Saturday, January 9, 2016

Samuel Rutherford and the Answer of Peace Having Prayed

“How shall we know when our prayers are answered?  Hannah knew it by peace after prayer.  Paul knew it by receiving new supply to bear the want [of relief] of that he sought in prayer.”
DEPICTIONS give us an idea how things might have been.  The depiction of Jesus praying before the Father at Gethsemane in The Passion of the Christ (2004) gives the impression he knew the Father’s answer immediately, having prayed the cup of suffering might pass, and was immediately at peace when he prayed, “Yet not my will but yours be done.”  (Matthew 26:39)  Even when the prayer was answered in the negative — that he would be required to suffer and die — there was the capacity of peace in Jesus.
Samuel Rutherford (1600–1661), a professor of humanity, and a pastor of Anwoth in Scotland, was said always to be praying, preaching, visiting the sick, catechising, studying, writing and reading.  Always the pastor, he commends us to the complicity of faith and prayer:
“Liberty and boldness of faith is also a sign of an answered prayer.”
Of course, Rutherford’s deduction here is that truth that Paul talks about in Philippians 4:6-7, to give everything to God via prayers of praise and petition, that the peace of him that transcends our understanding might be ours.  Anyone who prays in faith is left with that inexplicable assurance — all is well, even when it isn’t.  Something shifts having prayed.  And, of course, prayer changes us.  That’s why it’s utterly good to pray.  It changes not our circumstances, but it fits us better to those very same circumstances.
So we may connect that experience of a living and burgeoning faith that leads us into the broadening of capacity, inducing confidence, simply because we have prayed.
Prayer, via this thought, is the mind’s power because the heart has been undergirded.
“We are heard whenever we ask in faith; but let faith reach no further than God’s will.”
To ask in faith is to know that we’ve been heard.  Faith suggests we know we’re heard, for any doubting we’re heard fails the standard of faith in the act of prayer.  Faith is that beautiful sense of belief that believing what God promises to do will be done.
But faith easily steps out of the realm of God’s Presence by his will when we step past the bounds of wisdom.  So discernment — the working out of faith by fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12-16) — is crucial.  We would be loath to consider a sense of peace as God’s ‘okay’ to continue boundlessly without further need of discerning by prayer.
Faith says we’re given peace having prayed, whether our prayers are answered as we’d like them answered or not.
Pray by faith and the answer of peace is ours.
Pray believing, and peace is a possession no matter how the prayer is answered.
Prayer helps us along the path to maturity — to accept the gift of peace for having simply prayed believing in the wonder of prayer.
Now, to consider that Paul experienced peace in the Spirit’s assurance that “My grace was sufficient for you,” even as he languished with that “thorn of the flesh,” illustrates a powerful principle:
Prayer changes our perspective, whilst perspectives of reality remain unchanged.
That is the living unequivocal power of God in real life.  Available to all, though only some take it.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.

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