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Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Stop praying!

On Sunday, I had the pleasure and privilege of bringing the message to the Fellowship of L'Église Evangelique Libre de Bergerac.  It was the fourth in a mini-series on the very important topic - at least for those who claim to be disciples of the Lord, Jesus the Christ - of prayer.   On Sunday, we looked together at the prayer of a man named Simeon - you may read it in Luke 2:29-32 - a prayer that is often referred to by its opening two words in the Latin language: the Nunc dimittis.  The whole series has been intended to encourage people to pray!

However, as I continue to empty boxes in our new home, I come across photograph albums - almost fatal!  I can spend an hour just browsing through, and reliving memories with family and friends.  One such friend is a man named John.  We haven't had any contact for a long time, but I recall receiving a 'phone-call from him, one Sunday evening.  "The Lord spoke very clearly to me, this evening, at the worship service", he said, excitedly.  "That's great", I responded.  "What did He say?"  "He told me to stop praying", replied John!  

Well, I knew that John was a fairly recent convert, so I probed a little further.  The outcome of the conversation was that John had been told that, regarding a particular issue, the time for prayer was finished; it was now time for action!

In one of the local Fellowship Groups that my wife and I attend, we are currently looking at the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes - not the easiest of books to study!  However, one section that is better-known than most of it is the first nine verses of chapter three - the "There is a time ..." section.  It isn't mentioned by the writer of that book, but there is a time to pray, and a time to stop praying - and to do what we know needs to be done!

We see such a situation in another book of the Old Testament.  It is in Joshua 7 where, in vs. 10-11(a), we read: "YHWH said to Joshua, "Arise, why have you thus fallen upon your face? Israel has sinned;"  Israel had just experienced her greatest victory at Jericho, and her most devastating defeat at Ai - all in the space of a few days.  They were in deep shock!  Joshua was on his face, praying; 'reminding' (!) YHWH how bad this made both Him and His people look in the eyes of the surrounding nations.  God was not impressed!  He told Joshua, bluntly, that Israel had sinned (collective responsibility), and disobeyed His command regarding the spoils of battle from Jericho.  These things were the "firstfruits" of Israel's victory in the Promised Land, and should have been brought into God's treasury.  Instead, Achan had taken some and hidden them in his tent.  YHWH had been disobeyed and robbed, and His hand of protection had been lifted from the nation, resulting in their defeat by a mere village!  So YHWH told Joshua to stop praying, deal with the situation, and then come back to speak with Him.

Do you already know what the answer to a situation is - but you keep praying in the hope that God will give you a different answer, or even make the problem disappear?  Perhaps God will alter the rules for you!  No way!  He says "I the Lord do not change;" (Malachi 3:6).  So, if He doesn't change, guess who is going to have to!  If you want God's protection and blessing then, like my friend John, you may need to stop praying, and do what you know needs to be done.

It's a thought!

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