A Mild and Quiet Life
PUTTING ON THE PANOPLY of God is something which cannot be accomplished without “praying on every occasion” (Eph.6:18). This signifies that the various phases (girding the loins, putting on the cuirass, etc.) should each be accompanied by such prayers and petitions, as were practiced by Paul and his associates.
Some people are under the impression that a prayer is nothing more than the opening of their heart toward God, just like the opening of a flower toward the light. They consider this to be their utmost effort. God will have the rest. To a certain degree this may be correct in a case of great personal affliction. If this, however, became our permanent attitude we would remain in the realm of emotion instead of taking the path leading toward the highest praise of God of which the human tongue is capable. We need to learn more thoroughly how to pray with the renewed mind. This means we have to abandon any passive attitude in prayer and become as active in it as we possibly can. The point should be emphasized that praying is like performing a task for which we have to prepare ourselves. Mature prayer requires our undivided attention in addition to spiritual wisdom and realization of God. If the words are vague and general, this is a sign that something is lacking.
Perhaps we have not yet fully grasped all of God’s promises that pertain to us. They ought to be studied time and again, and as thoroughly as possible; otherwise our faith is in danger. It may be overshadowed by pious fantasies, leading us to believe that this or that is urgent and valuable and useful in the work of the Lord. It is not right to bring such arbitrary petitions before God in prayer even if they are well meant and find the approval of pious tradition.
We should become acquainted with the Lord’s will before we attempt to do our utmost in His service. We ought to know what He expects from us in this administration, and we should heed His warnings of the traps of the Adversary. It is true that the Lord said that no one is able to be snatching the disciples out of the Father’s hand (John 10:29). And nothing shall be separating us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Rom.8:35). But it is also true that Satan claimed even the apostles, to sift them as grain. The Adversary was authorized in his attempt to ruin Job’s faith. Yahweh told Satan, “He is in your hand!” But there was the restriction, “Only keep his soul alive”(Job 2:6).
Even today the Adversary is requesting such authorization, especially in order to prevent the most fervent of the faithful from growing into maturity. If he cannot hinder their spiritual growth by Job’s plagues, he will try time and again to distort God’s Word before their spiritual eyes, so that they do not come into a realization of the truth and will not sober up out of the trap of the Adversary (2 Tim.2:25,26).
The most common deception is to assume the translation of the Bible to be inspired and therefore infallible. Hence people are reluctant to accept any truth which is apparent in the original Hebrew and Greek Scriptures only, but not in their translation.
Others revel in the delusion that they can request from God as much as they are able to believe, and that, even if it be impossible, God will finally grant it to them. They do not know that what God denies, Satan will readily provide if this provision serves to detain them in deception.
Only by nourishing ourselves daily with the words of faith and of the ideal teaching (1 Tim.4:6) may we avoid the trap of asking for things which God has not promised for today. The prayer of faith is therefore primarily based on the words of faith and teaching which the exalted Christ had Paul write down for us. Concentrating on the Pauline letters we should not overlook, however, that the path leads from immaturity in Corinthians to maturity in Ephesians.
GOD AND FATHER OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST
If, praying with a renewed mind, we address the Supreme with these few words, He would consider them far superior to ten thousand uncontrolled words, when we let our emotions run away with us, and fail to glorify the Supreme as we should. By the invocation “God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” we acknowledge that it was Jesus Who took away the sin of the world and became obedient unto the death of the cross on Golgotha; hence there is no longer a barrier between God and us. In addition we are obedient to our Lord Jesus Christ and serve Him until all is subjected to Him (1 Cor.15:28). Finally Christ is the Image of the invisible God, Firstborn of every creature, for in Him is all created, and He makes peace through the blood of His cross in order to reconcile all to Him, whether those on the earth or those in the heavens (Col.1:15-20). Christ is also the Head of the ecclesia which is His body, the complement of the One completing the all in all (Eph.1:23).
Whenever we make petitions for something which exceeds the abilities of weak mortals, we should address God, the Almighty, the supreme Subjector, the Source of all power, wisdom and love. As a matter of fact we can hardly pray and ignore Him Who is all and has all and does all that we are longing for. Anybody else is only channeling those gifts which originate from Him. This is why we always should go back to the fountainhead, to God Himself, in order to give Him all the praise and thanks and glory which are due to Him alone.
When Jesus says, “I am the Way . . . . No one is coming to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6), then He means that henceforth no other way leads to God. Up to that time Israel had approached Yahweh by means of a divine ritual of various sacrifices. Since Golgotha the situation is different. Now we approach the Almighty in the new Way which is Christ Who was sacrificed for us. Through Him we now have direct access to His Father in spirit.
Let us make ample use of this invocation: God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! Paul did so and he should have known, for he had seen the exalted Christ repeatedly (Acts 26:16) and had become His spokesman for the highest revelations. Whenever he wants to glorify God with the most sublime words at his disposal he uses this invocation and he occasionally adds “Father of pities” or “Father of glory” (2 Cor.1:3; Eph.1:3,17; Col.1:3).
Certainly He is our God and Father, too; but when we address Him as “God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” we grant Him higher honors and greater glory and subjection, as well as our fullest agreement with everything that God did through Christ, not only in the creation but also in the reconciliation, not only for us but also for the rest of mankind and the spiritual beings.
