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Eating tasty humble pie

One of the things that thrill me when I read the Bible is how God answers prayer in miraculous ways.  Wasn't it wonderful how Daniel and his three friends prayed to God and God revealed to Daniel, that very night, King Nebuchadnezzar's dream, and what it meant?  But I must confess that sometimes the thought comes: Why does God seem not to answer our prayers in the same way?

Of course we know that prayer is not a push-button kind of thing, where God automatically answers our prayers.  We also know that there is no special method of praying that is "effective".  Or is there?  Does the Bible teach us how to pray, not in the sense of what to say but in other senses?  Let's see now.  How did Daniel pray?

The Bible says that, "Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to God, just as he had done before" [Daniel 6:10].  Hmmm, this high official made time to pray three times a day, and knelt to pray?  Is this relevant for us?  Many will argue nowadays that kneeling is not really necessary.  Most evangelical churches do not practise kneeling to pray.  Do you know that this is one of the obstacles hindering Muslims from knowing Christ?  They cannot understand how we Christians can be so disrespectful to an almighty God who holds power over our very lives. 

As Christians, we need to go back to the Bible to see what it teaches us regarding the matter at hand, or should I say "at knee"?  As modern theologians and pastors like to say: What is the Biblical principle that we should understand?

Going back to the example of Daniel, in Daniel 10 we see him receiving a vision of an awesome man dressed in linen and gold, with eyes like lightning, standing above the River Tigris.  This supernatural being told him, "Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them" [Dan 10:12].  Could the principle therefore be that we should humble ourselves before God?  How should we humble ourselves? 

Abraham, when he saw God standing with two other persons near his tent, "hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground" [Genesis 18:2].  Would you say that Abraham humbled himself before God?  King Manasseh was taken captive by the Assyrians and taken to Babylon by a hook pierced through his nose.  He was bound in bronze shackles.  "In his distress he .... humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers.  And when he prayed to Him, the Lord was moved by his entreaty and listened to his plea; so He brought him back to Jerusalem and to his country." [2 Chronicles 33:12, 13].  Note carefully what happened: after Manasseh humbled himself greatly before God, God listened to his prayers and rescued him from what seemed like a hopeless situation.  Then there is the example of Jesus.  Jesus himself knelt down to pray, for example at Gethsemane.  As followers of Jesus Christ, shouldn't we follow his example in this too? 

But the predominant belief today is that just bowing the head to pray is enough; we have humbled ourselves if we do this.  Anyway, if we come before God in humility, then that should be enough.  The trouble with this view is that I can find no passage in the Bible which says that we should come before God in humility.  On the other hand, there are several clear passages about how people who had humbled themselves before God got their prayers answered. 

Isaiah records the words of God on the matter of bowing the neck, albeit in relation to a day of fasting by the Israelites:

"Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,

     only a day for a man to humble himself?

Is it only for bowing one's head like a reed,

     or lying on sackcloth and ashes?

Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:

     to loosen the chains of injustice, ....

     to set the oppressed free, ....?

Is it not to share your food with the hungry

     and to provide the poor wanderer with  

     shelter -

when you see the naked to clothe him,

     and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?" [Isaiah 58:5-9]

 

The passage gives us an insight into what God thinks about humbling oneself by only bowing one's head.  God can, of course, see what is in our hearts.  But just bowing our heads to pray is evidently not enough.  King Manasseh could not loosen the chains of injustice, etc. while he was a prisoner of the Assyrians, but he could still humble himself by kneeling before God.  Was he humbling himself in earnest?  Since God answered his prayer, I think God saw that Manasseh's heart was humble too.

But doesn't God want us to walk with Him and to talk to him as a Father and as a friend, and call Him by his given name?  Assuredly He does.  So, must we always kneel when we have such conversations with Him?  I do not know the answer; if you do, please let me know.  It seems to me that in such casual conversations where we tell Him what we feel and our complaints, we can be casual.  However, when we are pleading with God and raising our supplications, doesn't the matter become sort of "official" and no longer a friend-to-friend chat, but a creature-to-King-and-Almighty-God matter?  Don't we have to bow down before a great King, and kneel before a great God?  Didn't God say, "By myself I have sworn, .... Before me every knee shall bow" [Is 45:23]?  Why kneel to God only when He comes in glory?  If He is worth kneeling to then, is He not worth kneeling to now?

If you have been praying and God does not seem to listen, perhaps you should check whether you have been humbling yourself before God?  The simplest check is to see whether your knees are in contact with the floor, and whether your head is bowed in real humility.  And it is best to start the prayer as Jesus did, remembering that God is the almighty God of Heaven [so we are not speaking casually to some no-account human being], that His name is Yahweh [and not Satan or Kuan Yin], and that the most important thing is not our will but His will, and His kingdom and not our little castle on earth.  When we remember how awesomely great God is, then we will have the full confidence to believe that He can, and will, answer our prayer "in Jesus' name".

 CHAPEL NOTES

Pastor Carrie Teh was our chapel speaker on August 24. She spoke on the topic of ‘Women in Leadership’ from 1 Cor. 14:33-35 and 1 Tim. 2:11-15.

Chapel speakers for September will be :

Sep 7 - Mr Chen Lei

Sep 14 - Ms Hukali Aye

Sep 21 - Ms Debbie Lee

Sep 28 - Mr David Lang

NEWS BITS

  1. Courses commencing in September.

  • Personal Ministry Skills (Tent module), starting Sep 6. Facilitator: Mr Jonathan Cortes.

  • Better Speech for Leadership & Ministry (AT231, 1.5 credits), starting Sep 7. Lecturer: Rev Ng Seng Chuan.

  • Preaching Old Testament Texts (OT252, 1.5 credits), starting Sep 22 at Parkmall campus. Lecturer: Dr Philip Satterthwaite.

For registration, call 62276815 or email bgst@pacific.net.sg

  1.  Mr Song Cheng Hock has been warded in Changi Hospital (ward 44, bed 18) for dengue fever. Please remember him in your prayers. 

  2.  Dealing with Stress & Fatique (CO232) by Mr Song Cheng Hock. The last session on Aug 31 will be postponed to a later date. Students attending this course kindly take note. We will inform you of the new date.

A Blessed  Birthday to…

Mr Hua Chai Sing  5/9

Mr Eric Tan  5/9

Ms Choo Lee Yuen  5/9

Mr Errol Oh  7/9

Mr Quek Tze Ming  7/9

Mr Albert Cheng  8/9

Dr Tan Hun Hoe  8/9

Ms Hannah Ng  8/9

Ms Ang Siew Lin  9/9

Ms Margaret Lim  10/9

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This page was updated on 31 Aug 2005. 
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