Prayers: Casting our Burdens on God I
By: Deji Yesufu
I entered the year 2000 with a great burden: I needed to graduate from the University with a good grade. I was oscillating between third class and second class lower, and any mishap in my results would jerk me into the forbidden region of a third class grade. I did my bit studying for my courses but what I remember the most about that year is that I did some phenomenal praying also. When I realized that I could not pour my heart out to God sufficiently enough without disturbing my roommate, I began to go to the back of the Vetinary Medicine Faculty to pray. One day I was lost in prayer, only for me to look up and see that I had been surrounded by students who had come in for an early morning examination. Nobody paid any attention to me – they were all couched in different positions, putting finishing touches to their studies. Students of Vet, ABU Zaria, understood my plight because that faculty is one of the most difficult faculties to go through in that school. I quickly gathered myself up and headed to my room to prepare for class. Till this day, I still wonder at how I did not hear those students approach my prayer ground. I was lost – communing with the God of the whole earth.
These essays are about prayers and I understand that the subject of praying is as varied in Christendom as people’s noses. Yet, I would attempt to share what I believe genuine Christian praying is all about here. But before I do that, I would need to state what praying is not.
What Prayer is not
First, Christian praying is not speaking in tongues. I need to make this point not because I must defend my reformed tradition every time I write but to state that when people spoke in tongues in the Bible, they spoke known languages. Speaking in tongues in the Bible was primarily about speaking and not about praying. The only time Paul linked speaking in tongues to prayers was in 1 Corinthians 14. But even in that chapter, most of the references to tongues were still to talking or speaking and not to praying. I am of the opinion that many Pentecostals have not even learnt how to begin to commune with God because they have been taught that “speaking in tongues” is communing with God in angelic languages. That is balderdash. There is no such thing in the whole of the Bible. If all that you do when you pray is to speak in tongues, you have wasted precious moments that you could have used to talk to the God of the whole earth. Speaking in tongues is not praying and those who indulge in the practice will need to renounce it altogether and begin to learn to talk to God directly in a known language.
Second, prayer is not about commanding God. I hear people say things like “I told God”; I laugh at such insolence and I think that such people are just plain stupid. Somehow, somewhere the phrase came into Pentecostalism and people began to hold the idea that they can hold God to ransom. This sort of thinking betrays a movement that knows practically nothing about the sovereignty of God; a movement that has lifted men to the position of gods and has brought God down to be like mere mortals. In seminary, while studying the doctrine of God, we encountered that great subject of the attributes of God. God is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, sovereign, just, and good. Christians need to be taught who God is. In fact Jesus said to us in John 17:3 that knowing God is eternal life. How do a people claim to know God and they treat him like trash? Let me make it plain and simple: no one can command God. You cannot tell God anything and expect him to do your bidding as if he was your errand boy. God is the only sovereign; the mighty God; creator of heaven and earth. Even with our limited vision of him, the testimony of God that we see in the Bible commands us to worship him; not to “tell him” anything and expect that God exists to pander to our whims and caprices.
To be continued in Part II.
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