On Prayer and Suffering Curt Crist
2Co 12:9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
God knew something that Paul didn’t know, that God’s strength was brought to completion in a suffering Paul. If this be the case and we pray and ask to be delivered from our suffering, what are we asking God to do? We are asking that his strength not be perfected in our lives. That says that our present need to see deliverance is more important to us than the manifestation of God’s strength. We look at it differently, thinking that God could show his strength by delivering us from our sufferings. Paul is telling us to put our future hope on display today, in faithfully suffering thru our dilemma. Our patient and faithful endurance thru suffering is a way of demonstrating our future hope, and when others see this, it brings glory to God. The grace and strength God gives you to endure your suffering is the strength of God put on display.
1Th 2:17 But we, brethren, being taken from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavoured the more abundantly to see your face with great desire.
1Th 2:18 Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again; but Satan hindered us.
Paul wanted to go back to Thessalonica, he was worried about them. Did Paul pray about this?
1Th 3:10 Night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith?
1Th 3:11 Now God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way unto you.
Paul is praying for God to send him back, they needed him. But did Paul know what to pray for as he ought? Satan used circumstances in spite of all Paul’s prayers to hinder his return. No where are we told that Paul ever return there. Did Paul know what to pray or did God know better? What if God had answered that prayer and sent Paul back? Then we would not have this letter. God knew that nearly 2000 yrs later we would be able to read these Thess. Epistles. Epistles that Paul would not have had to write if he had returned and took his message to them in person. God say the greater picture.
There are 2 extreme views to prayer today. 1- Casualism - why pray at all, everything happens by change and God has no involvement. God has no purpose or design for things that happen in our lives.
2 - Fatalism - All events have been predetermined and will play themselves out, why pray if everything has already been predetermined. Casualism denies God’s providence, denies that God is actively working thru the events in our lives. Fatalism denies man’s freedom and God’s wisdom.
God is not bringing on your suffering today, but is allowing you to undergo such suffering as is common to all men and he is working thru it all the while. God can and does work in the life of a believer. Paul tells us how he does it.
Rom 8:26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
Rom 8:27 And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
Paul wants us to remember the prayer of the Spirit. He does not say... the Spirit makes intercession for us with groaning that cannot be understood. They can not be uttered. You will never have audio access to the Holy Spirit’s prayers. You will not hear them at all. The Holy Spirit is not telling you how to pray, he is praying himself. This could truly be called an unspoken prayer. In a failure to rightly divide the word, some wrongly read this verse in an effort to validate speaking in tongues, they change uttered to understood and add, unless u have an interpreter. That is not what the verse says. Paul also did not say the Spirit makes interpretation for us. In other words, the Spirit is not rephrasing our prayers and uttering them in an unknown language that only God can understand so God can best determine when and how to deliver what we want.
The Holy Spirit is not interpreting our prayers. He is not praying our prayer at all. He is praying his own prayer. His is praying according to the will of God. If God’s will today is to be glorified thru your patient endurance of the suffering saint that you are, saints who are putting future hope on display, saints who are not looking at their present circumstances, when you pray God take away this pain and suffering, the Holy Spirit knows for sure that we do not know what to pray for as we ought. Then the Holy Spirit begins to pray an entirely different prayer. Something like, Father help them to learn the things you would have them learn during his time of suffering, give him grace and strength to endure the hardship, in the midst of this pain and suffering help him to put his hope on display so that in his weakness you may be glorified.
3- the third antidote for suffering - remember the purpose of God for you the believer.
Rom 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
Rom 8:29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
God is working out his plan and purpose in your life today and he has predetermined to conform you to the image of his Son and that involves suffering.
2Co 4:17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;
2Co 4:18 While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.
Paul is still in the context of suffering here. Suffering is common to all men, some recover, some do not, believer and non believer alike. But the believer has the opportunity in our suffering to put our future hope on display that God night be magnified. What is that hope?
2Co 5:1 For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
2Co 5:2 For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven:
Paul said he rather glory in his infirmities. He learned what was happening. We people on earth package everything and we expect the Lord to package his plan just like we would. We want that logic that we would use to be his logic. When it isn’t we wonder what’s wrong up there, it’s not working out as I would work it out. We want our suffering out of the way. Prayer was never given to change God’s perspective of our greater preference. Prayer was given to change our perspective of God’s greater purpose. God’s purpose today is not to strengthen our faith by altering our circumstance. His greater purpose is to allow us to demonstrate our faith today as we remain strong in spite of our circumstances. Prayer was never given to bring God in alignment with your wants. It was given to bring you in alignment with God’s will. Prayer changes attitudes. In everything give thanks and make your requests known, not with thanksgiving for receiving , but with thanksgiving that God is in control and that he is perfecting what he has begun in you. What do we get when we pray?
Phi 4:6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
Phi 4:7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
The purpose of prayer in this dispensation of grace is not for the purpose of getting God to perform, but it is to give the believer peace. When we take our concerns to God in prayer, we can rest in the confident assurance that the Holy Spirit is praying his own prayer on our behalf that God’s purpose be fulfilled in our lives and that we have the grace and strength to put our hope on display as we endure the suffering we undergo. It does not matter if you gather a hundred people together, all praying the prayer of faith, because God is not working today that way. You will be disappointed at best, disillusioned at worst. Remember your prospect of glory, the prayer of the Spirit, and the purpose of God for you the believer and keep praying all the while.
Eph 3:20 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,
Eph 3:21 Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.