This might surprise you, but the image of God as a Warrior is one of the dominant themes in the Bible. An Old Testament scholar, Tremper Longman, wrote a book entitled, ?God is a Warrior?. He traces that Warrior motif all the way from creation to the ultimate consummation. The very first Gospel promise in Genesis 3: 15 prophecies of a warrior, one who will come to conquer the Devil. The story of Exodus can be interpreted as God going up against the false gods of Egypt. God engages in war. The Egyptians worshipped the sun, the cattle, even the Nile River. God literally wipes out the Egyptian gods. When Joshua is preparing to go up against the city of Jericho, God appears to him. Some think the angel of the Lord was a pre-incarnate manifestation of Christ, a theophany. God lets Joshua know that He is a soldier. He has a sword and will fight for Israel. Think of the military motif that runs through the psalms. Even Psalm 2 is a picture of a global battlefield. The world is galvanizing against God and His anointed. Think of how Jesus is pictured in Revelation. Revelation 19, heaven opens, and Christ is seated on a White Horse; He will judge and make war. Verse 15 out of His mouth comes a sword. So, it is a dominant theme.
Our country has always been considered to be a Christian nation, though that isn't possible. It has been molded and shaped by the Gospel. But our country is changing quickly. There is a massive shift taking place. Christians are being persecuted in ways they never have been, even 10 or 15 years ago. They say Christendom is dying in America. Although that might be discouraging, Christianity has always thrived within the context of persecution. It is the marvel of the Gospel! The gates of Hell will not prevail against the church. When Christians live comfortably, they often lose spiritually. We need to remind ourselves this is not the norm; Hebrews 11 gives us the norm, as a picture of the church suffering. If our Savior was rejected and despised, why do we think we won?t be? Jesus said we would: The world hated Me, it will hate you. I think the military motif will become more significant as we face more persecution. It reminds us we are engaged in warfare. This is a good reminder as we come together to use our weapon of prayer.
Romans 5:1 & 2
“Paul continues to expound the great doctrine of justification by faith, showing the outcome of those who have believed in Christ. If we look back at chapter 3:24, he picks up that word justified again but also, as in chapter 5, he uses the phrase, ‘by his grace as a gift’.
Perhaps most of you have heard of Humpty Dumpty. He said, ‘If I use a word it means what I choose it to mean. Nothing more, nothing less.’ We could say Humpty Dumpty was a post-modernist. There is no absolute truth. It can mean whatever I want it to mean. Humpty Dumpty played with words.
People in America do that all the time; they want to change the meaning of words. There is even a push to eliminate the word man from the English vocabulary. The word sin has almost disappeared. If we are Christians we need to protect words, especially Bible words. Certainly, one word we need to protect is the word grace. If we don’t, it will be to our detriment. We will lose our understanding of the Gospel of Christ.
The Bible speaks of God’s manifold grace; we have probably heard that word ten thousand times over. Whenever we hear a word over and over there is a danger that familiarity breeds contempt. What does it mean? The common definition is that grace is undeserved mercy. Sam Storms says, perhaps more accurately, ‘Grace does not contemplate sinners merely as undeserving, but as ill-deserving. Ill-deserving simply that we do not deserve grace, but we deserve hell’.
Yet God has shown grace, by sending His Son. Someone has said, ‘Grace has a Face’. The grace of God has appeared – that is speaking of Christ. We are told that the Law of God was given through Moses, but grace came through Christ. He is a God of grace; grace incarnate.
If you and I were to think about how much grace we enjoy, where do we start? We start in eternity past with electing, predestinating grace. None of us deserve to be elected or predestined to life before the foundation of the world. The Christian life begins with grace. God calls us by efficacious grace. We are called out of darkness: born-again grace. How about regenerating grace? John 3, faith and repentance – are they graces? Yes, they are gifts from God. We would never have believed and repented unless God had given us the grace to do so.
It seems that Paul loves to use the word grace particularly when he talks about justification. We see it in Romans 3 and 5: grace pops up more than anywhere else when we contemplate the blessing of the grace of justification.
We speak of sanctifying grace; it’s what we need to grow in holiness. Adopting grace – ‘behold what manner of love that He should call us the children of God’. When we think of the Christian life continuing we think of persevering grace or preserving grace. We need strengthening grace for our trials. We need forgiving grace when we sin. What is the last grace, the last blessing God bestows on the believer? Glorifying grace, wherein He gives us perfect bodies joined to perfect souls. When we die we receive perfected souls and when Christ returns again we will receive new bodies.
I guarantee that every one of us, when we reach Heaven, will sing Amazing Grace like we have never sung it before. When we have a perfected understanding, we will appreciate God’s grace much better than we do now. His grace is something we should frequently think about and give God thanks for now. We can give thanks for sending His Son and all He has done for us in Jesus Christ.”
