Dear CSOPC brothers and sisters,
Our Lord is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Seasons come and go, years come and go, things change all around us – but our Lord never changes. He never changes in his love of his people. He never changes in his purposes for their good. He never changes in his mercy and goodness towards his church. Thus as we turn the calendar to a new year tomorrow, may the constancy of our Lord be our rock and our foundation. May you know more of the grace and love of Christ in this coming year. And may we pray for the Lord’s sustaining grace as Cornerstone enters this new year.
Please take note of the following announcements:
- This Sunday we will collect the deacon’s offering and will celebrate the Lord’s Supper.
- Also this Sunday we will enjoy our fellowship lunch. The church will provide sandwiches.
- The session has called a congregational meeting for Sunday, 1/11, for the purpose of presenting the budget and discussing the upcoming year.
- Our monthly prayer meeting is scheduled for Wed, January 7th at 7:00. Location TBA.
- The join Providence / Cornerstone Spring retreat is scheduled for April 26-28. Details to come.
- Finally, this week’s devotion (attached) is a reflection on prayer according to God’s will from 1 John.
From the Pastor’s Desk
“Prayer In His Name”
1 John 5:14, “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.”
There are certain texts in Scripture that are more prone to be ripped from their context and misinterpreted to the detriment of God’s people. One such text is 1 John 5:14, “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us” (also see John 16:23-24). As we consider this verse, we need to ask two questions: what this verse does not mean; and second, what this verse does mean.
First, this verse does not mean that we are to pry into God’s secret will; and only then are we to pray. There are some things God simply chooses not to reveal to us (see Deut 29:29). Often the big questions of life fall into this category (“who will I marry … what job will I receive … etc). Moreover, this verse does not mean that so long as we slap an ‘in Jesus’ name’ on the end of our prayer, God will grant us whatever we wish. Speaking the words, ‘in Jesus’ name,’ is not a magic formula that turns the Almighty God of the Universe into our private genie. This ‘cosmic genie’ view – often promoted by the prosperity preachers of the day – flies in the face of Scripture and renders God our servant as opposed to being our King.
How then are we to understand this verse? What is the prayer that the Lord assures us he hears? The text tells us clearly: “if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.” What then is God’s will for us? What has God revealed to us in his word regarding his will for us? Most notably, he wills our sanctification – our growth in grace (1 Thess 4:3; also see 1 Thess 5:14-22). God’s ultimate purpose in the lives of his children is to conform them into the image of his Son (Rom 8:28-29). His purpose is that we would reflect Christ in all that we do. Furthermore, the context of the passage supports this interpretation. Verse 13 speaks of the faith that rests in the name of God’s Son; that is, it speaks of saving faith. And what is saving faith but trust that rests in and receives God’s word and his promises. And what is it that God promises us? He promises us that he will refine us and cause us to resemble his Son. Put simply, the prayer that God assures us he hears is the prayer that conforms to his will for us. To pray in Jesus’ name is to pray in conformity with his will for our life. And his will for the life of a believer is greater and greater conformity to his own image.
And brothers and sisters, this is a bold prayer. For the Lord will do whatever it takes to shape us into his image. But at the same time, it is a prayer for joy and happiness. Indeed our greatest joy comes in resembling our Lord and King. Thus, to ask the Lord for joy and happiness is not to ask him for greater financial security – it is not to ask for him for that job promotion – it is not to ask him for worldly success and status. It is to ask him to make us more like our Savior. Ultimately, prayer according to God’s will is prayer to make us look like Jesus. It is this prayer that our Heavenly Father always hears – and it this prayer that will bring glory to our Heavenly Father.
Rev. Robert Arendale, Pastor of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church (OPC), www.csopc.org