Friday, December 16, 2011

Prayer in Harmony With the Destiny of Man--Andrew Murray (Chpt. 18)

I've decided to reprint the very next chapter of Murray's great work because it flows so naturally and logically from the previous one. As I've said before, the entire book is worth reading on a daily basis because of the short, "devotional" style chapters. But the content is also very profound and illuminating. This chapter is just another example of the depth and warmth of Murray's understanding.

-----Chapter 18-----

Prayer in Harmony With the Destiny of Man

Andrew Murray, “With Christ in the School of Prayer” (pg. 121-126)

And he asked them, “Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?” (Matt. 22:20)

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness.” (Gen. 1:26)

     “Whose portrait is this?” By this question Jesus foiled His enemies when they planned to trick Him, and He settled the matter of duty in regard to the tribute. The question and the principle it involves are of universal application, nowhere more truly than in man himself. The image he bears decides his destiny. Bearing God’s image, he belongs to God. Prayer to God is what he was created for. Prayer is part of the wonderful likeness he bears to His divine original; of the deep mystery of the fellowship of love in which the triune god has His blessedness, prayer is the earthly image and likeness.

     The more we meditate on what prayer is, and its wonderful power with God, the more we feel constrained to ask, “Who—and what—is man that such a place in God’s counsels should have been allotted to him?” (cf. Psalm8:4-8). Sin has so degraded him that from what he is now we can form no conception of what he was meant to be. We must turn back to God’s own record of man’s creation to discover what God’s purpose was and what capacities man was endowed with for the fulfillment of that purpose.

     Man’s destiny appears clearly from God’s language at creation. It was to fill, to subdue, and to have dominion over the earth and all that is in it. All three expressions show us that man was meant to rule here on earth as God’s representative. As God’s viceroy, he was to fill God’s place. Subject to God, he was to keep all else in subjection to Him. It was the will of God that all that was to be done on earth should be done through man. The history of the earth was to be entirely in his hands.

     In accordance with such a destiny was the position he was to occupy and the power that was at his disposal. When an earthly sovereign send a representative to a distant province, it is understood that he advises as to the policy to be adopted and that advice is acted on. He is at liberty to apply for troops and the other means needed for carrying out the policy or maintaining the dignity of the empire. If his policy is not approved, he is recalled, to make way for someone who better understands his sovereign’s desires. As long as he is trusted, his advice is carried out. As God’s representatives, man was to have ruled. On his advice and at his request, heaven was to have bestowed its blessing on earth. His prayer was to have been the wonderful, though simple and most natural channel, in which the close relationship between the King in heaven and man, His faithful servant as lord of this world, was to have been maintained. The destinies of the world were given into the power of the wishes, the will, and the prayer of man.

     Of course, with the entrance of sin into the picture, this plan underwent a catastrophic change: man’s fall brought all the creation under the curse. With redemption, the beginning of a glorious restoration was seen. No sooner had god begun in Abraham to form for himself a people from whom kings—even the great King—should come forth than we see what power the prayer of God’s faithful servant has to decide the destinies of those who come into contact with him. In Abraham we see how prayer is not only, or even chiefly, the means of obtaining blessing for ourselves. Rather, it is the exercise of his royal prerogative to influence the destinies of men and the will of God that rules them. Not once do we find Abraham praying for himself. His prayer for Sodom and Lot, for Abimelech, and for Ishmael, prove what power a man who is God’s friend has to create the history of those around him.

     This has been man’s destiny from the start. Scripture no only tells us this but also teaches us how it was that God could entrust man with such a high calling. It was because He had created him in His own image and likeness. The external rule was not committed to him without the inner fitness. Bearing God’s image in having dominion, in being lord of all, had its root in the inner likeness, in his nature. An inner agreement and harmony existed between God and man, an incipient godlikeness, which fitted man to be the mediator between God and His world. Since he was to be prophet, priest, and king, he was to receive and dispense God’s bounty. In bearing God’s image, he could bear God’s rule. Indeed, he was so like God, so capable of entering into God’s purposes and carrying out His plans, that God could trust him with the wonderful privilege of asking and obtaining what the world might need.