This passage is different than Luke’s version where Jesus says, “Pray this.” It is almost as if in Luke’s account He is saying, “Pray these very words.” But in Matthew it is more broad in the sense pray like this, or according to these broad principles. “Pray like this, Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver from evil. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your heavenly Father forgive your trespasses.”
We could certainly say that the Bible is the great manual on prayer. Everything you want to know about prayer you could certainly find in Scripture. It is full of prayers. Obviously this prayer is to shape our prayers, “Pray like this.” There is nothing more important than prayer. It probably determines or validates our spiritual authenticity more than anything else. It was Martyn Lloyd-Jones who said, “When a man is on his knees, that he is and nothing more.” You can give all kinds of reasons why you should pray. If we could boil down our reasons to one word to give impetus to prayer, it would be love. It goes four ways: love for God; love for the world; love for the church; and love for yourself. Love captures them all.
Love for God. Prayer is an expression of love for God. This is how we get to spend time with Him. Essentially prayer is speaking with the true and living God. When we come to the throne of grace we come to a person, our Father which art in heaven. The very first word reminds us that this is a personal engagement... person to person. Someone has said, “The heart of prayer is not getting things from God, but getting God Himself.” That is the primary and most important reason. We are even commanded to pray. So if you love God you obey His commandments.
Love for the world. Remember how Paul tells Timothy to teach us how to pray, “Pray for all men, those who are in authority, and those who are rulers in high places. You could say that encompasses the world. And here in our prayer by our Lord Jesus, when He says, “Pray, Thy kingdom come, “ you could say that has a global reach. When we pray for unbelievers we pray for the unconverted neighbor, for unconverted children, friends and parents.
Love for the church. This is a corporate prayer meeting. We are to gather together. James 5:17 says, “Pray for one another.” Paul would frequently ask people to pray for him when he had gospel opportunities. Jesus asked people to pray for Him. In the Garden of Gethsemane He asked Peter, James and John to pray for Him as He was facing His greatest trial in His life.
Love for ourselves. We need to pray that we would grow in holiness, that we would grow in love, in all of those graces that God has deposited in us. We need to pray that what we hear on Sunday after Sunday would not simply sit on the shelf of our minds but be taken down into our hearts, “Thy Word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against you.” In Psalm 119 that is what David focuses on more than anything else, the Word of God. “How can a man keep His way pure according to Your Word;” “Deal bountifully with me that I may keep Your Word;” “Fix my eyes on Your way, I will delight in Your statutes, I will not forget Your Word;” “Incline my heart to Your testimonies. I will seek You and not wander from Your commandments.” So we need to pray in the Word of God that it would find a lodging place in our hearts.
Psalm 86: 1-13 – A prayer of David
David here makes a petition and then follows it with the reasons why he is able to make the petition. In verse 1 we see, “Incline your ear, O Lord, and answer me for I am poor and needy.” As David prays to God he acknowledges that he is poor and needy. He acknowledges his inability to deal with whatever he is facing. He is looking to God for help, admitting that he needs to be trusting in God. In verse 7 we see the ability of God. “In the day of my trouble I call upon You for You answer me.” David is confident that God is able to answer; that is an encouragement for us as well.
I want to focus this evening on verse 5. “For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon You.” David here is helping us focus on some of the attributes of God, His character. Who is it we are calling on? God is good; we call on a God who is good. There is an emphasis on moral goodness. We don’t call on a wicked King, but a good one. Because God is good we can have confidence that He will do what is right. We don’t have to worry that He will do something evil. This should encourage us to come to Him, to a God who is good. Also, we are coming to a God who is forgiving. He is ready to forgive. He is not reluctant to forgive; He has a predisposition to forgive. We just need to call on Him and He will forgive. This should encourage any of us, as we struggle with sin and need forgiveness, that He is ready to forgive us. We also see that God is abounding in steadfast love. He doesn’t just have a little bit – He is abounding, overflowing in steadfast love. His lovingkindness and mercy is constant. It doesn’t waver. It will be there when we come.
So, we can have confidence as we pray that we come to a God who is good, forgiving and abounding in steadfast love to all who call on Him. Not only do we come to God with our requests, but when God does answer our prayers we see in verse 12 what our response should be. “I give thanks to You, O Lord my God, with my whole heart.” When we come to this God who is good, forgiving and abounding in steadfast love, and He answers our prayers how should we respond? With thanksgiving, with our whole heart, with sincerity, to God. “And I will glorify Your Name forever.” Our focus is on God, not ourselves. When the answer comes, don’t give yourself glory. You may have accomplished something or overcome some sin or a challenge in your life – the glory goes to God. “For great is Your steadfast love toward me. You have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.” This is the God we come to this evening. I hope it is an encouragement to pray.