Monday, 1 August 2011

Beware Jonah's Second Mistake - Indifference to Prayer

...Jonah could avoid being reminded of his disobedience by other people, though he knew that he couldn't escape from God. But he could run away from the will of God, which is also to run from the presence of God. (Part 1)

Disobedience distances us from God. When we decide not to align ourselves with the will of God, we, in effect, remove ourselves from His hand of protection.

Psalm 32 speaks of the effect of this:

When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer,
Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity.
(Psalm 32:3-5a)

It's not a case of God removing His protection from us, but of our refusing to abide in Him.

True, He cannot look at our sin, but his goodness and love will pursue us all the days of our lives (Psalm 23:6).

Despite this, disobedience distances us from God, like a door between us. God is there, but we close the door to experiencing the presence of God in our lives. To remove that self-made barrier, all we need to do is to enter God's presence to ask for God's forgiveness.

But we must be forgiven in order to enter His presence.

Our prayer lives are good indicators of where we are with God.
Our prayer lives are good indicators
of where we are with God.
The two are inseparable, but praise God, Jesus' death has allowed us to accomplish that.

So often we decide that we cannot face God. We leave the door shut, knowing we have done wrong; hiding from our heavenly Father; trying to fool ourselves with our excuses.

The longer that door remains closed, the easier it is to leave it shut; to bury our heads in the sand, just as Jonah did by going below deck and falling into a deep sleep, whilst the crew of the ship dealt with the storm he had brought with him.

Jonah is supposed to be a prophet of God - on that boat he is the only believer in the one true God, and yet he is the only one not praying!

Our prayer lives are good indicators of where we are with God. The quality of our prayer life determines the quality of our relationship with God.

Prayer is talking with God.

Prayer is listening to God.

Prayer is enjoying the presence of God.

The way to develop a relationship with someone is to spend time with them. If our prayer life consists only of petitions and intercession, it can lead to anger and frustration.

If prayer is not answered with the speed that we wish it to be answered, we can become bitter and resentful towards God.

However, if we grow to know God, a delayed answer to prayer will only be an opportunity to pray again.

Spending time with the Lord is one of the only methods to truly know His ways, and not just His acts. Knowing God leads to resting in the assurance of His ultimate goodness, despite the circumstances we see around us. You don't always have to be talking to Him. You can just enjoy being with Him.

But to spend no time at all with God leads to disaster.

My prayer life isn't perfect - nowhere near - but it's present.

I talk with God and I enjoy our time together, but when I disobey God, it's usually because I haven't been spending that time with Him.

When we're not doing what we ought to be doing, it's so much easier to fall into sin.

Remember how David ended up committing adultery with Bathsheba?

"In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king's men and the whole Israelite army… But David remained in Jerusalem." (2 Samuel 11:1).

All the other kings were going off to war, but David stayed at home; he wasn't doing what he ought to be doing, which left him open to seeing things he shouldn't see and doing things he shouldn't do.

Not spending time with God, for whatever reason, is often the start of a slip into disobedience, because we lose touch with Him.

We forget what His voice sounds like.

We forget His words.

It doesn't take long before not being with God spirals downwards into not doing good.

The Light of the World  by William Holman Hunt (1853)
The Light of the World
by William Holman Hunt (1853)
Jesus said, "Watch and pray, so that you will not fall into temptation." (Matthew 26:41). Through lack of prayer, we are weak and the devil can gain the advantage in our lives.

The good news is that when we run, God will pursue us.

He stands at the door, knocking until we open up and talk to Him again.

He took the risk of giving us freedom so that we could choose to love Him as He loves us.

A risk, as that freedom also allows us to go the other way.

Only we can open the door to Him.

But God will be there, constantly trying to win us back to Himself:

"Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn't he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when finds it he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home." (Luke 15:4-6a)

How is your prayer life?

What tips can you share to help others to improve in theirs?

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