The Word of God is the seed of new life for sinners. Christ calls us to sow the seed, even when we do not know what kind of soil it will reach. The Kinnelon Heritage Reformed Church is working alongside the Free Reformed Church and two local United Reformed Churches to post Bible verses to billboards in the New York metro area, such as John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” The billboards direct people to their website, www.truthisreal.org, where people can find a simple gospel message, and a way to find a biblical church through www.sermonaudio.com. It would help to raise awareness if you would “like” them on social media. You may also want to help to support this outreach financially. Most of all, pray that God’s Word, posted by the highway and on the internet, would powerfully affect many people for their eternal good.
Wilhelmus à Brakel, The Christian’s Reasonable Service, 4 vols., trans. Bartel Elshout, ed. Joel R. Beeke (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2015), Retail $150; available from RHB for $100 plus postage (www.heritagebooks.org)
Exciting news—Reformation Heritage Books has reprinted the 4-volume set of Wilhelmus à Brakel’s The Christian’s Reasonable Service which arrived today. This is the sixth printing of this classic set since the 1990s.
In my opinion, this is one of the most valuable set of books available in English today. I don’t say this because I had the privilege of organizing the task, raising the funds for its translation and printing, and serving as its final editor a quarter of a century ago, but I believe this is true because of the rich doctrinal, experiential, practical, pastoral, and ethical content this classic conveys. When one reads Brakel, one is not surprised to learn that for centuries this set of books was as popular in the Netherlands as John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress was in English-speaking countries. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, most Dutch farmers who were of Reformed persuasion would typically read a few pages of “Father Brakel,” as he was fondly called, every evening to his family as an important part of their family worship. When he completed the entire work, he would start over!
This massive work may be considered in three parts. The first part is found in volume 1, much of volume 2, and small portions of volumes 3 and 4. It consists of a traditional Reformed systematic theology that is packed with clarity of thought, thoroughness of presentation, and helpfulness of application. The concluding applications at the end of each chapter, applying the particular doctrines discussed to the lives of believers and unbelievers, are the highlight of this section. I believe that à Brakel’s practical casuistry in these applications supersedes any other systematic theologian, both in his day and ever since. They represent Reformed, Puritan, experiential theology at its best.
The second part expounds Christian ethics and Christian living. This part covers the concluding section of volume 2, all of volume 3, and most of volume 4. It is the largest and most fascinating section of à Brakel’s work, packed with salient applications on a variety of topics pertinent to living as a Christian in this world. In addition to a masterful treatment of the ten commandments (chs. 45–55) and the Lord’s Prayer (chs. 68–74), this part addresses topics such as living by faith out of God’s promises (ch. 42); how to exercise love toward God and His Son (chs. 56–57); how to fear, obey, and hope in God (chs. 59–61); how to profess Christ and His truth (ch. 63); and how to exercise a host of spiritual graces, such as courage, contentment, self-denial, patience, uprightness, watchfulness, neighbor love, humility, meekness, peaceableness, diligence, compassion, and prudence (chs. 62, 64–67, 76, 82–88). Other topics treated most helpfully include fasting (ch. 75), solitude (ch. 77), spiritual meditation (ch. 78), singing (ch. 79), vows (ch. 80), spiritual experience (ch. 81), spiritual growth (ch. 89), backsliding (ch. 90), spiritual desertion (ch. 91), temptations (chs. 92–95), indwelling corruption (ch. 96), and spiritual darkness and deadness (chs. 97–98).
The third part (4:373–538) is devoted to a history of God’s redemptive, covenantal work from the beginning to the end of the world. It is reminiscent of Jonathan Edwards’s History of Redemption, though it is not as detailed as Edwards; à Brakel’s work confines itself more to Scripture, and has a greater covenantal emphasis. It concludes with a detailed study of the future conversion of the Jews from six passages of Scripture (4:511–38).
The Christian’s Reasonable Service represents, perhaps more than any other work, the Puritan heartbeat and balance of the Dutch Further Reformation. Here systematic theology and vital, experiential Christianity are scripturally and practically interwoven with a covenantal framework, the whole bearing the mark of a pastor-theologian deeply taught by the Spirit. Sweeping in coverage, nearly every subject treasured by Christians is treated in an unusually helpful way, always aiming for the promotion of godliness.
