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John 3:25-36

 

Now a discussion arose between some of John's disciples and a Jew over purification. And they came to John and said to him, "Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness - look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him." John answered, "A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, 'I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.' The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease."

 

He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all. He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. (
ESV)

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Epitome of the Gospel

Tuesday of Pentecost 20

8 October 2013

Oh, for the heart of Jesus in prayer to be our own! He prays at length, not that His Father would be persuaded by many words, or that His Father would be impressed by such lengthy converse. For our Lord Jesus Himself forbids us to attack God's throne of grace with long, drawn out petitions (Mt 6:7). Why then, does He pray at length (Lk 6:12), indeed all night? It is purely that He should be conformed to the will of His heavenly Father (Lk 22:42). Our heavenly Father cannot be overcome with all the babbling and bawling as used to happen in the Pentecostal churches, because He knows what we need even before we ask. We are asking that we might be clear what we need, to confess our dependence on the One who sees and knows our need even before we do, and to give thanks to the "Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change" (Jm 1:17). Our Father gives us the privilege of asking in our prayer.

 

If our Father is not impressed by long, windy prayers, such as the pagans pray, how then should we pray? With simplicity and directness. Often people are baffled by the short, powerful prayers that have come down to us through the church in the collects. As a child, I found them obtuse and stuffy. Of course, this is the judgment of a child and children should not be left in charge of the church's faith or her prayer. A more mature judgment has led me to love and treasure the church's collects, which are broad in meaning and compressed in words. They literally "collect" together all the church's needs in two or three simple, eloquent phrases. I am deeply grateful that mature believers before me preserved for my use these deep and abidingly significant prayers and taught me them, even before I could see and understand their depth and significance. Morning prayer, consisting of a reading and a collect, is a summary of a whole day of faith at the rising of the sun. Our Father, who sees in secret, listens. No whole one-hundred-boxcar train of petitions will ever be better.

 

When we pray in faith, we draw into our petitions the fullness of all the heavenly gifts. Our simple petitions are never simple; for all heavenly things come with them. If we are praying with Jesus as He prays, then with Him comes all that He delivers to us in His Word. Of course, we will want to say that prayer is not a means of grace. However, this statement has limits. Prayer is never meritorious in the sight of God. Now we are just speaking to our Father asking for our needs, that He should fulfill them. What child thinks that his honest appeals are to be fulfilled because of the power of his requests? What child thinks that his parent is bound to answer his petition because of the value of the very plea? No Christian thinks God is bound to answer His prayer because of its own value. No, the petition of the believer never merits anything with the God who knows our need before we ask and is more eager to answer our prayers than we are to pray! So while prayer is not a means of grace, the faith that gives birth to prayer is the same faith trusts in the means of grace. Therefore, prayer in faith brings with it the whole of the gospel, because faith is never disconnected from Christ. Our little prayers are an expansive epitome of the whole gospel.

 

Tertullian

 

"The form of words John the Baptizer taught his disciples to pray is no longer extant (Jn 5:33), because earthly things have given way to heavenly things. John says, 'He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all. He bears witness to what he has seen and heard' (Jn 3:31-32). And in this method of praying what is the Lord Christ's that would not be heavenly? Let us consider His heavenly wisdom. First, touching the precept of praying secretly (Mt 6:6), by which He made clear the faith that a person should be confident that the Almighty God sees and hears beneath roofs, even in a secret place. This demands humility in faith. It should offer its religious homage to Him alone, whom it believes is able to see and to hear everywhere. Further, since wisdom succeeded in the following precept, let it in like manner apply to faith and to the modesty of faith, that we not think that the Lord must be approached with a train of words. We are certain that He watches out for His own without being bidden. That brevity is supported by the substance of a great and blessed significance that is as broad in meaning as it is compressed in words. For it has embraced not only the special duties of prayer, including veneration of God, but also every discourse of the Lord, every record of His teaching; so that, in fact, in prayer is comprised an epitome of the whole gospel." 

Tertullian, On Prayer, 1 
 
Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, You have granted us all Your gifts through Your Word. Grant that we might assail Your heart with Your own promises to hear and bless those who call upon You in faith, that with all confidence we might receive what You have promised. Amen.

 

For Leslie Doiron Roch, that the Lord Jesus would be with her as she convalesces from heart surgery and gives thanks to the Lord for His deliverance

 

For all those who are reluctant to pray, thinking that their eloquence is not up to it, that they would be encouraged by the desire of their Father to hear their every petition

 

For Marvin Kluttz, that the Lord God would grant him peace and repose in the arms of Jesus
Art: Eyck, Jan van  The Adoration of the Lamb (1425-1429) 

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