Basket of Figs

Published 2001-09

Bud Powell

Trinity Covenant RCUS, Colorado Springs


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Prayer to the God Who Is.

Magic? Or Faith?



But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.  Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.  Matt. 6:7,8


How illuminating is this word from Jesus our Lord!  The power of our prayers does not lie in the faith or the energy with which they are uttered, but in the power and faithfulness of our Heavenly Father.


True prayer is to the true God and not to idols.  Idols are figments of men’s imaginations and can do nothing, but can only do what men do in their names. Idols are empowered by men’s hands and men’s ideas because they do not have anything of their own.  Even the sacrifices that men make to false gods are things that come from God and are created by God.  (Hosea 2:8  “For [Israel] did not know that I gave her corn, and wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold, which they prepared for Baal.”)  All things come from the true God, and even the intelligence and strength which men expend on their idols are gifts of God and are misappropriated to the worship of idols.


The true God is self-existent and immutable.  He has life in Himself and never changes.  [For more information on these great truths about God, see the web page, click on the “file cabinet” and look for the file folder “Attributes.”]


Jesus is telling us as Christians not to pray like the heathen who do not know the true God.  The heathen thought that their prayers could change God.  They expended a great deal of energy in trying to find the magic formula or the magic word that would make the gods do what they wanted them to do.


St. Augustine said that heathen men would utter terrible threats against the gods in order to compel them to answer their prayers.  This is the reason for incantations, noises, drawings, and other things that men imagine will compel the powers of the universe [the gods] to obey their bidding.


Such ideas are not to be named among Christians for we have another spirit that moves our prayers.  We do not expect to change the mind of God.  That would be blasphemy, as if we could add anything to God’s wisdom or power.  Instead, we pray because we delight in the fellowship that we have with God through Jesus Christ.  We delight in the Kingdom of God and the righteousness of God and are content with resting in the provisions that God has made for us.  We pray because we love God and love His ways and words, and because we have been moved by His word and Spirit to pray.  True prayer changes us a great deal.


True prayer arises from faith and trust.  God is not like an unjust judge [Luke 18] who must be compelled to hear the needy, but He delights in the prayers of His people and rejoices in giving good things to them.  His most precious gift is the gift of the Holy Spirit given to His children that they might believe and trust in His goodness and His grace.


God’s children will never lack any thing that they need, for God is rich in resources and in grace.  But He will not give His glory to another, and very often we suffer because we pray to a God that does not exist.  There is no God who is changed by our prayers.  If we imagine such a god, we are praying to an idol, a figment of our imagination.  The true God is not a cosmic vending machine who will ungorge goodies if we find the right magic words or supply enough energy to make Him move.


The true and living God is gracious and merciful.  His children have the precious promise that the Holy Spirit prays in them the sort of prayers that God receives, mixed though they are with much that is sinful.  This is a good thing and as we grow in grace and knowledge we learn to pray more in conformity with His will, because we learn more about who He really is.  How wonderful the true God is!!!


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