your phone or is it the whole operating system?
- Have you experienced periods of great awakening in your life to the things of God accompanied by surges in your life of prayer? Have those times, despite their blessings, ever been a hindrance in going forward to new and greater things?
- Is your vision of future possibilities of personal or even large scale awakening limited by what has happened in the past? What might pruning look like in your life going forward? Are you prepared to let go of what “worked” in the past and to go back to square one again?
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J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. firstname.lastname@example.org.