Thursday, August 26, 2010

Praying and Poverty of Spirit

“You don’t need self-discipline to pray continuously; you just need to be poor in spirit.”

I read that in Paul Miller's A Praying Life.
Upside down thinking. That'll be the gospel. In my old self I love to think that my ability to be disciplined, or my determination will get me praying. It wont. It doesn't. The gospel shows me my poverty. My bankruptcy. And yet I'm invited. Best news ever.
Matt Hosier said in a sermon on Galatians
"We don't need to struggle and strive for the favour of God... we don't need to come and spend 25 minutes working our way into a place where God might find us acceptable. We come straight to God. Even when you arrive 10 minutes late because you've been having a blazing row with your wife and you walk in, and you don't want to worship God and you don't want to talk to anybody,   and you've just come here because this is what you do and somehow you got here when you didn't want to be here, you can still come straight into the presence of God"
I come in my poverty of spirit because I come because of Jesus.


  1. Of course self-disciplined habits in prayer don't earn us acceptance before the Father, but surely continual prayer still needs that discipline? Continual prayer surely implies regular times set aside for prayer, which surely requires discipline, given by God's grace?

    But praise God that we are acceptable in His presence because of His Son, not our prayer habits!

    (I know I changed continuous to continual above, I assumed that was what was meant. Please correct me if I'm wrong, I'd love to know what continuous prayer is)

  2. I think the point isn't that discipline is bad, but that it's not the ability to be disciplined, but our recognition of our poverty that will draw us to pray more...

  3. Thanks, that clears things up helpfully. Cheers Dave!

  4. I must confess to having a slight unease with what Matt Hosier is saying there. I once heard a similar thing where a person more or less said that it didn't matter if you had slept with your boyfriend/girlfriend the night before, grace means you can just come straight into God's presence. While I have no quibble with the scandalous nature of God's grace, I do wonder whether this approach short-circuits the need for confession and repentance. There isn't a set time-period of penance before we can worship God, but Matt 5:23-24 seems to suggest that sometimes we can't waltz straight into worship without sorting out issues of unforgiven sin first.

  5. Mark - I do agree. I guess it sort of depends what you're coming up against.

    If it's an over-casual approach to God then I agree - though coming to worship the triune God at all is a kind of repentance, right?

    If it's an approach that says I can't come unless everything in my life is right, then Matt's quote certainly applies more - and in preaching on Galatians 3-4 that was more what he was coming up against I think.

  6. ok thanks for the clarification on Matt's quote - makes sense.