Some people are afraid to address God directly and prefer to begin their prayers with the words, “Dear Jesus.” This might be due to a feeling or assumption that He Who also walked this earth and died for our sins would be closer to us and perhaps understand us better than His God and Father. There is, however, no reason for such shyness. On the contrary, Jesus said that the Father is seeking those who are worshiping Him (John 4:23). God wants us to grow in the realization of His will (Col.1:9,10) until we finally see that He is actually and originally everything of which Christ became the Image (Col.1:15). Our acquaintance with the Image should help us to correct our ideas about God Himself and to adore Him in an appropriate manner.
When things overwhelm us, however, there might be no time for us to pray with the renewed mind. Then we will perhaps sigh and groan in ourselves and pray the way we always did under similar distress. God will never weigh our words under such circumstances, for He reads the thoughts from our hearts, regardless of whether we exclaim “Dear Jesus” or “My God and Father” or whatever had been our habit.
PLEADINGS AND THANKSGIVING
The result of praying should always be to keep out any estrangement between God and ourselves. Whenever addressing the Supreme we may have fellowship with Him, similar to that which everybody is going to enjoy to the fullest extent in the future when God will be All in all (1 Cor.15:28). In our prayers today, even if He is not yet all in us, He is at least something in you and in me. When petitions are made in the ecclesia and all those present say, “Amen,” God is at least something in them. The more mature the prayer, the better; if the hearers are able to follow its trend of thought, God will be even more in them. Being true and, in love, making all grow into Him, Who is the Head, Christ (Eph.4:15), we may be coming nearer and nearer, in spirit, to the consummation when God will be all in us, too. Thus such hours as lead to estrangement with Him, will become fewer, and continuous harmonious fellowship with Him will become the dominant factor in our lives.
In prayer, our thoughts will go to our fellow men; our superiors, and authorities in this country and elsewhere. In Paul’s day the overall situation was by no means peaceful; under the reign of Emperor Claudius all Jews were expelled from Rome; the young ecclesia at Thessalonica went through such persecutions and afflictions that they were alarmed and afraid, thinking that perhaps the day of the Lord was already present; they felt they might have missed the snatching away. In addition, Paul’s personal career was marked by “much endurance in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, in blows, in jails, in turbulences, in toils,” etc. We can look that up in 2 Corinthians 6:3-10.
It is under the impact of such events during those restless years, and also under the leadership of God’s holy spirit, that Paul gives to Timothy, and to us as well, a prayer guide pertaining both to our inward peace and the outward situation with relation to the people around us. Paul strongly recommends pleadings and thanksgiving for all of them, including the superior authorities (1 Tim.2:1-4). Since he does so in view of the Roman government of his day, in view of the wicked men and false brethren, we may even more feel like imitating him in his attitude.
Only on condition of daily nourishment with the words of faith and of the ideal teaching (1 Tim.4:6), however, will we be able to rejoice in pleadings and thanksgiving for those who seemingly add to our hardships in life. As long as we are not fully aware of the divine truths for today we might be inclined to withstand our superiors and our authorities, quoting Peter to the effect that we should obey God rather than men. But Acts 5:29 does not apply to the political rule or to Roman military government which was in power at that time, but to the Sanhedrin, a Jewish council consisting of chiefs, scribes, and elders. It was to them that Peter and the apostles replied, “One must yield to God rather than to men.” The words of ideal teaching concerning our relationship to superiors and authorities today are found in Romans 13:1-7; Ephesians 6:5-8; Colossians 3:22-25 and Titus 2:9,10.
Our prayer guide (1 Tim.2:1-4) tells us that a life in devoutness and gravity is ideal and welcome in the sight of God, that is, a mild and quiet life. God is not only our Saviour, but He wills that all mankind be saved and come into a realization of the truth. This truth is brought out once more in the same letter (4:10): “. . . for this are we toiling and being reproached, that we rely on the living God, Who is the Saviour of all mankind, especially of believers.” And the apostle adds: “These things be charging and teaching.” In agreement with this fact is Colossians 1:20: “. . . through Him to reconcile all to Him, (making peace through the blood of His cross), through Him, whether those on the earth or those in the heavens.”
These words of faith and of the ideal teaching contain a promise which alleviates the hardships originating from our contact with the outside world: It is God’s irrevocable will that everybody be saved and come into a realization of the truth about God and about Himself. We are well aware that this will not happen in our day; but after the eons when all beings will be reconciled with Him in the consummation, then indeed He will be All in all and not only in us who believe today.
On the path toward this goal everyone has his individual experience with bitterness, fury, anger, clamor, calumny and malice. This experience may be more or less thorough; it may be gained actively or passively, until all detest these things as much as God does. For this purpose most people will have to review their lives before the great white throne (Rev.20:11-15), in order to evaluate it objectively, that is, to see it with God’s eyes and agree with His verdict. Later on, every creature will have no other desire but to enjoy and reflect God’s love.
As believers it is our immense privilege to know already now how intensely God hates sin because it prevents His creatures from enjoying real happiness. Our way of life will indeed be peaceful, mild, and quiet when we consider sin to be a tool used by God to help His creatures realize their absolute dependence on Him until they will dread any life without Him so much that they are driven to His heart. When we have recognized this divine line of thought we will be able to adopt the same attitude toward all men as the Father of pities is showing.
As long as we are conscious of the words of faith and of the ideal teaching as quoted above we will rejoice in always including all mankind in our pleadings, with thanksgiving, not forgetting kings and all those in a superior station. We may be leading a mild and quiet life, not because God will remove wicked men and false brethren and turbulences, but because we will begin to look at them the way He does. We will agree with His plans in all their details and be subject to His will in all things. Therefore we cannot but praise Him continually.
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