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In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Searching prayer (Matt. 7:7-11)

The second type of prayer that Jesus mentions is illustrated by a person searching for something that he has not yet found. God has placed certain blessings in locations to which the Christian has not yet been. There are many such places, and I can only mention some of them. Before I do so, it is worth reminding ourselves that when we are searching for a location, we need certain tools to help us find them. The obvious one that comes to mind is an atlas. God has provided spiritual maps which help us walk around the situations into which he calls us. These maps are found in the Bible.

One obvious blessing for which we search is fellowship with Christ. He himself told his hearers that if they searched the scriptures they would discover that the Word of God testified of Christ. The scriptures to which Jesus was referring was the Old Testament. It is important for us to remember that the Old Testament is not primarily an historical account of the history of the Jews. Of course, there are references to many historical persons and incidents. Yet above all these details, the Old Testament is a revelation of Christ. When we read Genesis 1, we should say to ourselves, ‘Here is the Son of God at work.’ And we can do this throughout the Old Testament. Jesus is hidden there, and if we prayerfully use the map of the Bible to locate places where we can have fellowship with Jesus, we will be directed to those locations. And when we go there, whether it is in Genesis or Malachi, we will find Jesus is there, waiting to have fellowship with us through his living book.

Something else that we search for in prayer is the significance of times of trouble. We confess freely that God is sovereign, that providence is the outworking of his control. But do we search for the reasons for our periods of distress and confusion? There is a wonderful promise of God to Cyrus in Isaiah 45:3: ‘I will give you the treasures of darkness and the hoards in secret places, that you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who call you by your name.’ Rulers in the ancient world used to hide treasures below the ground or in other secure places. The prophecy states that when Cyrus conquered Babylon he would find the hidden treasures of that city. When Cyrus would go into these dark locations, he might suspect that there would be no benefit, yet he would come out of them far richer than when he went in. In another sense, we can go into a dark situation and, instead of finding destruction and disappointment, we find spiritual treasures put there for us by God.

In Psalm 71:20, the aged writer of the psalm surveys his life and says to God, ‘You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again; from the depths of the earth you will bring me up again.’ His troubles had taught him about the faithfulness of God. Something similar is seen in the instance of Job. While his experience was far more intense than what occurs to most believers, it is clear that he also benefited from his troubles because they revealed to him the greatness of God. Samuel Rutherford testified to the great discoveries of grace that he made during his period of exile in Aberdeen. Although on the outside, he seemed to be confined and restrained, inside he was making great discoveries of the nature of grace.

There are many blessings for which we can search, using the atlas of scripture. I would mention one more. In addition to discovering about the Jesus, and finding out the significance of our sufferings, we can also search for strength to fight against the enemies of God’s kingdom. Of course, the unseen source of strength is the Holy Spirit, and his work is assumed in what I am describing. One way of obtaining strength is by feeding our souls on God's many great and precious promised. They encourage us about the road we have to travel through enemy country.

We will be surprised by what we can find when we search in prayer.

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