     Although sin has for a time frustrated God’s plans, prayer still remains what it would have been if man had never fallen—the proof of man’s godlikeness, his link with the infinite unseen One, the power that is allowed to hold the hand that holds the destinies of the universe. Prayer is not merely the cry of the supplicant for mercy; it is the highest expression of His will by man, who knows himself to be of divine origin, created for and capable of being, in king-like liberty, the executer of the counsels of the Eternal.

     What sin destroyed, grace has restored. What the first Adam lost, the second has won back.  In Christ man regains his original position, and the church, abiding in Christ, inherits the promise “Ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you” (John 15:7).

     By no means does such a promise refer primarily to the grace or blessing we need for ourselves. It refers to our position as fruit-bearing branches of the heavenly Vine, who, like Him, live only for the work and glory of the Father. It is for those who abide in Him, who have forsaken self to abide in Him with His life of obedience and self-sacrifice, those who have lost their life and found it in Him, and are now entirely given up to the interests of the Father and His kingdom. These are they who understand how their new creation has brought them back to their original destiny, has restored God’s image and likeness, and with it the power to have dominion. Such have indeed the power, each in their own circle, to obtain and dispense the powers of heaven here on earth. With holy boldness they may make known what they will. They live as priests in God’s presence. As kings the powers of the world to come begin to be at their disposal.* They enter upon the fulfillment of the promise: “Ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you” (John 15:7).

     Church of the living God, your calling is higher and holier than you know. Through your members, as kings and priests unto God, would God rule the world; their prayers bestow and withhold the blessings of heaven. His elect are not simply content to be saved. Instead, they yield themselves wholly, that through them, just as through the Son, the Father may fulfill all His glorious counsel. In these His elect, who cry day and night unto Him, God would prove how wonderful man’s original destiny was.

     As the image-bearer of God on earth, the earth was indeed given into man’s hands. When he fell, all fell with him; the whole creation groans and travails in pain together. But now he is redeemed, and the restoration of the original dignity has begun. It is God’s purpose that the fulfillment of His eternal purpose and the coming of His kingdom should depend on those of His people who, abiding in Christ, are ready to take up their position in Him their head, the great Priest-King, and in their prayers are bold enough to say what they will that their God should do. As image-bearer and representative of God on earth, redeemed man by his prayers determines the history of this earth. Man was created and has been redeemed to pray, and by his prayer to have dominion.

     Lord, what is man that you are mindful of him? And the son of man, that you visit him? You have made him a little lower than the angels, and have crowned him with glory and honor. You made him to have dominion over the work of your hands. You have put all things under his feet. O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is your name in all the earth!

     Lord God, how low sin has made men sink. How it has darkened his mind that he does not even know his divine destiny: to be your servant and representative. How sad that even your people, when their eyes are opened, are so slow to accept their calling and seek to have power with God in order to have power with men and to bless them.

     Lord Jesus, in you the Father has crowned man with glory and honor and opened the way for us to be what He would have us to be. O Lord, have mercy on your people, and visit your heritage! Work mightily in your church and teach your believing disciples to go forth in their royal priesthood and in the power of prayer, to which you have given such wonderful promises. Teach them to serve your kingdom, to have rule over the nations, and make the name of God glorious in the earth. Amen.

Andrew Murray, With Christ in the School of Prayer, (Bethany House, MN 2002), 121-126.

*God is seeking priests among the sons of men. A human priesthood is one of the essential parts of His eternal plan. To rule creation by man is His design; to carry on the worship of creation by man is no less part of His design.

Priesthood is the appointed link between heaven and earth, the channel of communication between the sinner and God. Such a priesthood, insofar as expiation is concerned, is in the hands of the Son of God alone; insofar as it is to be the medium of communication between Creator and creature, it is also in the hands of redeemed men—of the church of God.

God is seeking kings not from the ranks of angels; fallen man must furnish Him with rulers of His universe. Human hands must wield the scepter; human heads must wear the crown. (Adapted from Dr. H. Bonar, The Rent Veil. No publication date available).