The Bare Soul - September 12, 2010
The Prayer of Praise

The following is the message text and audio recording of a sermon titled "The Prayer of Praise" delivered to the homeless
at the Kansas City Rescue Mission Chapel on September 9 2010.

The Prayer of Praise - September 9, 2010

Luke 18:11-14 - The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: "God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get." But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, "God, be merciful to me, the sinner!" I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.

Many have considered this passage a model prayer for penitent sinners. Herein we see two diametrically different personalities -- one haughty and self-righteous -- the other humble and contrite as they both receive their respective rewards. While the Pharisee bolsters his ego with an empty commendation as the result of his religiosity, we are told the tax collector receives the gift of justification from God. This man, according to Christ, came into relationship with the Lord through his repentance, knowing that the atonement of Christ had lifted the burden of sin from his heart forever. While this certainly is an ideal example for how a person comes to the Lord, it should not necessarily be the prayer to perfect holiness or to mature a saint in sanctification. To be sure, if we sin after we have accepted the Lord as our Savior, we should ask for forgiveness and He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins (I John 1:9). However, I am convinced that the devil would like nothing better than to first inflict condemnation over a sin in the believer's life, and then make that poor hapless soul to wallow in this sad state as they cry out for mercy. Of course, Jesus Christ has forever given us mercy and not condemnation through His redemption. His justification deflated the power of sin in our lives, stripping away all power once held over us by the enemy of our souls. Our God wants us to merely confess our sin and then turn to Him in a prayer of praise, acknowledging the completed work of the blood of His Son on Calvary's cross.

This "woe is me" theology runs rampant in many churches today, especially those who center on holiness teaching. As before mentioned, we should always confess our sins when we commit them. However, I believe the universal Church lacks a deeper understanding of our true position in Christ, otherwise there would be much more praise over our deliverance from both our sin nature and individual sins then what's currently the case. The enemy has made many believers think and act like the tax gatherer on a continual basis. Some might say, "Oh, that my life was filled with the presence of God ... oh, that I had more love and joy in my life. It must be because I still have sin in my life!" This may be the case and if it is true then that person should repent and set their life right with God. More often, however, I believe the true sin in a Christian's life is not individual sins that continue to crop up but a foundation of unbelief. They have either lost the understanding through the enemy's deception, or they have never really possessed a strong conviction of Christ living in them. As we see from our lead scripture, Jesus was dealing with eternal salvation. However, once we are saved and redeemed it is inappropriate for us to approach His Throne of Grace with anything but assurance that He has cleansed us from all sin (Hebrews 4:16). There is nothing more gratifying to the devil then for us to yield to groveling before the Majesty on High who has amply supplied all the mercy and grace we shall ever need. We see an excellent example of how Jesus corrects this erroneous thinking in the story of the prodigal son. When the son was still a long way off, the Father ran to him and embraced him (Luke 15:20). The son then stated: Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son. (Luke 15:21) You see, this young man had a very wrong understanding of his father and his love and grace. What we read next is exactly the heart of the Heavenly Father toward His children. There was no further discussion, but the son was restored IMMEDIATELY to his place of sonship (Luke 15:22-24). We see and hear no discussion from the son saying, "No father, for I am truly unworthy and I must continue to ask for your forgiveness". There was none of that because the son accepted his father's mercy. How much more should we as sons and daughters of our gracious Heavenly Father accept His instantaneous forgiveness?

Many believer's think that by laboring through daily repentance over their carnality and by looking for some "breakthrough" that results in indescribable joy is the end all in the pursuit of sanctification. If that happens in our daily prayer either for ourselves, others, or our nation then rejoice! It is a gift of God! However, if it doesn't there is no reason to believe that God has not answered our prayers and likewise gifted us with the same splendid results as if we did "feel" His presence. Remember, we walk by faith and not by sight (II Corinthians 5:7). The devil continues to defraud the church with this lie that we have to call down heaven on earth. Beloved, the kingdom of God is in our midst! Everything has already been given to us pertaining to life and godliness (II Peter 1:3). We must merely have eyes to see it! That's why Paul continually prayed in his apostolic prayers that the eyes of the churches would be enlightened to all that had already been given to them (Ephesians 1:3; Ephesians 1:17-19; Colossians 1:9-12; Ephesians 4:14-19; Philippians 1:9-11). I believe Paul's intent was to say that believers need to be doing a lot more accepting of what Christ has already done for them rather than continual beseeching for what they already possess. How it must grieve the Father's heart to hear His children continually crying out for something that He has already given. It truly is as simple as thanking Him for eyes to see and for hearts that are continually open to His divine revelation and wisdom. To go on asking without thanking Him for what He has already given is rude and disrespectful to the bounty He has so lavishly provided.

So what should be our attitude to God in prayer? I believe that the Lord has given us WAY more than we could ever express in thanksgiving to Him. And, if we continue to accept in faith what He gives us then we allow Him to reveal more in us. But this is not the end all. With revelation comes responsibility. Even as the father "gave" to his prodigal son, we too must continue to give away what He has so graciously bestowed in us. Then, it is full circle of receiving by faith, praising in faith, and then finally giving through faith. The circle becomes an ever-widening sphere as we receive more and more through His delightful revelation and we in turn praise him in prayer and then give it others. This, beloved, is God's plan for mankind. Not that we would be forever waiting for sanctification, but living and moving in it through His divine grace already bestowed upon you and me. Let us all learn to live in what He has completed through His Son's death. Our justification is already secure through our repentance. And, our sanctification is likewise accomplished through our acceptance of the finished work of our Savior. May God open our eyes and hearts to see and understand the depth of His love for us.

Holy Father, we delight to know You through the revelation of Your Son within us. Continue to manifest Yourself in us and through us, for we know that it is impossible to please You but through faith. Help us to walk hand in hand with You, our loving Father, accepting all from You and praising You for the bounty of Your love. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

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