How the Trinity Informs and Enlivens Our Time Spent in Prayer

Good Morning,

Back in the Fall of 2022 we began our walk through the Westminster Larger Catechism. It’s hard to believe that we are here in the Spring of 2024 starting the last section of the WLC. Just like with the Shorter, the Larger ends with a talk about prayer, using the Lord’s Prayer as a model. In today’s catechism question the Divines are going to define for us what the Christian is to do with prayer and what prayer means. Kind of like the sacrament discussion we just finished a believer thinking about a subject like this can seem old hat. We are called to pray every day, prayer makes up a significant portion of what we see people do in the Bible and if you were going to isolate one particular thing that stands out in the Christian’s life it would be our conversating with the living and the true God. To pray well means to know what you are doing, not so much about the mechanics, but its purpose, and so as we get into questions 178-196 each of the Q/A’s will help us do better at resting and trusting not only in the mercy of prayer, but in its Trinitarian power.

Here is the lone question for today:

Q. 178. What is prayer?

A. Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God, in the name of Christ, by the help of his Spirit; with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgment of his mercies.

Those of you who grew up in 90s evangelicalism will remember the acrostic A.C.T.S. The letters form a helpful way to make a plan for prayer and were something I was taught at a youth rally in high school. It stands for AdorationConfessionThanksgiving, and Supplication. Like most things that involve stuff that is useful it was not created thirty years ago. If you notice the pattern of the Lord’s Prayer it follows the basic alignment of beginning prayer with God’s name (Our Father), with confession of our sins (Forgive Us Our Debts), thanks (Thine is the Kingdom), and asking for particular gifts (Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread).

When it comes to applying the same format to the catechism question, we see how this wisdom can even be found in our catechetical documents. In defining what prayer is the writers of the WLC first testify that prayer is an offering. Usually when we think of that word we assign it to be some kind of physical gift to the Creator. Whether it would be money or an unblemished goat involved it is the taking of something you have and granting ownership then to the priest of God in the Tabernacle or the Temple. Prayer obviously (or maybe not so much) is a verbal act. It is in some sense a spirit talking to a spirit. The opportunity to seek the help of God in a blessing.

While there may be better ways to do it in public worship there is no requirement in the Bible that we be in any particular posture while entreating the Lord for help. Kneeling, faceplanting, or standing do not in any necessary way provide better reception. If God can hear the cry of Jonah from the belly of a whale He can hear your call while behind the wheel. The reason why this matters when thinking through the spiritual nature of prayer is that if it is an offering in the strictest sense of that word then you are giving something to God in the midst of your pleas. What would that be? Prayer is worship. It is why that word adoration is used in the A.C.T.S. You are confessing your faith in Him, in His person as the Creator, and in His Work as the giver of all things by the word of His power. It is a statement of humble reliance upon the one who alone is able to provide whatever it is you are lacking in the moment.

There is something to be said about the heart posture one needs to have in order to be heard in prayer. While our physical location is immaterial to the presence of God so is our situation. As Paul notes in Romans 8 there is nothing which can separate us from His love, which includes His promise to never forget us nor forsake us. The Lord heard the plea of the apostles while in jail in Philippi and He answered their prayer by not only releasing them from captivity, but converting the warden and his family as well, which gets us to the second part of the definition provided by the catechism, and that is our offering is done to God in Christ. Every prayer is in a sense evangelical. It is an expression of our understanding that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us, and in that death He wiped away the law of requirements nailing it to a tree and has reconciled us to the Father that we might no longer be enemies, but friends.

Our praying in the name of Christ is only possible because of the gospel and our spiritual union with Him. Any time the New Testament references our being born again, or being born from above, it is a reminder that we who once were not able to speak to God, for why would we want to in our fallen state, do so now through the power of the Redeemer. So to offer to God our offerings of prayer then in Christ is made possible only through the help of the Holy Ghost. It is the case that when our Lord was preparing for the cross, His resurrection, and the ascension He made a promise to the disciples that while He was physically leaving them, He was most certainly not leaving them alone, but would send a helper, a Comforter, and what would that Comforter do for them? Hear Him from John 15:26-27:

But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning.

In closing, here we see the blessings of prayer summarized for us a glorious way. Why do we seek our God in supplication? For we have been taught by the Spirit to testify and bear witness of the goodness of our salvation, the redemption purchased by Christ, so that we might come unto Him as those who are heavy laden and know by grace through faith that He will give us rest, if we ask, we shall receive. Pray, be praying, and live in prayer, and you will know peace.

A Last Word:

Blessings in Christ,

Rev. Benjamin Glaser

Pastor, Bethany ARP Church

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