In my opinion, this pastoral set of books is an essential tool for every pastor and is extremely valuable for lay people as well. Happily, you can now read it in contemporary English. Buy and read this great classic. You won’t be sorry. As publisher, we have already sold more than 20,000 sets and have never received a single complaint about it; rather, we have been inundated with encouraging comments about its merits.
(The following post was written by my wife, Mary)
Monday morning we left the cold and headed for the warmth—from Grand Rapids to Atlanta to Bogota, Columbia. As we took off from Atlanta on a brand new 757, Joel said, “I always feel better when we are up in the air.” I replied, “I always feel better when we are on the ground again.” One hour later, snack service was abruptly halted. The captain came on, “We are heading back; the weather radar is not working, and we need it to navigate the thunderstorms over the Andes.” They fixed it and we were on our way again. We arrived four hours late, took a taxi to the hotel (arriving at 4:00 a.m.), slept one hour, and greeted Bill and Marlene Greendyk. Bill heads up the Trinitarian Bible Society [TBS] in Grand Rapids (www.tbsbibles.org). We then flew one hour to Cartagena, where the ministers’ conference was held. Noe and Mimi Acosta were the organizers and Bill assisted. Noe is director of Gospel through Columbia (www.gospelthroughcolombia.org).
There is an awakening for the Reformed faith among the churches in Latin America. Ministers and their congregations are increasingly turning from Arminianism, Pentecostalism, and Roman Catholicism to embrace the doctrines of grace. There was electricity in the air as Sugel Michelen, Burk Parsons, Sergio Ruiz, Tom Woodward, Keith Maddy, Noe, Bill, and Joel spoke to 200 pastors. My husband spoke four times on topics that related to the theme, “The Church against the Gates of Hell.” He was very grateful for an excellent translator, a young pastor named Eduardo, and for a very encouraging response from the ministers in attendance. I spoke twice to a small group of pastors’ wives, with Marlene Greendyk as my able translator.
Attendees were from Columbia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Dominican Republic, and Florida. Bill and Marlene brought two suitcases of books for the Venezuelans as they are not able to obtain books, due to 70% inflation, corruption, and Communism. Donations brought the Bolivian brothers to the conference, one of whom has suffered persecution recently for having become Reformed, having his effigy burned in protest of his preaching. Again we met people whose spiritual pilgrimage was drastically altered by reading A. W. Pink’s Sovereignty of God. Several men shared how my husband’s book Puritan Reformed Spirituality and other books translated into Spanish have changed their lives, and led them in a Reformed and experiential direction in their preaching. After Joel’s address on worldliness, a minister came up to him with tears in his eyes and said, “I am a worldly minister.” Another said, “I need to go home and repent to my wife.”
TBS is nearing completion of the translation of the New Testament into Spanish. They are taking a reliable version from 1904 and modernizing it to make it easier to read. There are donors who are very interested in paying for the translating of the Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible notes into Spanish, in order to supply many thousands of study Bibles to pastors throughout Spanish-speaking countries. Words cannot describe the joy of witnessing the light in the eyes of these men when they hear biblical truths preached with passion, and connections being made between people with means and projects that promote the gospel. The whole conference was so uplifting; the hunger of the attendees was palpable. By the Spirit’s grace, it appears that we are on the cusp of very exciting things happening in the Spanish-speaking world for the glory of God and the spread of the gospel. Praise and honor be to God!
The Puritans excelled in being diligent in and devoted to prayer. Yet, even though they were well practiced in the art of praying, they recognized acutely the many infirmities and hindrances to prayer. This no doubt sheds light on their great pastoral sensitivity. Experientially, in the Christian life, they knew the believer often goes through seasons of greater or lesser difficulty in praying to God. In addition, there are what seem to be “ever present” impediments, as James Ussher notes: “Roving imaginations, inordinate affections, dullness of spirit, weakness of faith, coldness in feeling, faintness in asking, weariness in waiting, too much passion in our own matters, and too little compassion in other men’s miseries.”
