I pray that you all have enjoyed my previous two posts on Prayer. In the first post, Rules of Engagement, I share that there are several kinds and types of prayer and we need to know the nuances of these types of prayers. The scriptural theme of warfare reminds us that we are soldiers and should live our lives in such a manner.
In the natural, we know that there are rules of engagement to warfare. Each soldier is aware of the responsibility and authority level they have. There are some scenarios where the soldier must inquire of his superior officers before action is taken. There are also times where the soldier has been promoted to take action when they see fit. In the same way, there are prayers we pray where we ask God to do something for us. There are prayers in which we declare what God has already provided. In the latter, we are no longer asking God for something but enforcing what has been already given us through Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Our role as spiritual soldiers is the tip of the iceberg. My second post in this Prayer series entitled Praying from Forgiveness points out the fact that God does want us to ask him for things. It’s interesting that scripture indicates God’s desire for us to ask for things even though he knows our needs before we ask! It seems peculiar that we would we would need to ask. Why doesn’t God just provide? There is importance to asking.
Another point that I addressed is the fact that everyone wants to have their prayers answered. That seems obvious or why would we pray at all? However, I have noticed that there are some of us who still have some anxiety once we have prayed. It is my extreme desire and I believe God’s ultimate goal to have prayer be something that always brings peace and confidence. After all our Heavenly Father is a good Father.
We reviewed a key scripture from 1 John 5:14-15 (NASB). We learned that “asking” includes a special component. The scripture indicates that when we ask, we should ask with ‘confidence”. Confidence comes from asking according to his will. In future posts, I am going to go into detail regarding “God’s will in prayer”.
1 John 5:14-15 This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.
Before we pursue the topic of God’s will, I want to continue discussing our confidence in prayer. For those of us who are sometimes nervous when we pray, I have personally found that a lot has to do with my perception of how God views me. This may be true of for many of us, especially if we are struggling with character and sin issues. The second post on forgiveness is worth a reread. Why? What is the point in praying at all if you do not feel like God is listening? However, God is always waiting to hear from his children. Look at these scriptures that I found this week.
Psalm 65:1-3 (NASB) There will be silence before You, and praise in Zion, O God, And to You the vow will be performed. O You who hear prayer, To You all men come. Iniquities prevail against me; As for our transgressions, You forgive them.
Psalm 86:4-6 (NASB) Make glad the soul of Your servant, For to You, O Lord, I lift up my soul. For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, And abundant in loving kindness to all who call upon You. Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer; And give heed to the voice of my supplications!
The Psalms clearly indicate that prayer and forgiveness go hand in hand. I feel strongly that we need to lay the groundwork of starting our prayers with confidence. That is why I named this post “Prayer from Sonship”. The word “sonship” includes both daughters and sons. With sonship exists rights and privileges that only children of God have once we have put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ as our Savior, who forever secured our right standing with the Father. I believe so strongly that if we don’t understand what Jesus has purchased with his own blood as it relates to being God’s own children, our prayer life will lack the confidence that is desired and required.
1 John 3:1-2 (NASB) See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason, the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.
1 Peter 1:23 (NASB) for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.
Think about this for a second. Have you ever thought about the fact that you are God’s child? Does it excite you? Do you feel valued or special? Or, is it a boring thought? Be honest with yourself. John, the apostle, and writer of the books that bear his name, asks us to “see how great a love God has bestowed on us”. Sometimes life has a way of removing the magnificence of this fact. Also, John expresses that when Jesus Christ appears we are going to find out that we are just like Him!
The apostle Peter goes on to say something very significant. Peter wants us to look beyond our natural physical realm and see into the realm of the spirit. Peter describes the birth of our spirit man. Peter states that when we believe God’s promise to save us by trusting the sacrifice of his son Jesus Christ, we are ‘born again” from God’s seed. The apostle Paul states that those of us who are born again are a new creation (2 Cor 5:17). Obviously, our bodies did not change. Our spirit man or as 1 Peter 3:4 puts it the “hidden man of the heart” has changed. Our spirit was dead and was made alive by the life of God that we received through the spirit life in God’s word.
Now we have stumbled upon two key points. First, we need to value being called God’s children. Secondly, we really have to understand that we are truly related to God. We have a born again spirit that is from God’s seed of his Word sown in our hearts and therefore we are new creations. We may not behave like it always but our behavior doesn’t negate the fact of who we are in a spiritual sense. This is how God responds to us. He sees each of us as his children even when our souls (mind, emotions and are will) are still being renewed and transforming. The soul had to catch up to spiritual rebirth. Once the mind is transformed our physical body (actions, behaviors, words) will follow. Now let’s review a story that helps demonstrate the power of sonship.
Jesus tells a great story in Luke 15:11-32 about two sons that didn’t understand how their father viewed them. One son is more famous than the other. The famous or “infamous” son is called the Prodigal Son by Bible teachers. The father of the sons was very wealthy. The younger son requests to receive his inheritance early prior to the death of his father. The father agrees and gives his share to the son. The son goes away to a distant country and spends all of his money. A famine comes and the son ends up working with pigs. He finds himself starving and then has an amazing thought.
