Well, some thoughts that arose through reading Jeremiah today. This is what God says about His own daughter Israel/Judah; even if two of the most famous, effective and powerful intercessors in the history of people of God, Moses and Samuel were to join their voices in united prayer, God would not listen or change His mind concerning a coming judgement. Even if Jeremiah, one of the greatest prophets was to add his prayers to theirs so that 3 were agreeing in prayer, the prayer would not be heard or granted. This is a bit uncomfortable for those who pepper their prayers with “Lord Jesus, you have promised where 2 (or 3) of us agree on anything in prayer, we can have it!”
This is such a corrective to the present trend on a “how to” approach to everything to do with God and His Kingdom which brings a lot of disillusionment though promising so much; verses and promises from within the context of being honest about a relationship with God or its lack are turned into formulae; if we learn a certain formula or approach to some blessing, or repeat a certain verse of Scripture often enough, “Shazaam!” it will be done: indeed God must do it, He has to, He has promised, and He has to fulfil His promises, doesn’t He? The fact is that every “how to” whether it is to do with healing, prayer, mission, revival or whatever is subject ultimately to the will of God. So when two (or even three) ask for something, or agree on something in prayer, the question still remains; is what is being prayed for the will of God from hearts that seek His will to be done? If it is not, then we can agree all we want, claim by faith all we want, to no avail. God is not a puppet to the shouting and proclaiming or the activity of His people no matter how confident, loud, passionate or convinced the sound we make; it may be that such declared assurance is merely confidence in our own loudness or passion: an unquestioning slavery to our own conviction about the rightness of our convictions. We do seem to live in days where there is a lot of passion about being passionate resulting in “feel good” meetings with exaggerated claims but little true testimony as to the activity of God in these meetings beyond the occasional lengthening (or shortening!) of a leg – though I believe that happens at times, it is rather depressing that after all the moves of God and centres of renewal that have arisen since the 60’s this is still given such prominence so often in a meeting as a testimony to the God who heals…. while many who really need healed go away trying not to be disappointed…. or maybe I am just reeling from the tailoress in Rose Street a week ago announcing under her breath in a beautiful but concerned continental accent, lest others should hear what I already knew and have lived with without difficulty for 58 years, “three quarters of an inch difference in the legs…” I said equally quietly in a slow Scottish accent, “Yes, it’s ok. I know that…”
I had a dream not long ago about the hacking of my navigation system. For all that I am grateful for the insights of the charismatic movement into the bible, I am not so grateful for any school of theology or approach to church life or mission that seems to suggest that if we follow a “model” then we will get a desired result, as though relationship with God or seeking to know and to pray for His will is irrelevant. It is hard to be involved in present day Christian or Church talk without yielding to the relentless pressure that somehow we can control God to give us a desired result; systems become more important than relationship and can even replace that relationship. I am also grateful that I read in Jeremiah today about how to recalibrate the navigation system. “Stand at the crossroads and ask for the ancient paths…”
The ancient paths: whatever that may mean for you, for me it means remembering what I was taught at the beginning of my Christian life: the importance of prayer; the bible; meeting with God’s people every Sunday at least; valuing the insights of those who had followed Jesus more years than I had been alive; seeking to live out “the Jesus life” in relation to anyone I may meet under any circumstance in the course of any given day. I seem to remember a time when these simple things mattered, when Christianity and Church were about such things… but maybe it’s just my medication….
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