March 19, 2009

Why Pray? 10: When we are being disciplined


“When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:13-14)

What could be more serious than the plague? More awful than drought or pestilence?

Bear in mind that God is not saying that there just happened to be a drought, or that unfortunately there was a bubonic plague and he hopes that his people can learn from the experience or see a silver lining. God said that he made these things happen. He deliberately, with planning from eternity, sent these disasters onto the heads and into the midst of his own people.

But what could his people have done that would warrant a punishment like that? How could sending those things be a proportionate response to anything?

Because sin separates us from the only thing we absolutely need: reconciliation with God.
More than health, comfort, family or even life, if we do not have reconciliation with God then we do not have anything.

God could have done nothing of course, or put up a small sign somewhere. But he loved his people far too much to wash his hands of them or merely hint at what needed to be done. They were His people, and he wanted them with him – wanted it enough even to do that to them.

How do you react when bad things happen to you? It is tempting to think that perhaps evil is having its way in your life, or God is staying away for a while. If we have a keen sense of our own sin perhaps we think God is punishing us in a merely punitive way, as if Christ didn’t really take all the punishment for our sin and God needs to hit us now and again so that justice can be satisfied. And yet His discipline is only, ever meant to draw you into a closer walk with Him.

Turn back to God in prayer and humble repentance. Your suffering may be discipline to bring you back from sin, or to prove your faith, or to prepare you for service…ask him that whatever the reason, he would draw you close in constant repentance and reliance on him, and that he would give you his comfort.

This should be a central focus of our prayer life at all times but it isn’t which is why God needs to send reminders. Sometimes they are gentle ones, sometimes they are reminders that make us smile as we fall before him. But sometimes his reminders are in the form of painful discipline

As the author CS Lewis said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world”.