Lesson 5: Encountering God
Note: This is a Sunday School lesson by Scott Carr, Jr. based on ch. 5 in Dr. Tim Keller's book, "Prayer".
* prayer-“God speaks to us in His Word, and we respond in prayer, entering into the divine conversation, into communion with God” (p. 64).
* If prayer is fundamentally a response to who God has revealed Himself to be in the Scriptures, we have to understand who the God we encounter in prayer is if we expect to have any relationship with Him.
1) Whom we Encounter:
1) The Trinity:
* The God we pray to (the true God) exists in three persons and we can only pray to Him because of the work of each member of the Godhead.
* Matthew 28:19-“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Note that “name” is singular, not plural. The three persons share one name. In biblical times, a person’s name signified their nature and being. So to share one name is to share one nature and one being.
* The doctrine of the Trinity makes sense of three biblical propositions; there is one God; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all equally and fully God; the three persons know and love one another and work together in distinctive ways for our salvation.
* Implications for Prayer: God is filled with eternal and infinite love, joy, and community, which means prayer is not beyond emotion, but is to be filled with His joy and love. God did not create us so that He would know love and happiness. Jonathan Edwards suggested that God created us so that He might share the joy and love that exists within the Godhead. Prayer brings us into that happiness. Do you ever experience this in your prayer life?
2) Our Heavenly Father:
* God as Father is not a common image in the Old Testament. The fatherhood of God is made explicit in the New Testament along with the doctrine of the Trinity. A large aspect of salvation is adoption; Christ came to make us sons of God. “Adoption is an act of God’s free grace, whereby we are received into the number and have the right to all the privileges of the sons of God” (WSC A34). The Holy Spirit works in us to make us like Christ, to give us the family resemblance. The word “father” denotes a relationship of love and care. It is more than progeny. God only has this relationship with those who are His children by grace through faith.
* John 17:23-“…so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”
* Implications for Prayer: We have access to God as Father. He is listening to us and watching us. It is in prayer that we take advantage of this access. Do you approach God thinking of Him as a Father?
2) How We Encounter:
1) The Spirit of Adoption:
* Ephesians 2:18-“For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.” This access comes by faith. Therefore, “prayer is faith become audible” (p. 70).
* Romans 8:14-16; “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.”
* The Holy Spirit is who gives us the confidence to approach God as Father.
* Krazdo-loud cry, used in Septuagint (LXX) to mark fervent prayer.
* Abba-Hebrew, easily pronounced word, used initially by young children for their fathers (though many adults still used it). It literally means, “Papa”. In Judaism, it was an inappropriate address to God. Jesus’ use of it and His direction that His followers use it denotes a unique relationship to God that Christ shares with us.
* The Holy Spirit takes this theological principle and turns it into confidence and joy which naturally become prayer.
* Martin Luther’s prayer life showed that he would pray seeking for that assurance of God’s fatherly love.
* Romans 8:26-28; “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
* This is a very debated passage. Who is doing the groaning? If it is the Spirit, are we aware of it? What is helpful is to understand that the weakness of v. 26 is talked about previously and it refers to the entire human situation of frustrated longing as we await the final resurrection. Often, we want to pray for God’s good will to be done, but we do not know what outcome we are praying for. The Spirit makes our groaning His groaning. He works a longing in us to do God’s will and see His glory. The groaning desire to please God comes through our prayers to God. “In every specific request, then, the Father hears us praying for what is both truly best for us and pleasing to Him” (73). Do you ever pray with this kind of confidence?
2) The Mediator:
* We come to the Father in prayer in the Spirit and through the Son. We can only be confident that God is our Father if we come to Him through the mediation of Christ.
* All ancient religions had a temple to bridge the gap between man and God. There, sacrifices were made and rituals performed through mediators (priests). These were temporary appeasements. No one believed the gap could be closed. In Christ, we have a mediator who can remove the gap.
* Hebrews 2:17 “Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.”
* Hebrews 4:15-16 “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
* We can be friends of God because He became like us. He bore our sin and gave us His righteousness, so that we could stand before God with confidence.
* Hebrews 9:14-16 “How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that whose who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established.”
* Jesus taught that we must pray in His name. John 14:13-14 “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” We have access to the Father because we know His Son.
* Ephesians 2:18 “For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.” Access-anciently used to refer to a king granting someone an audience. No one could just walk up to the king. The distance between us and God is even greater. Christ has provided for us a perpetual audience with God the Father.
* Galatians 4:6-7 “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”
* The goal of prayer is to know God better and enjoy His presence. We usually pray to God to get things. If that is the case, we do not pray because we want to, but because circumstances force us. The Spirit shows us the great benefits we have been given in Christ, thus giving us a desire to know Him in prayer.
* John Calvin (Institutes): “The word is not received in faith when it merely flutters in the brain, but when it has taken deep root in the heart, and become an invincible bulwark to withstand and repel all the assaults of temptation. But if the illumination of the Spirit is the true source of understanding in the intellect, much more manifest is his agency in the confirmation of the heart; inasmuch as there is more distrust in the heart than blindness in the mind; and it is more difficult to inspire the soul with security than to imbue it with knowledge.” (3.2.36) What is your motivation for prayer?
The Cost of Prayer:
* Christ was forsaken by the Father on the cross. His relationship with the Father was broken so that ours could be restored.
1) Now that we have an understanding of prayer, we are now going to begin learning how to do it. Read ch. 6, 7, 8 for next time.
2) Keep summarizing the Psalter.