Lifting Up God-Centered Prayers

Our second Monday Tabletalk post focuses on the article which Dr. Derek Thomas wrote as one of the lead articles for the theme this month: “The God-Centered Life”. His particular subject is prayer, and he has some excellent thoughts on genuine (vs. hypocritical) prayer. At the beginning of his article he speaks of the fact that so much prayer today is self-centered and “this world” focused. As a case in point and with some British humor, he writes, “Listen to prayers at the church prayer meeting…. You will discover that the majority of prayers are ‘organ recitals’ – prayers for someone’s liver, kidney, or heart” (p.14). As he proceeds, Thomas directs us to have prayers that are truly centered on God, filled with worship of Him and praise to Him. To help us do that, he thinks we ought to make use of the OT Psalter more. After quoting Psalm 147:1, he says:

God is praiseworthy. Getting that fact under our skin is not as easy as we might think. Self-centered praying (which is a form of idolatry) fails to appreciate that our purpose here in earth is to praise our Creator and Redeemer. Listen to the psalmist as he extols the praiseworthiness of God again and again. The Psalter used to be the basic diet for Christians. Christians sang psalms around the dining room table and in church services on Sunday. Subliminally, the God-centered praise of the book of Psalms became the language of prayer. Since psalm-singing has waned, the rich God-exalting praise that the Psalter represents has waned as well (p.16).

In the end Thomas gives these helpful five (5) steps to ensure that our prayers are God-centered:

1. Remind yourself that there is only one God in the universe, and that you are not Him.

2. Adoration comes first, before confession, thanksgiving, or supplication. Worship the Lord in your praying.

3. Read a Psalm before you pray, and attempt to emulate what you find: a preoccupation with God in all His multifaceted nature. Find psalms of joy or grief, praise or lament, and note how the psalmist spends time with God, making Him the center of his thoughts and desires.

4. Learn to love God’s names so that saying and repeating them fills you with an inexpressible joy, a reminder of who He is and His covenant faithfulness to you in the gospel of His grace.

5. Learn to ‘wait’ upon the Lord. Watch how the psalmist, ‘fainting’ as he thinks of his own troubles, finds relief by deliberately focusing on the great things God has done… (he then quotes Ps.77:11-12).

ShalI I Leave my Church? “Not So Fast” – Trevin Wax

Not So Fast by Trevin Wax | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

 

Under the rubric “For the Church” in this month’s Tabletalk,  Trevin Wax penned a very direct and helpful article on Christians leaving one church to find “greener” pastures in another. Usually this happens, as we also know, when the church of which one is a part experiences trouble, or one has been hurt by fellow members, or claims he/she is not being fed, etc. When Wax says “not so fast”, he means, “stop and carefully consider what you are doing”. Maybe Christ would have you “tough it out” in the church with problems, so that you may grow spiritually more where you are rather than where you think you might grow .

As one who has witnessed this “church hopping” with dismay (especially in areas where one has lots of church options!), I find that what Wax has to say is important and needful. I trust you will too. Here is a part of what he wrote; find the rest at the Ligonier link above.

Whether your church situation is terrific or terrible right now, it’s the gospel that should direct and shape your decision to leave or stay in a church. Circumstances aren’t what matter most. Covenantal commitment to the body of Christ is what counts. And our commitments must be grounded in God’s unflagging commitment to us because of Jesus Christ’s work in our behalf.

But you don’t understand. The people in my church are really messed up.” True. But so are you. So am I. We are all sinners, saved only by the grace of a merciful God. We are all being slowly transformed into the image of Christ, and one way that God forms us into the image of His Son is to place us in hard situations where “loving one another” seems unnatural and costly.

If Christ remains committed to us, in spite of our continual failings, why should we not remain committed to Christ’s bride? In a difficult church situation, what looks more like Jesus: to hop to an easier church situation or to stick with a local congregation through the dark days?

Many people think their church’s problems are an obstacle standing in the way of their spiritual development. Usually, the opposite is true. It’s their commitment to their church, in spite of its problems, that is making them more like Jesus.

I’m not being fed here.” Perhaps God is challenging you about your tastes and preferences.

I’m not on the same page with the leadership right now.” Perhaps God is teaching you the virtue of willing submission, even when it doesn’t come naturally.

I’m not being useful here.” Perhaps God is removing certain activities from your life, so that your focus turns from what you are doing for God to a greater emphasis on the relationship you should be cultivating with God.

The grace of God is transformative. We are predestined to be conformed to the image of God’s Son. The heartbeat of every Christian should be to look more like Jesus. Just as the facial expressions and physical characteristics of two spouses begin to reflect one another after many years of marriage, we should look more like Jesus every day. But this transformation will not occur unless we stay committed to Christ’s people, challenging and encouraging others as they challenge and encourage us.

Discipleship is like a rock in a rock tumbler. The rock is shined the more it bumps up against all the other rocks and water. Over time, the process turns a rock into a gem. It’s easy to want out of a “rocky” church situation. The process of refinement is never pleasant, after all. But it is in our bumping up against the difficult trials in a church body that we are refined into beautiful gems that reflect the glory of our King.

 

Trevin Wax is editor of The Gospel Project at LifeWay Christian Resources and author of Counterfeit Gospels: Rediscovering the Good News in a World of False Hope and Holy Subversion.

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