Nothing must ever be allowed to remain in discouraging us from speaking to God. Calvin often noted that the Christian must ever be as a child, climbing up into the lap of his heavenly Father to speak to Him. Such is the intimacy which he may have with God in Christ.
Because of the reality of these hindrances, it is good to take careful note of the things which threaten to weigh us down in being drawn up to God in prayer. There are at least eight hindrances we may note:
- Little sense of sin. We need the convicting work of the Spirit to show us who we truly are. The man who sees his state may truly cry to God for mercy. Pray to God to increase your knowledge of your misery, that you may be brought more and more to seek His face.
- Pleading on grounds outside of Christ. Too often our hearts rest on something else than Christ, often our own self-righteousness. This no doubt explains in part why it is so hard to pray to God when struggling with sin. We must learn to seek Christ alone and pray in His name alone. The Father’s heart is opened to the sinner in Christ. To pray to God on any other grounds is to dishonor the one who died for His church. Plead to God in Christ (John 14:14).
- Separating prayer from the Word. The promises of God in Scripture are the substance of our prayers. This is why Jesus commanded that we pray, “Thy will be done.” It is the will of God, revealed to us in the Scriptures, which we must pray for. Robert Murray M‘Cheyne said, “Turn the Bible into prayer.” One of the ways we must do this is to memorize and meditate on Scripture. We must steep ourselves in the Word and therefore be stooped before God in prayer. Saturate yourself in the Word of God daily, praying that the Spirit may teach you to use the Word of God as you approach the living God.
- Unbelief. We must learn to rest in and believe that God is a rewarder of those who seek Him in faith. The Christian must ask “in faith” (James 1:6), trusting that, as Martin Luther said, “Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance. It is laying hold of His willingness.”
- Too busy. Maybe we are busy even with lawful activities. We still must make use of the means of grace diligently, making all other activities secondary. Thomas Manton said, “Why, if you have time for other things, you should have time for God…. Hast thou time to eat, drink, sleep, to follow thy [work] (how dost thou live else?), and no time to be saved—no time to be familiar with God, which is the greatest business of all? Get it from your sleep and food, rather than be without this necessary duty.”
- Lack of dependency on the Spirit. Ask the Spirit to groan within you and teach you to pray (Rom. 8:26). Without the Spirit, Thomas Boston said that men pray “like [deaf] people making a roar.” Too often we do not pray in the Spirit, and this is a great hindrance to us. Robert Traill wrote, “The voice of the Spirit is the best thing in our prayer; it is that God hears and regards.”
- Spiritual dryness. Recognize that you may often not feel like praying, but happily prayer does not depend on your feelings. The command still stands: “Be faithful in prayer” (Rom. 12:12). Know too that many times we feel spiritually dry because we have neglected prayer in the past. Speak with God, and refresh in Him your heart.
- Shame on account of sin. When we are ashamed of our lives and evil hearts, we often avoid coming to God in prayer. But this is precisely the time we must go to God (Gen. 3:8; Heb. 4:13). Humble yourself before Him, and plead the merits of the Son!
Against all these hindrances, listen to the answer from the Word of God. Jesus lovingly invites all those who are laboring and are heavy-laden to come unto Him. Do not cling to yourself but trust in Christ and His righteousness. Your prayers will never be satisfactory without being washed in the blood of Christ. Christ does not demand that you come with a perfect prayer, but invites sinners to put on His righteousness: “Ho every one that thirsteth, come ye to the water, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy and eat; yea, come buy wine and milk without money and without price” (Isa. 55:1). May God teach each of us to cry back to Him in prayer.
This is the second part of a post by my wife, Mary.
