What is Your Prayer Attitude?

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Top Down, Level and Bottom Up Communication
Nearly all serious communication is top to bottom orientation. By this I mean that the top communicates with the bottom and the bottom responds or reacts. Teachers educate students. Parents raise kids. The boss tells the worker what to do. The media informs the public. Politicians, who are supposed to be servants of the people, create laws that tell people what they can and can't do. There are few exceptions. A newborn baby cries when it's hungry or needs fresh diapers and Momma responds. If you hear a mosquito buzzing around your head, you swat at it to prove that you heard, yet are still in control.

God communicates with those who love him and believe on him on a level plane. He created man in his own image. He walked and talked with Adam and Eve in the garden. His eyes move to and fro throughout the earth, seeking those who seek him. He found Noah and communicated with him. He was with Abraham and Moses, with Daniel in the lion's den, with his three friends in the fiery furnace and with Joseph in Egypt. He always seeks fellowship (partnership) with those whose hearts are in tune with his own.

God's communication with evil man is even more amazing. He communicates from the bottom up. He lowered himself and became a man, was born as a baby in a stall, and a servant of all. He died the most horrible death imaginable "for the joy that was set before him." His communication to wicked man is "good news!" John put it this way, We love him because he first loved us.

How Do You Pray?
Many Christians pray as if they are important and God is expected to do what they want him to do. They ask God for things, healing and even help in "top down" prayers that expect a proper response.

When we are on a "level plane" with God, seeking to do his work, we can actually tell Go what we want, need or want him to do. That is the meaning of Psalm 37:4, Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.

Great men of God pray "bottom up" prayers because they see themselves as lowly servants, totally dependant and committed to their Lord's will. Do you have the passion that inspired John Knox to plead, “Give me Scotland ere I die”? Is your attitude that of George Whitefield, who prayed, “O Lord, give me souls or take my soul”? Do you, like Henry Martyn, mourn when you see others trapped in false religion and cry out, “I cannot endure existence if Jesus is to be so dishonored”?

God used those faithful men as powerful tools to bring salvation to dying people. Each of them had a clear and vivid understanding of what is at stake in the gospel — it’s an issue of life or death, an eternity in heaven or hell. Do you realize that your unbelieving family members, your co-workers, and your neighbors will spend forever suffering in torment away from the presence of God if they don’t embrace Christ? That realization should drive you to your knees to plead, not only with them to believe the gospel, but with God to save their souls.

The seventeenth-century English Puritan Richard Baxter wrote, "Oh, if you have the hearts of Christians or of men in you, let them yearn towards your poor ignorant, ungodly neighbors. Alas, there is but a step betwixt them and death and hell; many hundred diseases are waiting ready to seize on them, and if they die unregenerate, they are lost forever. Have you hearts of rock, that cannot pity men in such a case as this? If you believe not the Word of God, and the danger of sinners, why are you Christians yourselves? If you do believe it, why do you not bestir yourself to the helping of others?" (cited in I.D.E. Thomas, ed., A Puritan Golden Treasury" [Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1977].

It is one thing to pray for family and friends, those for whom you have natural affections. But God wants you to pray for all people. Paul writes, First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority (1 Timothy 2:1-2). Kings and people in authority in Paul’s day weren’t bound by civil rights and were often unjust, self-serving, and cruel. Do you pray for the salvation of people like that — those who disagree with you politically, those who advocate ungodly agendas, those who openly embrace sin and reject the Scripture? But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you. Matthew 5:44

The Bible gives several examples of radical evangelistic prayer, even for the worst of sinners. Here are a few examples:

Moses interceded for Israel after catching them in orgiastic idolatry at the foot of Mount Sinai. After he confronted and dealt with their sin, he turned to the Lord and prayed, Alas, this people has committed a great sin, and they have made a god of gold for themselves. But now, if You will, forgive their sin — and if not, please blot me out from Your book which You have written! Moses was willing to forfeit his life for his people, even though they were guilty of wicked rebellion!

While being stoned to death, Stephen followed the Lord’s example by praying for the salvation of his executioners: And they cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul. And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep. (Acts 7:58-60)

Standing among those who killed Stephen was a young man named Saul of Tarsus. His salvation was an answer to Stephen’s prayer. Years later, the apostle Paul communicated the depth of his concern for his people Israel. In Romans 9 he sounds very much like Moses: I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, […]Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation. (Romans 9:1-3; 10:1)

God honored those men’s prayers for the souls of the lost; He’ll honor yours too. Whether friend or foe; whether moral or immoral; whether you know them or not — pray for the lost. For those God brings your way, open your mouth in love and compassion to tell them the truth. Warn them of God’s judgment for their personal offenses against his holiness, but then tell them the good news. There is salvation in Jesus Christ from God’s eternal wrath, if they will only repent and believe. Once you’ve told them the truth, keep praying for them and trust God for the results. You will rejoice as you see God use you as He saves people from their sins and grants them new life in His Son. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. John 15:20

Ralph V Harvey