The second phase of my praying life was in and after my conversion. It was a glorious response to what my new pattern revealed to me at that time. I don’t have the exact day, but there was a time as I prayed out the latest crisis and to put if fairly crudely all the lights on the Christmas tree came on.
For the first time in my life my spiritually blind eyes were opened and I could see clearly. I discovered that the more I focused on our heavenly Father’s grace and mercy to me, a man who had so proudly rejected the gospel for anti-supernatural liberalism and had now been called back through God’s grace, my prayer life took on a vitality characterized by an amazement, and a desire to glorify God in prayerful worship – the glory in which the Scriptures tell us we are one day to share.
The gospel had finally penetrated deeply to my heart. The most profound fruit of this second phase of my praying life was in my preaching.
It all began quite gently. I had established a pattern of daily study of the Scriptures and of prayer. I had kept the pattern for some time. I would begin by reading a devotional work, to shift my mind from the plans of the day to God’s Word. I would then pray for God to reveal to my mind and heart what he had to say to me through the Scriptures, journaling the analysis of the verses and drawing applications for my life. Next, I would take those conclusions and bring them to my heavenly Father in prayer beginning first with praise and thanksgiving as I acknowledged his grace, his providence and his care to me. This would bring me to confess and repent the ways his Word had sifted my soul. Remember the words of Hebrews 4? “The Word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword and it cleaves right through the secrets of our hearts right down to our motives…”
I don’t remember exactly when it happened, but there was a day when I was focussed a text of Scripture upstairs in my study that I had the same sweetness of God’s redeeming grace come over me. The text of Scripture had gone from being just something where I would ask, “What can I say creatively about this text?” to something where God himself was speaking to me through the Scriptures just as it happened when I was at prayer.
I had discovered the truth of the “means of grace.”
I began to realize as a believing Christian at prayer before his Word, that there is something comforting in that he will judge my secret motives. That’s what he will assess. For some us at least, who have failed so badly in past years, and oh, we’ve done so very little for our Lord Jesus Christ! But you see, it’s the motives he’ll assess my dear friend! He knows the struggle I have. God says, “My child, it’s the motives I judge…”
Do you see that what is terrifying to an unbeliever is a great comfort to the believer? My believing friend, it is our loving heavenly Father who knows the secrets. He knows the struggles that I’ve had. He knows the home I came from, he knows the challenges I had. He doesn’t measure my spiritual growth by the height I’ve reached, by comparison with others. But the distance I’ve come and the difficulties I’ve faced in order to reach the height I have attained to. And his judgment upon me is the assessment of a loving father!
His judgment is all grace – for he sees me through Jesus Christ in whom I have trusted for my salvation.
What an amazing message – this is the truth of the gospel. It was the gospel I was called by God to preach! What glorious news!
Prayer and preaching from then on took up an entirely different character and content. Knowing the power of the means of grace in preaching, I no longer went to prayer for my preaching hesitatingly, but eagerly. I made it the deep desire of my heart that those who heard my preaching would come to know my Savior. The more the Word of God is opened to me in my study of the Scriptures the more I fall to my knees in prayer for the people here. And so I pour out my prayers for our congregation, usually by name and speaking to what are particular callouses of their heart that may prevent them hearing God speak to them in the Word of God preached from the Scriptures.
Until you are brought down by Christ, you will never be brought up by him. Never. Never. Never.
It’s his way. It is the mystery of godliness. C.S. Lewis said, “Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead.”
When I consent to God’s judgment on my life, to what I deserve because my sin and motivation and my hypocritical religion, and I die inwardly my mouth is shut. Then I begin to feel the embrace of Christ, “You are weary and heavy laden, my child. But I will give you rest and I will make something of you for my glory.”
And that’s the value of the gospel for the sinner who hears news that is worse than they could possibly imagine and news that is more glorious than they could ever hope. It is the value of knowing that as I look at my own sin that I see afresh that this is the very reason the Savior came into the world was to bear the judgment of God upon that sinfulness. He was wounded for my transgressions, bruised for my iniquities. Chastised to make me whole and with his beating, I may be saved.
He is a great Savior!