When you descend from lofty rhetoric about “Traditions” and “Values,” it becomes apparent that a huge number of the actual practices and social institutions which built those virtues have disintegrated, not because of Progressivism or Socialism but because of the new environment and political economy generated by technology.
Two recent articles are well worth your time and thought. The first is a piece at The Federalist by John Davidson. He argues that “conservatives” should drop that label in favor of something more descriptive of their position in, and posture toward, predominant liberal society:
[A]ny honest appraisal of our situation today renders [the label] absurd. After all, what have conservatives succeeded in conserving? In just my lifetime, they have lost much: marriage as it has been understood for thousands of years, the First Amendment, any semblance of control over our borders, a fundamental distinction between men and women, and, especially of late, the basic rule of law. Calling oneself a conservative in today’s political climate would be like saying one is a conservative because one wants to preserve the medieval European traditions of arranged marriage and trial by combat. Whatever the merits of those practices, you cannot preserve or defend something that is dead. Perhaps you can retain a memory of it or knowledge of it. But that is not what conservatism was purportedly about. It was about maintaining traditions and preserving Western civilization as a living and vibrant thing.
Radicals, restorationists, or counterrevolutionaries are all suggested as alternative monikers for what is typically now called the “New Right.” I find the invocation of Thomas Jefferson’s brand of radicalism distasteful as a model—albeit there is something to it—but Davidson’s nod toward the Puritan settlers of Massachusetts is one I’ve offered as well. The enduring conservative impulse here is to look to the past for inspiration, an impulse that someone like Yoram Hazony makes definitionally definitive for conservatism. That hasn’t changed with the New Right, though a creative, often eclectic approach now animates that exercise.
Much of the New Right, reactionary energy is fueled by critiques of what has passed for conservatism for the past several generations. Such conservatives, as Davidson justifiably argues, have conserved precious little. Chief among the old conservative defects in the dead consensus was an allergy to state power.
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By admin — 1 year ago
Praying for God’s glory means letting His sovereign wisdom decide what to do with your prayers and your life. It means keeping our focus on Him and on His glory over our own. “Prayer is not a convenient device for imposing our will upon God, or for bending his will to ours, but the prescribed way of subordinating our will to his.” When we can’t pray and mean “Your will be done,” we are essentially telling God “My will be done.”
Discerning our motives in prayer isn’t always cut-and-dried. As justified sinners, we should always be suspicious of our sinful hearts. “The temptation to misuse prayer is native to us and comes . . . automatically to every believer,” writes Ole Hallesby.1
Our goal behind evaluating our motives should also be to have a pure heart before God—not necessarily to have prayers answered according to our liking.
The following diagnostic questions overlap a bit, because it’s easier to expose dirty motives by shining light on them from several angles. If you can’t answer the following questions in the affirmative, then your prayers are out of bounds and it’s time to check your heart.
Am I Praying for God’s Glory?
God calls us to do all things for His glory (see 1 Cor. 10:31)— including prayer. This is why Jesus teaches us that “whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13). When we pray for our own glory, we clash with God’s purposes and exalt ourselves over Him. And our sinful motives often disguise themselves so well that we think we’re seeking God’s glory when we aren’t.
W. Bingham Hunter describes one subtle way of secretly seeking your own glory as “praying with faith in your faith.”2 This type of prayer twists the good promise of answered prayer into a formula. If I pray with enough faith, I will get what I want! And this not only doesn’t glorify God but also doesn’t often work. Hunter explains how praying this way leads to frustration:
When the answer is not forthcoming, we are left only with questions: Did I have enough faith? Did my friends who prayed with me have enough faith? Should I have fasted or perhaps claimed a different promise? Attention is centered on prayer methods and techniques for generating faith. Thoughts center on us. Then they begin to shift with measurable envy toward those who apparently had enough faith: Why him or her and not me? The progression may end in speculations about the reality of God’s love, justice and goodness. The results? We feel alienated from ourselves: we have too little faith. We feel alienated from others: they had enough faith. And we feel alienated from God who set up such a system in the first place. Essentially we are telling God how to glorify himself in our lives . . . and he wouldn’t do it.3
Praying for God’s glory means letting His sovereign wisdom decide what to do with your prayers and your life. It means keeping our focus on Him and on His glory over our own. “Prayer is not a convenient device for imposing our will upon God, or for bending his will to ours, but the prescribed way of subordinating our will to his.”4 When we can’t pray and mean “Your will be done,” we are essentially telling God “My will be done.”
A few questions will help you to evaluate whether you are praying for God’s glory:
Would the desired answer to your prayer cause God’s name to be praised?
Would your desired answer to this prayer bring you closer to God or push you away from Him?
How would your desired answer to this prayer impact others? Would it help you to love them more?
Would Jesus pray this prayer in the same situation?5
Am I Praying in Line with Scripture?
