Thursday, August 7, 2008


I don't know how to pray for myself as I ought. Of course, I don't know how to pray as I ought in general, but in particular, I don't know how to pray for myself. I have some idea of how to pray for others. But for myself - I realized yesterday that I don't have a clear picture of what I ought to pray, where I ought to start.

A striking recognition, that. It started to cross my mind a few weeks ago as I began to develop a daily prayer plan - and realized that I was including only prayer for others. I made a note to myself: develop a personal prayer plan.

That seems so elementary. Yet as I walked into the student union on campus yesterday, it was as though the Holy Spirit spoke to me. I didn't hear a voice, but I was powerfully convicted. You don't know how to pray for yourself. You almost never pray for yourself. I blinked, paused to think about it. You're right, Lord, I thought. I don't. I don't have any idea what to pray about.

We excel at asking for His help; we effortlessly pray for our needs to be met. We may even pray for direction and vision. But beyond that... What are the questions to ask? What is to be the focus of my prayers? How am I to go to a deeper level in this, to grow in maturity in praying for the work of the Spirit in me, in praying for righteousness and for deliverance from sin? I, for one, don't really know how what that looks like. Or I didn't; I'm starting to catch the tiniest of glimpses.


If we are not ever mortifying our sin, it is killing us. Period. I've been reading slowly through a volume of John Owen's works titled Overcoming Sin and Temptation, a compliation of three of his treatises on that topic that was published a few years ago. Writing centuries ago, this Puritan thinker challenges me immensely. Every time I make it a page in this book, I am forced to grapple with how powerful sin is, how deep and penetrating its hold on my heart, how ineffective my own efforts to combat it and how terrible the need to daily combat it with the graces of the Spirit.

Owen comments at one point that we often react - quite naturally - in opposition to sin, rising up with all the power in our human souls to attack various sins. He notes, however, that this doesn't necessarily mean we're truly seeking to kill the sins that fill us: all too often, this stirring of our combative faculties is but the attempt to quiet a troubled conscience or do enough against sin that we have respite from the convicting promptings of the Holy Spirit.

To truly mortify sin in this life, he contends, is to daily do battle with it, to intentionally seek out every crevice in which it hides and shine their the light of the graces of Christ. Our only hope of defeating sin - though we shall not see it dead in this life - is to pursue it as a great enemy and seek its defeat at every opportunity, actively engaging in the fruits of the Spirit and denying the fruits of the flesh. And to see sin brought to its lowest in this life comes only by not relenting when sin is quiet in our lives, but instead to press on all the more firmly, intent on not merely leaving it temporarily subdued but on its utter eradication.

Love against hate and apathy, joy against despair, peace against turmoil, patience against rashness and impatience, kindness against a critical spirit, goodness against , gentleness against a critical spirit, faithfulness against fickleness and disloyalty, self-control against laxness: this is our battle against sin, daily. Humility wars with pride, doubt with trust, and the victory is contingent on the strength of Christ worked out in us always.


The Spirit spoke through Owen and Jaimie Dawn to me yesterday. I have been wrestling these past weeks with this idea, quietly and not even aware, not recognizing how much of the undercurrents of my emotions were the Spirit leaving me unsettled until I was willing to confront this head-on.

Most of the time, God has to do something drastic to get my attention when it comes to sin issues in my life. Even in areas of ministry focus and direction, it often takes the spiritual equivalent of a smack across the face for me to realize what God is saying. Why is that? There's a connection between the two.

It's in my pursuit of Christ. It is not enough for me to continue to grow in my walk with Christ as I normally have thought of it: increasing steadily along this path. There is more, and I'm beginning to catch a glimpse of it.

We must have no less intentionality about praying for the fruits of the Spirit than against the fruits of the flesh. We must daily press in against the sins in our flesh, never growing even slightly complacent lest it burst out against our laxness. And in just as deep a measure, we must daily press in toward the fruits of the Spirit. And this is to be active!

Wherever we are at in our walk with Christ, we are called to more. It is not enough to pursue Him today as we did yesterday: it simply will not do. We begin to understand this, and then the enemy throws us a lie and we buy it.

What is the lie? It's that the way in which our pursuit of Christ is carried out doesn't change or grow, just the measure to which we know Christ in that pursuit. We must continue to grow not only in the measure of our pursuit of Him - that is, in the breadth of the pursuit - but in the manner, as well - that is, in the depth of the pursuit.

As we grow we do not merely take in more milk - we learn to eat solid food.

I have not led that speak to all of my life. To my reading and study of Scripture, yes - but I must learn to eat solid food in prayer, in mortification of sin, in evangelism, in everything. Milk doesn't cut it anymore.

May the grace and peace of Christ be your joy and your strength!

- Chris

1 comment:

  1. i struggle with that, too. i've found praying the scriptures i'm reading, and have read, over me is a great way to pray for myself according to the will of God.

    i want to add something here. many years ago i took a bible study where this milk/solid food, etc, was hounded. what was taught was that this is increasingly progressive. what i've learned, though, over time, is that sometimes we become wounded and need 'milk' again ... or life takes us to a place where we need 'milk' again.

    some examples ... when i was pregnant and sick for nine months ... my mind couldn't hold large portions of 'meat' or 'solid food.'

    when i had newborn's ... my mind could only hold little amounts of food at a time.

    when going thru different phases of healing and recovery i would eat different kinds of spiritual food. sometimes it was heavy, meat-filled, very solid and deep. sometimes it was very thin milk.

    i think we limit our minds when we fall into thinking moving from milk to solid food is always progressive and not seasonal.

    there is a time to swim deep, and there is a time to frolic in the waves. there is a time to study the tides of the ocean, and there is a time to skip through the edge of the surf and the sand. there is a time to run through the waves, and there is a time to stand still and watch the sandpipers.

    allow yourself the freedom to experience seasons in life. without seasons, one falls into a place where they are so removed they are untouchable and ineffective. Jesus was touchable and effective. He needed and took time for pleasure and rest and respite ... by Himself AND with others.


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