The ministers’ conference took place Thursday and Friday, January 8–9. Joel’s addresses were on “the work of the pastor,” “the life of the pastor,” “the leadership of Jesus Christ,” “the ethics of leadership,” and “the test of leadership.” Our friend—the PRTS alumnus—spoke on “the growth of the Ethiopian church—historically,” “the great commission,” and “how to spread the gospel throughout Ethiopia.” Joel’s interpreter was Mihret (meaning “mercy”). The language barrier is partially overcome with the interpretation and some of the men knew some English, but we still feel bad for our limited ability to converse with them. One thing that was very apparent, though, was their affection and warmth. They greet each other with a handshake, either touch shoulders or go cheek-to-cheek and kiss the air or kiss the cheek—right, left, right, and then another handshake. If they are really close and haven’t seen each other for a long time, they hug for a little while. All the while, they are laughing and talking. Even for us, they gave a reserved version of these greetings. It is common to see men walking down the street holding hands or one with his arm around the other—it is a brotherly/friendly thing, absolutely no link to homosexuality. After giving four addresses the first day, Joel was exhausted. A quick supper at an imitation Starbucks, a bit of emailing, and off to bed. At 2:00 a.m. we were rudely awakened by the off-tune droning of the Orthodox priest again. He continued the rest of the night, with only a few 15-minute breaks. Happily, our friend found us a quieter hotel for the following nights.
Pastor Bezabeh picked us up Saturday morning to take us to Debre Zeit. In the nine years he has been at his church, they have purchased land in a poor rural area and built a church, a K-12 school that has 600 students, a Bible school, and a health clinic. Their people walk to church. They receive most of their support from North Ireland. Joel preached on the Canaanitish woman and they responded warmly. They kindly put us up at a nice resort that also hosts missionaries. It was wonderful to relax and eat our meals lakeside. Even though Ethiopia is near the equator, it is a comfortable 75 degrees year around, due to the elevation. Sunday morning dawned cloudy—unusual for Ethiopia in January. Joel preached on “Running the Race” from Hebrews 12. Two young teen boys were very affected by the sermon and expressed a desire to live for Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Pray for lasting fruits.
Ethiopians are event- and people-oriented whereas Americans are more time-oriented. So as we relaxed over lunch, time ticked away, and the event of open-air preaching 1.5 hours away came closer. Transportation was hastily arranged and we were on our way. We would have been only a little late, but as we got on the ring-road around Addis, the car stalled. Our Ethiopian friend got it started again, but for the next hour, we limped along, stalling 30 to 40 times. Sometimes he got it started by popping the clutch, sometimes by starting it and revving the engine. We think it was overheated, because it didn’t have the problem after the outdoor service. Or maybe Satan didn’t want us to go there. It was scary being stalled on a highway. We prayed a lot. Fortunately they don’t go too fast and are used to going around obstacles; God protected us. As the sun was setting and the air was cooling, Joel preached in the open air to 700 people on “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” They listened well—pray with us that eternity will reveal fruits.
Back to the city. People walk everywhere, thousands of them. Even at night, with dark clothes, they walk in the road. It is a constant braiding of cars, taxis, and people. They just adjust moment by moment and go around each other. A quick beep means, “I’m coming through.” It’s like the people cross roads by faith, lane by lane, as opposed to planning for the whole way across before setting out. They trust the drivers, they trust they will make it to the other side, and I hope they trust God. Mihret met us on the way, and brought us to his house for an Ethiopian supper. His wife Bekelech had prepared a feast. He had earlier told us their courtship story. They had both decided to give their whole life to the Lord and not get married because they were so on fire for Him, but God brought them together in a wonderful way.
Winging our way home Monday, we were thankful for safety, prayerful for blessing, and enriched by our experience with the Ethiopian people. Maybe we should live life a little bit more like they cross the road, still planning ahead like we do, but stepping out in faith, trusting (and loving) others and God, and trusting we will make it safely to the other side.
The following post was written by my wife, Mary.
Monday, January 5, 2015: We woke up at 3 a.m. for our 5:25 flight to Chicago, but our departure was moved to 7 a.m. The pilot finally arrived at 7:30 a.m. so we didn’t leave until 8:15 a.m. Consequently we missed our connection to Washington DC, went standby on the next flight, but missed our Ethiopia flight. We then rerouted through Frankfurt, Germany, so that we could arrive in Ethiopia on Tuesday evening (15 hours later than expected) rather than Wednesday morning, when my husband was scheduled to preach his first sermon.
