Wednesday, August 11, 2010

You're So Vain!

Jesus' disciples wanted a lesson on prayer.
(Luke 11:2) So He [Jesus] said to them, “When you pray, say: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven.
I believe that this means our prayer MUST be focused on who God is - and I argued that in a previous blog. But a comment on that blog has been rattling around in my mind for a while. I will reproduce the comment here in full.
Once we know who God is, fully and deeply in our heart and soul, to continually speak of it in prayer seems to me to be 'repitions'. Once He knows and we know who He is, I think He's interested in us conversing with Him... Thanking him for our blessings, asking for His guidance, and discussing our concerns. I don't think He is vain and needs us always us to continually stroke Him. He loves us too much for that. He wants a relationship WITH us.
I completely agree with the idea that in prayer we should be "thanking him for our blessings, asking for His guidance, and discussing our concerns." In many cases I think we are not nearly candid enough about these things in our prayer life. I look at the Psalms in particular and see the psalmist crying out in prayer or praise. I see Hezekiah going to the temple to spread out the blasphemous threatening letter from the Assyrians before God in prayer. I see Jesus agonizing in prayer in Gethsemane - to the point of sweating blood. Our own prayer life should be marked by this kind of passionate personal pursuit of God - both in praise and in requests. That is thoroughly biblical. That kind of prayer is REAL PRAYER - not just pretty pretense.

[Now a disclaimer. I suspect that the person who left the comment did not intend to communicate any of the things that bother me about the comment. Nevertheless, ideas are important.]

I am troubled by the idea that we might come to a point where we (finite sinful creatures) can completely comprehend and somehow get over our wonder and worship of God (our Infinite Holy Creator.) There is no such thing as "once we know, fully and deeply..." The more we know, the more we see that there is more to know. The perfections of God and the glory of God are a bottomless ocean of wonder. The more we "taste and see that the Lord is good" the more we desire to praise Him continually.
(Psalms 34:1–3) I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
2 My soul shall make its boast in the LORD; The humble shall hear of it and be glad.
3 Oh, magnify the LORD with me, And let us exalt His name together.
(Psalms 34:8–9) Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!
9 Oh, fear the LORD, you His saints! There is no want to those who fear Him.
I am also troubled by the idea that God's call for His own praise would ever be considered VANITY on God's part. The comment says, "I don't think He is vain and needs us always... to continually stroke Him."

This is dangerous ground. It suggests that God can be praised too much. It suggests that the God who is the source of all things and the measure of all things - would be sinfully inflated with conceit if He required the praise of all His creatures for all time. This borders on blasphemy.

God DOES think that everything is about Him, because everything IS about Him. As John Piper has written somewhere, it would be sinful for God to point to anything or anyone else as the center of all things. Pointing to Himself is not VANITY, it is TRUTH.

Requiring our praise and adoration is not the selfish ranting of an egomaniacal despot surrounding himself with sycophantic groupies. It is the True God expressing reality and desiring truth from us. For us it is not a chore, but the rare privilege of those who really know Him.
(Romans 11:33–36) Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!
34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become His counselor?”
35 “Or who has first given to Him And it shall be repaid to him?”
36 For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.


Bobbi said...

"God is the one Being in the entire universe for whom self-centeredness, or the pursuit of his own glory, is the ultimately loving act. For him, self-exaltation is the highest virtue. When he does all things "for the praise of his glory," he preserves for us and offers to us, the only thing in the entire world, which can satisfy our longings. God is for us, and therefore has been, is now and always will be, first, for himself. I urge you not to resent the centrality of God in his own affections, but to experience it as the fountain of your everlasting joy." John Piper, "Is God For Us Or For Himself" 1980

Pastor D said...

Thanks for the quote from Piper. I say, "Amen!"