I hear the words echoing in my mind: Prayer is asking and receiving. Though that statement contains truth, I can’t help asking if it paints a very full picture.
Both Tim Keller & Jack Miller talk about the difference between “maintenance prayer” and “frontline” prayer meetings.
If I understand them correctly, maintenance prayer meetings are characteristically mechanical, primarily focused on physical needs, and relatively short. But frontline prayer meetings have three basic traits:
- People ask God for grace to confess sins and humble themselves
- There is an expression of compassion and zeal for the church’s advancement
- There is a tangible yearning to know God, to see his face, and to see his glory.
So just to recap, people get real, get filled with hope, and get focused on God’s glory!
Why is the distinction between “maintenance” & “frontline” prayer so important? Because these authors believe that frontline prayer is always connected to real revival.
Biblically and historically, the one non-negotiable, universal ingredient in times of spiritual renewal (read revival) is corporate, prevailing, intensive and kingdom-centered prayer.
He sites Acts 4, Exodus 33, and Nehemiah 1 as examples. Our attention is drawn to the disciples in Acts 4 who don’t pray for safety in a time of peril but only asked God for the courage to keep preaching.
I would say that these types of prayer gatherings are a right and natural response to the gospel itself. When we begin to grasp God’s grace, we become focused on Jesus and find freedom from building our own image in the eyes of other broken men. Honesty and repentance are enabled and we can begin to get real. This will be reflected in the way we pray with others.
Are you overly concerned with how much your brothers may find out about you as you pray with them? Take another look at the gospel.
Do you “hedge your bets” when you pray, or do you find yourself asking God to show up in God-sized ways? If you pray small prayers, take another look at what God has already done for you in the gospel.
Do you find yourself coming up dry or pretending when you know you should be praising, worshiping, and seeing God’s glory? Take another look at the gospel. Look at Jesus—in Him we will find & see the fullness of the Godhead!
What do our prayer meetings look like? Maintenance or frontline? Defense or offense? Dead orthodoxy or passionate spiritual renewal?
So is prayer asking and receiving? Yeah, but one of the gospel’s effects in our lives should be to change what we ask for!
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