Sunday, April 6, 2014

Prayer and Thanksgiving

Over the past few months I have been recording prayers in a journal, which I hope to eventually pass on the one or more of my children. The last two prayers I have recorded come from Scripture; Daniel 9:1-19 and 1 Chronicles 17:16-27. The first prayer is Daniel's, after he has read the prophecy of Jeremiah concerning the return from Exile. Daniel's prayer is one of corporate confession of sin. In it he repeatedly emphasizes the guilt of the people who have forsaken obedience to YHWH, bring shame and reproach upon themselves, but especially upon the name of YHWH. He pleads upon the mercy of God to restore the people, to once more look with favor upon them, and to relent of His covenant curse upon their waywardness. Daniel's plea is grounded in God's own character and reputation--for God's mercy and for God's name among the nations, does Daniel ask for forgiveness.

The second prayer is one of David after having been told by God that the house David wishes to build for God would be completed by his son, but that God was desirous to make a house of David's own house, that is, to establish in David an everlasting name by which the greatness of God's name would be published among the nations forever. David expresses profound gratitude for the undeserving gift of being God's own possession. He recalls the mighty and unparalleled acts of God in choosing to deliver Israel out of bondage in Egypt--one people from among all peoples of the earth--to establish the glory of His name. Now, it is David's own house which God will deliver out of the midst of enemies from without and within.

Both men in these prayers exhibit a posture of humility and utter unworthiness to be considered for the honors which God has promised to bestow upon them and the people. They acknowledge that God hs an exclusive privilege to be glorified above all created things, but for some unfathomable reason God has chosen to include a people, a house, as the vessel by which His Name should be extolled and honored among the heavens and earth and depths of the earth.

The Church today, it seems to me, has lost its gratitude toward God. With one hand she pretends that she is worthless, not the main point of creation, and therefore need not worry herself about purity, need not defend the honor of her name before all peoples. She needs only to hunker down, wait for chaos to reach its fullness, and hopefully pick a few stray pagans who wander into her battered and besmirched doors to bunker with her until kingdom come. With the other hand she exalts herself as though the only thing worth being was to be adorned like her, whether or not that adornment look anything at all like the adornment her husband has commanded her to put on herself. She is haughty, and self-righteous, and vain. One pride disbelieves in the glory God has laid upon the Church, while the other pride takes up the glory as though it was her own and not the gift of Almighty God. The one pretends to be a slave of a hard taskmaster who rarely offers much for encouragement and sustenance while the other pretends she has no master and needs no provisions for which she cannot provide for herself. Is it any wonder that the name of Christ and His bride has become a reproach and cause for shame? Homosexuals, thieves, and violent men would not be able to speak openly and freely against the God of Heaven and Earth and the precious vessel of His High Honor unless the bride were so filthy as to be unrecognizable, or so wanton as to have slept with all of these evil suitors instead of the Bridegroom. 

Yet if the people of God would but repent, truly repent, turning away from our sins and transgressions and returning once more to Christ and to His commandments, the Great God of Creation might grant us repentance and bring our enemies to shame, just as He did to the Egyptians who considered the people of God as nothing but slaves to be manipulated and used for their own ends. The Church does not need cultural transformation, nor does it require a rapture. These things are secondary and come by the Spirit more so than we like to acknowledge in the nitty gritty details. Our part is to see ourselves as we really are--undeniably unworthy to be as uncomparably honored as we are--and in so doing we may just be impressed enough by God that we wish to imitate Him in the world.