This question provides a helpful litmus test for our motives. If we ever pray for something that’s forbidden in Scripture (and thus outside of God’s will), we cannot expect to receive the answer we’re hoping for—and we likely have an idol in our lives to repent of. R.C. Sproul exposes one particularly heinous way of doing this:
Professing Christians often ask God to bless or sanction their sin. They are even capable of telling their friends they have prayed about a certain matter and God has given them peace despite what they prayed for was contrary to His will. Such prayers are thinly veiled acts of blasphemy, and we add insult to God when we dare to announce that His Spirit has sanctioned our sin by giving us peace in our souls. Such a peace is a carnal peace and has nothing to do with the peace that passes understanding, the peace that the Spirit is pleased to grant to those who love God and love His law.6
Don’t miss Sproul’s last point: peace isn’t from God if it’s a “peace” we’re feeling when our actions are flying in the face of scriptural truth. We should weigh every prayer and every motive against God’s Word.7 When we are clearly at odds with the Word, we need to repent. When we aren’t sure, we need to ask God to reveal sin in us and to consider what negative desires and powerful emotions may be warping our prayers.
Am I Pursuing Humility and Holiness?
After James explains the danger of praying with impure motives, he shares how we can repent of them. He quotes from Proverbs, which says that “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6; cf. Prov. 3:34), and then he presents this litany of commands:
Submit yourselves therefore to God.
Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.
Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
Be wretched and mourn and weep.
Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. (James 4:7–9)
And then he closes with what ties everything he’s been saying all together: “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you” (v. 10). Essentially, James sandwiches commands to repent between two calls to humility.
Being humble before God is a key part of testing our motives, because it (1) recognizes that our motives may be out of whack and (2) acknowledges that God both knows our sinful motives and is able to reveal them to us. If we want to properly discern our motives, we need to pursue humility and holiness, because a life of sin and pride will cloud our spiritual vision and make it difficult for us to discern our true motives.
James commands holiness and reconciliation with God. The “double-minded” person mentioned in James 1:8 is someone who claims to love God but actually loves sin. James says in verses 7 and 8 that a double-minded person is unstable in his ways and “must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord.” Does sin have a grip on your heart? Those who love Jesus keep His commandments (see John 14:15). In humility, repent of any double-mindedness in your life and pursue God as your greatest love. A healthy life of prayer must never be divorced from a faithful life of Christian obedience.
This article is an excerpt from the chapter “I Have Mixed Motives” of Kevin Halloran’s book When Prayer Is a Struggle: A Practical Guide for Overcoming Obstacles in Prayer. Pick up a copy of When Prayer Is a Struggle for more gospel encouragement and practical tools for growing in prayer. Visit www.kevinhalloran.net to learn more about the book or to connect with Kevin. Used with permission.
O. Hallesby, Prayer, trans. Clarence J. Carlsen, updated ed. (Minneapolis: Augs- burg Fortress, 1994), 122.
W. Bingham Hunter, The God Who Hears (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 1986), 161.
John R. W. Stott, The Letters of John: An Introduction and Commentary, rev. ed., Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1988), 188.
This last question is a paraphrase of Hunter in The God Who Hears, 198. 76
R.C. Sproul, The Invisible Hand: Do All Things Really Work for Good? (1996; repr., Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2003), 209, quoted in Paul Tautges, Brass Heavens: Reasons for Unanswered Prayer (Adelphi, MD: Cruciform Press, 2013), 27.
It’s also worth mentioning here the utility of regularly praying Scripture, which helps us to keep our hearts and motives tied to the truth of the Word. Doing so is a prayer-filtering mechanism that makes discerning our motives easier and more automatic.
By Cole Newton — 1 year ago
He sent them on their journey with no bread. He forced them to rely upon the provision of the Father for their daily bread. Since they each returned, we can safely conclude that the Father did indeed provide for them. Not one of the twelve starved along the journey. Now just as the Father had given them bread along the way, they returned to have Jesus feed them and a vast crowd with bread, and they even each had a basket full of leftovers! Jesus was teaching them that just as they placed their faith in God, they should also place their faith in Him.
The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things. And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said to him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give it to them to eat?” And he said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” And when they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” Then he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties. And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people. And he divided the two fish among them all. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men.
Mark 6:30-44 ESV
After witnessing the supernatural hand of God against the Egyptians via the ten plagues, the LORD’s guidance as they fled Egypt via the pillars of cloud and fire, and God’s marvelous deliverance through the parting of the Red Sea, the Israelites were finally free from the yoke of Pharaoh’s enslaving hand. They were now free to worship the Most High and to enter into the land of Canaan that God had promised their ancestor Abraham so long ago.