As we relaxed over lunch in DC, we chatted with a middle-aged man named Jim at the next table. “Where are you headed?” “Ethiopia.” “Purpose?” “Conference for ministers.” He told us later that because we were going to a place not associated with vacation, and because we seemed relaxed about our delays (we had worked through our frustration earlier), he asked his next question, “Can you explain predestination to me? And do we have a free will?” Joel eagerly explained with Scripture and diagrams. Jim grew up Roman Catholic but said it never did anything for him. He was repulsed by scandals in the church. But his interest and curiosity about God has been growing. He doesn’t have a Bible, but when he rides his Harley in the wild hills of Texas, he has experienced the beauty and presence of God. He doesn’t want to bother God or take up too much of His time by praying too much to Him. And he doesn’t feel right just asking for things from God without giving back in return. He ventured a logical, fatalistic attitude: “If God knows whom He chooses, then what difference does it make if I seek Him?” Yet he is searching for God. When Joel explained praying by ACTS (adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication), he said, “I have experienced adoration and confession; that is very helpful.” We encouraged him to pray without ceasing, that God has time for him and millions of others—24/7, because of His gracious and omnipotent nature. We explained God’s secret will and revealed will and encouraged him with God’s invitations to repent and to believe, and to come unto Him by the power of the Holy Spirit. He had tears in his eyes and wondered aloud if this meeting was planned by God. We believe it was. Joel encouraged Jim to email him with questions and promised to send him the new Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible and several other books. Joel prayed with him and we walked away greatly encouraged, thanking God for this opportunity to share His goodness. Then, too, I noticed a few others listening in to our conversation in the cramped quarters of the restaurant—so maybe other seed was sown as well!
On to Frankfurt, Germany, an overnight trip. I slept some, Joel not so much. Three hour layover, then off to Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, with a stop in Jeddah, the capital of Saudi Arabia. We were very pleasantly surprised to be bumped up to business class! We were waited on hand and foot with elegant food, and seats that reclined fully! This was one time in my life that I wished the flight was longer!
It took a long time to get out of the airport—health scan, purchase visas, wait for luggage, find our Ethiopian friend. He is a PRTS grad who still lives in Grand Rapids and is working on his doctorate at Southern Seminary. He invited us and arranged our trip. A generous donor paid for the expenses of ministers traveling to the conference. Ethiopia is an emerging country. It is the birthplace of coffee, which is still a main export, along with livestock and water. The 94 million people are 65% Christian, 33% Muslim, and 2% no religion; they have gotten along peacefully for a long time. There is beginning to be some external influence to agitate the Muslims to become more conservative and work against Christians. Ethiopia’s military is strong, and terrorists are imprisoned or executed. The people are very warm and friendly and affectionate, marriage is esteemed highly, and homosexuality is illegal.
Our hotel was right next to a hilltop Ethiopian Orthodox church, and the priests were chanting/singing over a powerful loudspeaker until 3:30 a.m. Believe me, it was not a lullaby. Ethiopia celebrates Christmas on January 7, so Joel preached to about 400 people on the shepherds announcing the birth of Jesus. How fitting that on the way to church we passed a number of shepherds herding their sheep to market for families to buy one to slaughter for Christmas dinner. The church is more than fifty years old and has started fifteen daughter churches. Some of the old elders were the founders: kind, wise, and dignified men. Our friend said the streets were quite empty compared to a normal day, though I thought they were teeming with people. It is a family day; many go to church. Addis Ababa, population nearly 4 million, is not an international city. We saw thousands of people today, and only five white folks besides those in the mirror. It is a city in transition. There are many shanty towns—houses made of sheets of aluminum and scrap materials along dirt pathways. Yet high rises, highways, and railways are replacing them. The infrastructure is improving, but things like internet, phone service, and utilities are works in progress. China is funding many projects. They see great potential in the country because of possible oil and mineral resources. They employ hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians since labor is cheap. The Ethiopians like Chinese involvement more than American because the Americans criticize some things about the country and the Chinese remain silent.
