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Thoughts From Thomas Manton

Dear Friends,

Today's selections have to do with prayer. They cover four aspects of prayer that are so necessary for us to remember if we are to make prayer a priority, a joy, and an ongoing transformational discipline. They come from Thomas Manton, in his book from 1684 entitled: "A Practical Exposition of the Lord's Prayer." I have taken the liberty to update and paraphrase the language while seeking to remain true to the original meaning. Please consider each and how they could encourage and enhance the development of a more prayerful spirit in your life. Enjoy.

The All-seeing and all-knowing God

"God sees you when you pray in secret. He observes your conduct, your posture, the frame of your spirit, your fervor, and the uprightness of heart which you manifest in prayer. It is all known to Him. The hypocrite fears that God knows all such things, as does the wicked man, but it is the true believers' support and ground of comfort that they pray to an all-seeing and all-knowing God. Your heavenly Father sees what you do in secret. He interprets your groans and reads the language of your sighs. Your prayers may not be the most beautiful or well spoken, yet God sees the contrition in your heart and that is what he considers. God sees whether you pray or not, and how you pray. As God said to Annanias regarding Paul in Acts 9:11: "Arise and go into the street called Straight Street, and inquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying." Go into such a city, such a street, such a house, in such a neighborhood, owned by such a man, and in such a room you will find him praying. The Lord knows all these circumstances... God knows you thoroughly, and knows how you pray, and where you pray, and when you pray, whether it is a formal prayer done out of little more than duty, or whether you pray as a serious act of love for Him, fed by a desire for communion with Him."

God's Goodness and Gracious Rewards, Not Credits Earned

"Matthew 6:4 states that God who sees in secret will reward you openly. For what reason does God "reward" your prayers? Not for any worth or merit or dignity in them. What merit can there be in begging? What does a beggar deserve for asking for a handout? Rather, out of His own grace and mercy, He makes Himself (as it were) a debtor to a poor, faithful and believing supplicant."

Loved and Provided for - for Jesus Sake

"God offers to be a Father in Christ to all penitent believers. When a broken-hearted believer comes to God, He can expect mercy, not simply on the basis of God being his Father, but on the basis of God being the, 'God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ' (II Cor. 1:3; II Cor. 11:31). That is a relief in prayer! When we struggle to believe God will hear us for our own sake, we can be relieved He will hear us for Jesus' sake. 'Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ' (Eph. 1:3). In Eph. 1:17 Paul speaks of, 'The God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory. And in Eph. 3:14 he writes, 'I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.'

Remember: when we come to Him as the Father of Christ, we believe what He offers to us in the covenant of grace -- namely, that He will deal kindly with us as a father with his children - for Jesus sake. He will be good to those who come to Him by Christ. Using the term 'Father' is not only to be considered with respect to the disposition or qualifications of the person, but even more so to the qualifications of the Christ in whom they trust. In the New Covenant God undertakes to be fatherly -- that is, to pity our miseries, pardon our sins, heal our natures, and save our persons -- because we trust in His Son..."

Seeing God as a Good Father

"If we would have a praying frame of mind, and be comforted in our solicitations, and freed from the anxiety which speaks so poorly of God's goodness to us in all things, it is best for us to look to God as a father upon whom we can depend for all things. You who are good fathers would think of yourselves as poor providers if your children should have to steal for a living, or need to beg for their food, or go door to door to get what is essential to live, and not be able to count on you." [We must remember that by way of contrast Jesus says of all earthly fathers: 'Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him' (Matt. 7:11). If we can trust in sin-riddled fathers to give us those things we need to live, how much more our Father in heaven who is Himself perfect love, and in whom "there is no darkness at all."

Martin Luther, the great Reformer, once said (and I believe it is true): "To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing." Other than than an intimate acquaintance with Scripture, no other thing is quite as important. Spurgeon was right: "When asked, 'What is more important: Prayer or Reading the Bible?' I ask, 'What is more important: Breathing in or Breathing out?'” Whatever you can do to enhance your prayer life will never be a waste of time or effort. If prayer is like breathing, then refusing to pray is like intentionally seeking to suffocate your life in God. And knowing this is true, we must (to use Spurgeon's analogy), breathe in as regularly and fully as we possibly can!

In His Grace, Pastor Jeff


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