Chapter 33 – Prayerful Obedience

 

May he turn our hearts to him, to walk in obedience to him.

– 1 Kings 8:58, NIV

As we live our lives and pray and seek God and surrender to Him, sometimes we may feel convicted by Him in some way. When we come to God in surrendered prayer we open ourselves up to His molding and shaping of our hearts and lives – we make it possible for Him to change us and challenge us and show us aspects of our lives or attitudes in which He’d like to work. Some of us do that to ourselves, too – out of love for God and desire to please Him we might reflect on our lives and see if there are elements that don’t quite fit with what we believe God wants, and then make a conscious effort to change those things. ‘Conviction’ might sound, to some people, like a fancy word for being told off. But God, in His kindness and mercy, challenges us to change things in our lives so that we can better live to please Him and live more fulfilled lives, when we give Him space to do so.

Andrew Murray, in his book Teach Me To Pray, Lord said this – “By His Holy Spirit, He has access to our heart, and teaches us to pray by showing us the sin that hinders the prayer, or giving us the assurance that we please God. He teaches, by giving not only thoughts of what to ask or how to ask, but by breathing within us the very spirit of prayer, by living within us as the Great Intercessor.” This conviction and teaching has one vital catalyst – obedience. In order for God to do a transformation work in us, we must be willing to obey Him! So may we surrender to God our obedience, and let Him shape us so that we are willing and able to obey Him more fully.

Jesus sets us an example to follow – of obedience to His Father even to the point of extreme suffering, ridicule, and eventually death. Hebrews 5:7-9 (NIV) says: “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” Obedience, even to Christ Himself, was costly. Jesus had the option of giving up and backing out of it all at any moment (and I’m sure He was temped to do so at times) – He offered prayers and petitions to the one who could save him from death. The Father could have saved Him, could have taken away the cup of suffering that was before Him – and yet Jesus freely chose to obey, out of love for the Father and for man, and from the passion of his desire that man would have opportunity to live in relationship with the Father. May we too learn obedience to God, though not exclusively through suffering! I doubt that any of us will have to be obedient to God to the point of crucifixion, but may we learn from the principle that Jesus set before us and open ourselves wholeheartedly to God, choosing to live in obedience to Him no matter what it may cost us.

Prayer is surrender – surrender to the will of God and cooperation with that will. If I throw out a boathook from the boat and catch hold of the shore and pull, do I pull the shore to me, or do I pull myself to the shore? Prayer is not pulling God to my will, but the aligning of my will to the will of God.

– Eli E. Stanley Jones

It’s easier said than done to “align your will to the will of God”. I don’t always want the same things as God does, even though I call myself a Christian. I want to want what he wants… But it’s not so easy! May we surrender to God our will, and ask Him to make us obedient to His calling and shaping and challenging. Then gradually as we pray we will begin to want the same kinds of things as He wants, as we get to know His character and begin to see life from His perspective, little by little. May we surrender to God and let Him lead us into obedience.

Richard Foster said in his book called Prayer: “None of us will keep up a life of prayer unless we are prepared to change. We will either give it up or turn it into a little system that maintains the form of godliness but denies the power of it – which is the same thing as giving it up.” At times we can feel tempted to give up praying, as it can be too challenging. I have heard people say that prayer “just leaves me feeling guilty” – people are put off the idea of prayer because of a reluctance to allow God to challenge and bring change. Many times in prayer I’ve wanted to block God out so that I cannot hear His calling or conviction or challenge; I’ve tried to hide from Him. Perhaps I felt that if I remain in disobedience but don’t let myself feel challenged, if I block out His voice and His promptings, then it wouldn’t be too bad. But in the end we realise that we must let God win – trusting in His goodness and love. May we surrender, and let Him work for good within us as we live and work in partnership with Him.

If we do not let God change us, if we do not want to obey Him when He convicts or challenges or calls us, then prayer can feel like such a battle, a battle that we might be tempted to just give up and walk away from because we know that we can never win against God. Or, we turn our prayer lives into a routine of talking AT God, telling Him things and asking Him for things and ranting at Him but not giving Him space to challenge us; blocking Him out when he tries to speak or show us things; rejecting His advice and questions and anything else He might want to say to us. This is an exhausting way to live. May we let it go and give ourselves into His hands. May we surrender, and let Him teach us and plant in us a willingness to obey Him.

Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in obedience to him.

– Psalm 128:1, NIV

The Jamaican missionary Dotha Blackwood knows this feeling well, saying in Israel Olofinjana’s Book Turning the Tables on Mission“If you fight with God and win, you lose. So fight against God, if you must – just make sure you lose the fight.” God’s message to us is very clear: those who lose themselves to Him and His will, holding His plans above and before their own, are those who walk with Him in light and share in the goodness that He wants all to experience. We know the words well when Jesus said (in Matthew 10:39, Matthew 16:25, Mark 8:35, Luke 9:24, Luke 17:33, John 12:25…) that when we give up (or lose) our lives for His sake, we will find life. May we surrender to God our life and it’s direction; our obedience to Him. May we be prepared to lose our own plans in order to follow His!

    

God my Saviour and my Lord,

Thank You for accepting me as Your child.

Thank You that You have plans for my life!

I’m sorry for m to follow You, reluctance to follow You; for preferring my own ideas.

Please forgive my arrogance and hesitancy – I want to obey You.

I surrender to You my obedience, please shape me and give me a greater desire to follow Your way.

I give You my times of prayer: please challenge, convict and shape me.

I choose Your way: I want to die to self and live for You.

Please mold me into Your likeness, in obedience to You.

May I live in Your strength, willingly following Your lead each day.

Amen

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