After lunch, we headed to Nazareth 65 miles away for Christmas dinner with our friend’s in-laws. Once outside the city, the scenery was open and beautiful: mountains—mostly brown because it is dry season, but with trees dotted on the landscape and some canyons. Nap time on the way. It was the old father’s 95th birthday that day. His wife is 73, and she wasn’t feeling so well. We asked them if they loved the Lord. She replied, “He’s our only hope and our only Father.” They have been married 55 years, and had twelve children, eight still living. Two daughters worked hard to serve the meal: “hospitality bread,” “injera”—a tortilla-like bread made from a grain named tef, with different types of “wot”—stew or meat. We had lamb, and chicken with a spicy sauce. It was different, tasty. They had a “coffee ceremony,” which they do up to three times a day: spread grass on the floor, build a fire on a little charcoal burner, roast wild coffee beans, let everybody smell them, grind them, heat the water on the charcoal, wash the cups, pour the water over the beans, serve and drink the coffee. One of their daughters lives in her own little house on the property, takes care of her parents, and runs a small business—she showed us her two cows that she milks in order to sell the milk and cheese. Her ex-husband was present. He is very intelligent, has an advanced college education, and could have been an ambassador to Egypt but chose to waste his life on alcohol and drugs instead. He is homeless. Our Ethiopian friend very strongly admonished and evangelized him. He resisted at first, but our friend pressed him for his soul’s sake. He finally said he would acquiesce to God. Our friend prayed with him. We continue to pray that this is a real and dramatic change in his life.
The following post was written by my teaching assistant, Paul Smalley:
Logos Bible Software has compiled a digital collection of twenty-six books under the title, The Select Works of Joel R. Beeke. If you are interested in this product, then you should know that Logos will be offering a special sale on it at the end of this year. Ordinarily priced at $315.95, the collection will be discounted to $249.95, a twenty percent savings. The sale will begin on December 26 (Boxing Day for our British friends) and run through January 5. The Select Works include the following books which, by the grace of God, Dr. Beeke authored, co-authored, or edited, amounting to over 6,000 pages of Reformed, experiential material:
- Encouragement for Today’s Pastors: Help From the Puritans, by Joel R. Beeke and Terry D. Slachter
- Prepared by Grace, for Grace: The Puritans on God’s Way of Leading Sinners to Christ by Joel R. Beeke and Paul Smalley
- A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life by Joel R. Beeke and Mark Jones
- Living Zealously by Joel R. Beeke and James A. La Belle
- The Beauty and Glory of the Holy Spirit edited by Joel R. Beeke
- The Beauty and Glory of Christ edited by Joel R. Beeke
- Bringing the Gospel to Covenant Children by Joel R. Beeke
- Developing a Healthy Prayer Life by Joel R. Beeke and James Beeke
- Taking Hold of God: Reformed and Puritan Perspectives on Prayer edited by Joel R. Beeke and Brian G. Najapfour
- Contagious Christian Living by Joel R. Beeke
- Calvin for Today edited by Joel R. Beeke
- Living by God’s Promises by Joel R. Beeke and James A. La Belle
- Sing a New Song: Recovering Psalm Singing for the Twenty-First Century edited by Joel R. Beeke and Anthony T. Selvaggio
- Calvin, Theologian and Reformer by Joel R. Beeke and Garry J. Williams
- Family Worship, by Joel R. Beeke
- The Soul of Life: The Piety of John Calvin edited by Joel R. Beeke
- A Habitual Sight of Him: The Christ-Centered Piety of Thomas Goodwin edited by Joel R. Beeke and Mark Jones
- Heirs with Christ: The Puritans on Adoption by Joel R. Beeke
- The Family at Church by Joel R. Beeke
- The Heritage Reformed Congregations: Who We Are and What We Believe by Joel R. Beeke
- Reformation Heroes by Joel R. Beeke and Diana Kleyn
- Meet the Puritans by Joel R. Beeke and Randall J. Pederson
- Jehovah Shepherding Sheep: Sermons on 23rd Psalm by Joel R. Beeke
- Knowing and Living Christian Life: Weekly Devotions by Joel R. Beeke and James D. Greendyk
- Gisbertus Voetius: Toward a Reformed Marriage of Knowledge and Piety by Joel R. Beeke
- Puritan Evangelism: A Biblical Approach by Joel R. Beeke
I am so excited—a dream of 40 years is beginning to be fulfilled! Just moments ago, William Perkins (1558-1602), the father of Puritanism, arrived! He’s even more handsome than I thought—volume 1 that is. Edited well by Stephen Yuille (Derek Thomas and I are serving as general editors of the 10-volume set), this volume (a 820-page gold mine) contains Perkins’s Sermon on the Mount and his Combat between Christ and the Devil. Both make great reads for pastors and educated church members. Next up: volume 2 on Galatians, which the editor Paul Smalley is just completing his first pass on, scheduled for print next summer. Share this great news with your friends! You can order a copy for only $38 from Reformation Heritage Books.
