Letter from John Woodhouse

Dear friends

I wonder whether our prayers these days are too bold. Is there an assumption in some of our praying that — not to put too fine a point on it — we are doing a rather noble thing by taking the trouble to pray, and we do not think for a moment that there is any question about God being pleased that we have done so?

If there is a grain of truth in this observation, we would do well to consider that prayer ought to be the most humbling of all human activities. To pray is not a virtuous act, but an undeserved privilege. To turn our minds towards God must involve recognising his glory and our unworthiness. To pray to God is to submit to him in a way that undermines all arrogance and self-confidence.

Listen to the voices of prayer we find in the Scriptures, and consider whether they present a contrast to our over-confident prayers:

“Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you.” (Psalm 143:2)

“O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules. … O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by your name. For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your mercy. O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive.” (Daniel 9:4, 5, 18, 19)

“… we are the clay, and you are the potter; we are all  the work of your hand.” (Isaiah 64:8)

Peter puts it like this: “Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore under the mighty hand of God …” (1 Peter 5:5, 6)

The humble pray-er need not despair at his or her unworthiness. We pray because of the mercy of God towards us in Jesus Christ. Prayer therefore should be the most humbling thing we ever do.

John Woodhouse
Acting Senior Minister