We often long for revival in our churches and in our nation. But such revival must first begin with us — a revival of cool, complacent, apathetic hearts strengthened to a renewed life in Jesus Christ by the work of the Holy Spirit in us. “I am exceedingly afflicted; Revive me, O LORD, according to Your word” (Psalm 119:107). God revives His people through the ordinary means of His word, but He also does this through the ordinary means of prayer.
What a man is alone on his knees before God, that he is — and no more. ~ Robert Murray McCheyne
One of my favorite parables of Jesus is found in Luke 18:9-14 — the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. Of course, the parable is a little ruined for us in our day, because Pharisees are automatically considered to be “bad guys” in our thinking (although I guess that’s also true for tax collectors). It would not necessarily have been the case in Jesus’ day, however. The Pharisees were the religious leaders in the synagogues, and they were generally considered to be morally and religiously upstanding individuals (at least until Jesus begins to highlight their hypocrisy). It’s a bit like watching the first three Star Wars movies (that is, Episodes I-III) — because we’ve seen Episodes IV-VI and we know that Anakin Skywalker is going to become Darth Vader, it’s very difficult to watch those movies without expecting him to do something bad eventually. So it is with this Pharisee — we know he’s bad, and we almost expect him to pray a bad prayer. But for Jesus’ audience, that was likely an unexpected twist.
This post has to do with prayer, and in Terry Johnson’s wonderful book on The Parables of Jesus, he cites the brief quote from Robert Murray McCheyne that I posted above: “What a man is alone on his knees before God, that he is — and no more.” Johnson goes on to elaborate:
What McCheyne meant was that the contend and manner of our prayers reveal our true convictions about God, life, and eternity. Our prayers reveal our theology lex orandi, lex credendi. According to this ancient principle, the “law” of faith is the “law” of prayer. What we (truly) believe is revealed by how we pray. Moreover, our approach to prayer reveals our approach to life. We live as we pray. Our manner of addressing God reveals the theology through which we address the whole of faith and life. We may put it this way: nothing so reveals our true convictions about life and eternity as our prayer life. … Our beliefs directly shape both our prayers and our life. We live as we pray. We pray as we believe. (Terry Johnson, The Parables of Jesus, pp. 111-113)