Yet a new problem presented itself. On the other side of the sea was a great wilderness that the great crowd would need to traverse before they could enter the Promise Land. As the people of Israel began their journey through the wilderness, they began to grumble, crying out that God had only delivered them from Egypt in order to have them starve to death out in the desert. The LORD answered their groanings by giving them bread from heaven. As His sheep bleated out, the Shepherd gave them food.
The Return of the Apostles // Verse 30
As is very common to Mark’s Gospel, our present passage links itself to previous ones. Particularly, the words the apostles returned to Jesus remind us of their short-term journey that Christ sent them upon in verses 7-13. Having gone out in pairs to preach the gospel of the kingdom of God and having seen that even Herod has begun pondering the identity of Jesus upon hearing of the miracles that the apostles were working in Jesus’ name, the twelve now return to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. Since they were ministering as ambassadors of Christ, it was only fitting for them to give a report to their Teacher of all that they did.
As we too are our Lord’s ambassadors to the world, His bodily present on earth, we should remember that at the end of our journeys we too will return to Jesus to give Him a report of all that we have done and taught. Of course, let us also remind ourselves that the work of ministry is not exclusively we who bear the title of being a minister. As Paul wrote, God gave leaders to His church “to equip the saints for the work of ministry” (Ephesians 4:11-12). Therefore, it is not only preachers and teachers who will be summoned to give a report; we shall each be called before Him to recount all that we have done and taught. Indeed, the parable of the talents from Matthew 25:14-30 gives us this very warning. We are each given talents by God to steward over. Some receive more, while some receive less. Yet at the end of the parable, they are each called to report on how they stewarded over their talents while their master was away. The servants over five and two talents were both faithful stewards, and their reports were met with praise. The servant over one talent was a slothful and faithless steward who did nothing with the talent given to him, and his report was met with rebuke and punishment. The point of parable is, of course, for us to consider today what kind of stewards we are with the gifts that God has given to us for the advancement of His kingdom. When we give our report to our Lord, we will be found faithful or faithless?
Of course, that does not imply that we will be judged on the last day according to the merit of our own works. If that were the case, then Jesus would not have also taught us these words:
Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
The people that Jesus describes seem to be faithful stewards who have done much labor in Christ’s name, who have been valuable servants of the kingdom. Does this passage not seem to contradict the parable of the talents? A closer glance at both reveals no contradiction at all. In the parable, the servant over one talent confidently declared to his master, “I knew you to be a hard man…” (Matthew 25:24), yet we were just told of the master gladly rewarding his other two servants with much after being faithful with only a little. You see, just like those who cry, ‘Lord, Lord,” in Matthew 7, the servant did not truly know his master. Like Jephthah and Saul, his fundamental lack of understanding the character of his master led him into sin even while attempting obedience. If that sounds harsh, we should remember that the biblical concept of sin is to miss the mark, like an archer who fails to hit his target. This is why the Bible so thoroughly laments ignorance of God. Attempted obedience without a proper knowledge of who God is often results in further sin. Indeed, trying to obey a false notion of God is like an archer who is shooting west even though his target is east. The archer’s skills are worthless if he is not actually shooting in the direction of his target. Therefore, we should take God’s message through Jeremiah to heart:
Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.”
Truly knowing God is the only the real peace that we will have on the day that we stand before our Lord to give our report, and it is the only way for us to be faithful in this life, for we cannot properly serve God without first knowing God.
By Doug Eaton — 3 months ago
These bowls contain every prayer for a believer to be healed of cancer or other illnesses that was not granted. They hold every wordless groan offered in weakness that will not find its final resolution in this life. Finally, they contain all those petitions asking that death would be thwarted, but death still had its way. When the scroll is unrolled, and the bowls are presented in worship, it is as if the Lord is saying, “Your wait is over. I never forgot your prayers, and they are precious to me.”
Revelation gives us a fascinating picture of golden bowls filled with our prayers at the throne of God. What is this telling us? Why would our prayers be presented this way? Let us look at the basic biblical interpretation of this passage and then close with one point of speculation.
Our Heavenly Father knew no one in the Church other than John would see the Revelation; instead, we would read what John wrote. Therefore, there is great wisdom in what was revealed to John because they paint perfect word pictures.
In Revelation, after we see the scroll, which contains the end of evil and the glorious future of the saints, and the lamb who was slain and worthy to open it, the 24 elders surrounding the throne begin to worship. They do so with harps and golden bowls filled with incense which are the prayers of the saints (Revelation 5:8).
Understanding what this picture tells us requires us to consider both the gold and the incense. The golden bowls show us that our prayers are precious to the Lord. We do not store worthless items in golden bowls. We only keep what we cherish in such a valuable vessel. Even though we may feel our prayers are insignificant, the Lord treasures it when his children speak to him. He hears every word. The second thing we see is our prayers are like incense. There are several aspects to our prayers being like incense throughout scripture, but in this instance, the focus seems to be on the sweet-smelling aroma.