The Scriptures give us many directives about how to pray in general and with what attitude to pray specifically. Here are eleven different attitudes the Christian is to have when he prays.
Believing. Mark 11:24 says, “What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.” Prayer requires faith—a believing in God, a trusting in God, and a placing of our expectations in God.
Penitent. The prodigal son illustrates what it means to pray openly as an unworthy supplicant (Luke 15:21). When we conceal things from God, it creates unrest and anxiety, but an open confession fosters rest. True rest in God through prayer is experienced when we confess our failures, relate our problems, and open our hearts in His presence.
Fervent. In Genesis 32:24–28, Jacob “wrestled through the night.” We must pray fervently, not wrestling in our own strength, but earnestly clinging to Christ, saying: “I will not let thee go except thou bless me” (Gen. 32:26).
Humble. Remember the publican in Luke 18:13. He thought himself not even worthy to lift his eyes up to heaven, but beat his breast saying: “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” Each us is unworthy as well, yet like the publican we must humbly plead with God for mercy.
Bold. Note Hebrews 4:16. Genuine humility and genuine boldness are not opposites. The publican’s prayer was truly humble, yet he came and prayed to God. As a bold beggar he had courage to enter the King’s dwelling. Praying boldly is praying freely and humbly, knowing that we pray in Christ. We have a High Priest to intercede for us as we pour out our hearts in His presence.
Interceding. Moses prayed on behalf of Miriam when she had leprosy (Num. 12:1–2, 10, 13). Love to others must be evident in our prayers. We must remember the temporal and spiritual needs of our neighbor. If we truly love others, we will love to pray for them. We must be like Job—he prayed continuously for his family members (Job 1:5).
Dependent. Romans 8:26–27 speaks about depending on the Spirit who makes intercession for us. So often we struggle with self instead of resting in God. We need to be weaned from self-reliance and look to the one who gives, hears, and answers prayer.
Expectant. Elijah prayed to God for rain and then sent his servant to see if there was any sign of it (1 Kings 18:41–46). He sent his servant seven times—Elijah had great expectation in God! Expectant prayer conquers discouragement and waits upon the Lord. James 1:6–7 tells us to ask with unwavering faith.
Childlike. We must ever go to God in Christ as little children would their father. “What is that child-like inclination?” Thomas Manton asked. It is this: “The soul cannot keep away from God, and that is an implicit owning him as a father: ‘Thou shalt call me, My father; and shalt not turn away from me’ (Jer. 3:19). It is a child like act to look to him for all our supplies…. As when a child wants anything, he goes to his father.” In another place, Manton said, “Children do not use to make starched speeches to their fathers when they want bread, but only express their natural cry…. A word from a child moves the father more than the orator can move all his hearers” (Manton, Works, Vol. 1, 34, 28).
Thankful. This is strikingly portrayed in Psalm 136. In this psalm, “give thanks unto the Lord for His mercy endureth forever” is repeated twenty-six times. We must not only be thankful for clear answers to prayer and for blessings for which we did not pray, but our thankfulness must penetrate deeper. We are also called to be thankful for these things that distress us or events that are not to our liking. Think of Paul and Silas’s gratitude, even while in the inner prison!
Persevering. The Canaanite woman prayed this way (Matt. 15:21–28). When she did not receive an answer to her prayer, she persevered, crying all the more urgently after Christ. She begged Christ to let her “eat of the crumbs” from the Master’s table. Persevering prayer does not give up on the Lord, but pleads upon His promises.