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When I was in college, I read a little book that had profound impact on me. It was called, “Your God is too Small.” The book describes many common “half-views” of God and the effect those skewed views can have on the way a Christian practically lives out his or her faith. Today, we are going to look at our conception of God and how our conception of God influences our practice of prayer. We may be able to tell by how we pray whether or not we are worshipping the God of the Bible. There are four perceptions of God that I want you to meet today.
The first God is the Disinterested Tyrant What he has decreed, he has decreed. His will rules all, so our will means nothing. Prayer is meaningless it doesn’t change anything. People who believe this say “Your will be done, Lord” but do not ever truly bring their requests to him – what’s the point? When tragedy hits, these people have an answer, but it does not comfort – it is God’s will. This is the God of the deists and the Muslim’s. The diest’s believe that God wound up the universe like a clock at the beginning of time and let it go – he does not intervene now and everything is set to run its course. The Muslim’s mantra is submission, submission, submission. God’s will cannot be challenged or changed. Sadly, this is the view of many if not most conservative Bible-believing Christians. Sure, they would never admit to it, but listen to their prayers. Listen to their response when evil happens. Tragedy does not drive them to prayer – it drives them to apathy. I want you to take a minute and ask yourself if this is indeed the God you have been serving. I know if someone asked you specifically about it, you would say no, but think about your prayer life. Do you pray to God as if he were a disinterested tyrant?
The second God is the Capricious Timebomb Capricious: given to sudden and unaccountable changes of mood or behavior. God will is erratic: his actions cannot be explained or justified. People who pray to this God can never trust him to come through for the good. He’s a timebomb because you never know when he may erupt and throw all of your ordered plans into chaos. People who pray to this god are always worried that their prayers won’t be answered because they are not pleasing him enough. He must be appealed to and appeased. This is the God of the Greeks and Romans. Think Zeus up on the top of mount Hermes. He has no overarching plan, he acts on whims and fancies. If his subjects please him he may act on their behalf . . . or he may not. He follows his own selfish desires. This is also the God of many Christians. They see prayer like fishing. They throw up half-serious prayers hoping that God will be inclined to take the bait that day, but if not they haven’t lost anything. Or, on the other hand, and this is more dangerous, that beat themselves into submission to this capricious being and with every unanswered prayer pummel themselves some more so that they might someday earn the favor of their God.
The third God is the Automated Teller This God is very popular these days. He is very convenient and easy to manage. These people believe that God has authorized believers’ faith. Faith is a debit card with unlimited resources. You may have heard of the name it, claim it, people, the word of faith group. If I pray anything in Jesus’ name it will come to pass. This is the God of the magician. Amen replaces Abracadabra as the magical word of power. In fact, when you pray like this, you take the place of God himself. You become sovereign, you become the one who knows precisely what is best for your life at that moment. You call the shots. You are God! These people pray fervently, or maybe I shouldn’t say pray, what they do is more like make their demands upon God fervently and loudly. Of course, these people have a problem. The percentage of their prayers that are answered is not significantly higher than the others. So what is their answer for when their prayers go unanswered. Yep, that’s right, you didn’t have enough faith. For if you really believed, God would move that mountain. Sorry, come back when you have more faith.
Inspect your hearts today, do you have any tendencies toward any of these perceptions of God? Do you apathetically murmur “in God’s will to the disinterested tyrant? Do you cautiously approach the capricious time bomb? Do you arrogantly place your order at the automated teller? Let me share with you one more conception of God. This God is more loving than the disinterested tyrant, more stable in his plan and purpose than the capricious time bomb, and more personal than the automated teller.
The last conception of God is the Sovereign Father. This is the conception of God revealed in Scripture and the only conception of God which breeds growing faith in us. People who pray in this manner also pray in a certain way. To understand this God and how one prays to this God, let us look together at one of the most moving and heart-felt prayers ever prayed by the one who knew this God the best. In Luke’s telling of this prayer, he remembers that Jesus prayed with such urgency that he actually sweat blood. But let’s read Mark 14:35-36 together:
Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. “Abba, father,” he said. “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” People who pray to this God:
Are secure in their relationship with Him
Positionally Secure: Monogenesis: Jesus is the only-begottton Son of God – the only son of the same nature. We are adopted children. John 1:12 – Yet all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become the children of God. 1 John 3:1 – behold what manner of love the father has given unto us that we might be called the children of God. My daughter’s name: Aiko. We’ve been adopted as children – a special type of love! He is not an evil father – Matthew 7:9-11 He is a father who loves to give gifts to his children: James 1:17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows, He chose to give birth to us through he word of truth.
Ill: The fear of adoption: heart grows three sizes.
Affectionally Secure: Abba: startling intimacy in almost any language of the world. Every time Jesus prayed, he addressed God as father. Ill: Do you love me? Do you love me? Malachi: I have loved you. Is there a warmth in your prayer life? Times your overwhelmed by the presence of God? Ask God to meet with you. Before you pray, stop for a while and just sit in His presence.
Make Real Requests to Him
God has the ability to act: Mark 14:37 “Everything is possible for you”. Our requests to God are based on His ability to act.
God Intends to act: Matthew 7:-8: Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” Jesus said amazing things about prayer. Look at Luke 18:1 Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and never give up! Then he told a story about a woman who everyday would make her plea before the judge until finally the judge granted her request. Throughout the Bible, one message we get is that prayer changes things. Prayer changes things! I don’t know how God’s sovereignty and his providence leave room for prayer, except that God has reveled in his Word that he chosen within his sovereign plan to respond in a special way only when people pray.
Make Real Requests to God: It is safe to not make requests – but how does God get the glory and your faith grow? Believe that God can answer you prayer and wants to.
Submit to His Will for Their Lives
Yet Not My Will, but Yours Be Done: Mark 14:37 “Everything is possible for you”. Our requests to God are based on His ability to act. God wants to answer our prayers, but when he doesn’t it is because God wants something more. He may want you holiness rather than your comfort and he knows that holiness comes through struggle. He may want your trust developed in a way that only comes through the fire rather letting you remain in your adolescent faith. Do you know what’s amazing about this prayer of Jesus’? God’s answer was no. Think about that – Jesus himself – who is God of the universe – has experienced the pain of unanswered prayer. This pain was deep - You know how I said that Jesus always addressed God as his Father. Well there was on time that he didn’t. It was on the cross, when he called out My God, my god – why have you forsaken me? But remember his last words from the cross. Father, into your hands I commit my spirit. Jesus trusted that his heavenly Father wanted something greater than he asked for in the garden