Luke 15:17-19 But when he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.”’
His request sounds reasonable to us if you understand Jewish culture. He wished that his father were dead, in order to gain his inheritance. And now after breaking Jewish laws by working with pigs, he says he will return to his father and basically beg for a job so that he won’t starve. He believes by apologizing to his dad and renouncing his sonship, that will move his dad’s heart to at least make him a slave. Let’s stop there for a second. This son has a very low opinion of how his father views him based on his actions. He sees himself as a piece of property. Let’s see what happens:
V 20 So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.
In Jewish culture, fathers would never run because they would have to pull up their robes and expose their knees. That was considered shameful. Also, when a son embarrasses his father as he did by asking for his inheritance, Jewish Law requires death as a punishment. Suffice it to say, I believe this son didn’t anticipate the reaction he received from his dad. His dad embraced him and kissed him. At this point, like any good son, I would have soaked up the love and probably wept out of gratefulness. However, let’s find out what actually happened.
V 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
I guess this is a reasonable response especially if you still feel ashamed even after the display of his father’s great love. Aren’t we like that with God? We really struggle to receive his unconditional love. We certainly struggle because like the prodigal son, we don’t want to bring God dishonor. He is too worthy of honor! After we sin, we can feel unworthy to be called his son or daughter.
V 22-24 But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate.
This is precious. I want to emphasize the word “quickly”. I can just imagine this father on a rescue mission. He realizes that his son has completely lost his mind and clearly doesn’t know his heart towards him. As soon as the son utters the words “…I am no longer worthy to be called your son”, the father commands his servants to place the family robe on him, give him the family ring and bring him sandals. He will NEVER be a slave. Sandals are for sons.
The father needed him to know that his behavior would not change his sonship. Sure he was starving and reaped the consequences of his poor decisions but he would always be his dad’s son. Isn’t that beautiful? How do you view yourself? Do you identify with the young son when you fail? Do you bask in your father’s compassion and imagine his embrace and kisses? Now, let’s review the story of the older son.
V 25-27 “Now his older son was in the field, and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. And he summoned one of the servants and began inquiring what these things could be. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has received him back safe and sound.’
My initial thought is that the son would be VERY excited for his dad. We saw earlier that the dad noticed the younger son at a far distance. My heart says that this wasn’t the first day that he was staring and waiting for his son to return. The older son had to know the longing in his dad’s heart for the younger brother. Let’s review his response.
V 28 But he became angry and was not willing to go in…
Wow! This is stunning. Sure, the the older brother may not have a close relationship with his brother, but the refusal to even go in was a surprise to me. Let’s continue with the story.
V 29-30…and his father came out and began pleading with him. But he answered and said to his father, ‘Look! For so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends; but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him.
Now we can see that the older son has family relational challenges. His emotions appear to be very out of control. He is angry. He calls his brother “this son of yours” as if they aren’t related. Then he imagines that his brother squandered his money on prostitutes. Clearly, he is having an emotional breakdown. The older brother has great bitterness towards brother. The older son also appears to have bitterness towards the father. He feels unappreciated for his obedience and loyalty over the years.
V 31-32 And he said to him, ‘Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.’”
This older son had no idea that the father had given him access to his entire wealth. He could have had a party with his friends anytime he wanted. Unfortunately, his relationship with his father was solely based on being obedient to his commands. It’s apparent that there wasn’t any affection between them by the time the son returned. The younger brother requested his inheritance early and this older son believes he’s still earning his inheritance.
Then the father says something revealing. He indicates that the younger brother was dead. Obviously, he was still alive physically. However, he viewed death in a way that represented that his younger son hadn’t lived at home under the loving care of his father in a reconciled relationship. In this story, we have one son who had no idea that he had a compassionate father. He had no idea his dad would embarrass himself for a son who shamed him. The older son had no idea that his father truly saw his son as a partner who had the freedom to do fun things at his own discretion.
Romans 8:16-17 (NKJV) The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ,
Here is my question for you. Paul states that we are joint-heirs with Christ. God is saying that everything that Jesus has access to, we have the same access. In the case of both of these sons, they had an incorrect view of what they thought the father wanted from them. The younger son wanted to distance himself and renounce his sonship due to his sin issues. The father wanted to extend his compassion and love. The older son served the father without any heart connection to his commands. All of the obedience didn’t cause him to feel closer to his dad. He had access to everything and didn’t know it.
I urge you to not be like these sons. Truly know your Heavenly Father’s heart of love and compassion for you, even if you have messed up terribly. You still have the robe, ring, and sandals. Nothing has changed. For you diligent obedient “servers” of God, make sure you are serving and being obedient out of your gratefulness to God. He sees you as a partner and all that Jesus has is yours. Is your confidence rising? If yes, then next post let’s learn some rules of prayer.