Prayers: Casting our Burdens on God III
By: Deji Yesufu
I come now to the matter of the outcome of true praying. In his book “Perspective on Pentecost”, Richard B. Gaffin Jr. wrote:
“The ‘secret’ of effective prayer is not the gift of tongues understood as the Spirit’s activity in some believers which briefly suspends their weakness by momentarily removing the inhibiting barriers of language and providing new capacities for self-expression in prayer. Rather what makes prayer efficacious is the intercessory groaning of the Spirit in all believers, coupled with the intercession of the exalted Christ on their behalf…”
Gaffin is saying that the true secret to answered prayer is the triune God himself. The Holy Spirit working and groaning through our prayers; the Lord Jesus Christ offering intercession on our behalf before the Father; and God the Father listening to every petition. The true blessedness of prayers is partaking in this eternal communion of the triune God. The blessing of prayers might not be the answers to prayers themselves but the very act of spending time fellowshipping with God and communing with the God of all the earth. How many times have we heard God’s people say that they never would have had those times of prayers and communion with God until God allowed some difficulties in their lives that forced them to pray?
It is like God is saying: come to me, and we are saying “I do not have the time”. Then God gives us those difficult times by compelling us to him through some trials. If we understand this, we would understand why God desires and seeks we give him time in prayer for genuine communion. One of the greatest Christian disciplines is developing a time of communion with God every morning. The gospels writers record that Jesus will wake up very early in the morning and go to a quiet place to pray to God. This was God himself who sought a place of quiet devotion with God the Father; how much more we with all our frailties. We need to develop that discipline of devoting time to God in prayers within our day; a time that is just for God alone. God seeks it because God wants to have our attention and we should not wait until he enforces such on us. The blessing of answered prayers is partaking in the communion of the triune God and seeing him grant our requests according to his will.
Another blessing of praying is what Peter regarded as “casting our burdens on the Lord for his cares for us” (1 Peter 5:7). This is the blessedness that often follows unanswered prayers. This is what I mean: many times when we come to God, we bring our burdens to him and we render that burden to him in myriads of petitions. One of the things that I realized that God does in response to this burden is that while in one hand our request may not be answered, God takes away the burden and troubles of our hearts and give us hope and peace in return. This is what I believe Paul was saying when he wrote to the Romans: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope,” Romans 15:13. Paul here refers to God as “the God of hope”. In other words, hope itself originates from God. Hope is a peaceful, joyful and optimistic anticipation of good in the future. Paul is saying that it does not matter what things look like today, God is positive that things will be better tomorrow. So, Jesus Christ, for the joy that was set before him, could endure the cross and despise the shame it brought. Then Paul explains that God shares this hope with us by giving us joy and peace in this whole business of believing; such peace that translates to abounding hope. It is here I must say that the taste is in the pudding: we cannot know this until we experience ourselves practically. One goes to God in prayers. We worship him and we cast our burdens on him. Then we leave the place of prayers realizing that we are no longer as troubled as we were when we came to pray. God has simply exchanged our anxieties with peace. The problem is still there but we can see beyond the problem; we can see the joy that is set before us and the strength to carry on and endure whatever cross that might be our portion is given to us. This, I believe, is the highest answer to prayer. This is possessing God’s perspective in the midst of trials. This is what saints of old possessed that they could endure excruciating suffering for the course of Christ. God did not deliver them; although we could say that within the problem it was as if God had delivered them. The challenge of life is that every one of us in the flesh will come face to face with realities like this. There will come with that illness that will threaten our life and we must be able to go to God in prayers and cast our burden on him. God will answer us in two ways: either we are healed and we glorify God; or we are not healed but we possess the hope of eternal healing which we would receive after we might have shed this body in death. For the Christian, it is a win-win situation. Halleluyah!
In the year 2000 I thought I had a challenge. Twenty years down the line I realize now that graduating from Ahmadu Bello University was only one of those challenges that God will help me through in life. When my results were released, I walked carefully to the notice board. There was no GSM in those days so friends could not “text” my result to me. I had the opportunity of seeing it for myself. I went to the department around 6pm when I was sure there won’t be much people around. If I failed, I would grieve quietly, pick myself up and write my papers again. If I passed, all glory to God. Our results are pasted with our matriculation numbers alone and not our names. I went straight to U93EE1067 and there was my result: I had passed all my 500 level courses and I had passed them well such that my GP was not hovering over the dangerous “2.40” line that determined whether you had a third class or second class. I had a clear “2.56” – a lot into the grade level I wanted and which could never be disputed.
I still waited an extra semester in the university to do four courses from lower levels which I had purposely refused to register because I did not want them to interfere with my final year courses. God had answered my prayers and I was just thankful. There was a song that I learnt in those days through Phil Driscoll which I would later realize was “The Magnificat” that Mary sang in Luke 1:46-49; which was actually a rehearsing of Hannah’s song in 1 Samuel 2:1-2. I had learnt to sing that song long before the results were released and I had the feeling that that was my victory song. Today, when I am in trouble I still sing this song:
My souls proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
And my spirit, exults in God my Saviour
For he has looked with mercy on my loneliness
And his name will be forever exalted.
For my mighty God have done great things for me
And his mercies, will reach from age to age
Holy…, Holy…., Holy is his name.
Today, through prayers I have known many victories. I have also known many defeats but such defeats whose burdens are wholly taken care of by God the Father in the place of prayers. In this article, I have not touched on the salient matter of congregational praying but this is equally important. Unfortunately the kind of congregational prayers that I see today, accentuated by the ubiquitous Pentecostal movement, is a sorry thing to behold. One sees people calling upon God in a feverish, rancorous and disorderly manner. I am positive there is no praying going on in such places. Churches must learn the art of congregational praying: where one person gets up at a time to pray while others listen in to the prayers and say “amen”. The same blessing that comes upon the individual who prays to God in his devotion is also replicated on the congregation but this time in a collective manner such that God’s people can leave church with that sense that God has heard their prayers.
Prayer is closely related to the theology of an individual and a congregation. Where the theology has gone south, prayers will go sour also. What many do not realize is that what they call prayers might actually be manifestation of a demonic gathering and this is what we see in some churches that spend their time cursing people to die in the name of praying. Prayer is a blessed thing: true praying can never translate to cursing – in prayers we bless, we do not curse. In the place of prayers, we find fellowship with the triune God. While we pray, God takes our burden and gives us his peace. And through prayers we find answers to our petitions. Our life long request to God should align with the desires of his apostles after they had observed Jesus praying. We should continually be asking God to teach us how to pray. I hope this little discuss of mine will help you in your devotion to God and in your prayer life also.