My heart became hot within me. As I mused, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue: "O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!"

19 May 2005

On Prayer

A short, helpful article on prayer was forwarded to me today; one sentence, though, gave me pause with this fairly common idea:

Here is the balance to which we must strive: to pray as if it all depends upon God and to work as if it all depends upon us.

I would like to contend that, although this idea seems good and Biblical, it is inconsistent and therefore should be replaced with this one: pray as if it all depends on God and work as if it all depends on God.

God’s Word clearly proclaims the sovereignty of our Creator. It nowhere demands that we labor in the kingdom as if everything depended upon us; to do so would be to affirm one thing theologically and yet to deny it by our lives and attitudes. The spirit behind the idea is probably a great one, desiring that God’s people live with earnest for the glory of Christ – but it ultimately falls flat because it is sub-Biblical.

If God is sovereign, we ought to affirm that in our lives as well as our prayers. The doctrine of Christ’s perfect reign over creation should result in more, not less, earnestness in holy living, more zealous evangelism. The fact that those who believe God’s sovereignty often fail in earnestness and zeal means that we need to live like we believe, not believe one thing (God’s sovereignty) and live another (behavioral Arminianism).

The solution is to believe that God is sovereign over all and then to live like God is sovereign over all. What this will do is give us ridiculous, unlimited amounts of confidence. It will keep us from pride, from believing that Christ’s kingdom depends on me and my efforts. It will allow us to serve with gratitude and love rather than abject servitude and fear (what if I fail? How will the kingdom come then?). So, let’s pray as if it all depends on God and let’s live as if it all depends on God.

I'd again like to say that it was a very fine article that will give the reader much profit and encouragement. Please read the "comment" section where Rev. Ortiz has graciously responded. In the end, the disagreement is slight; hopefully, the point will have been to encourage us all to prayer and zealous living.


Jared said...
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Chris Ortiz said...


Thanks for the invitation, but as you can imagine, my days could easily be filled with responding to critiques. I think you and most readers understand the point I’m trying to make. It’s a popular phrase used within my religious circles and readily understood by those familiar with it. No, it’s not great theology but it makes the point. Your version tends to be too contemplative and lacks the efficacy to make the same thrust.

You write:

"The fact that those who believe God’s sovereignty often fail in earnestness and zeal means that we need to live like we believe, not believe one thing (God’s sovereignty) and live another (behavioral Arminianism)."

Exactly, the "fact" as you say is that a good many folks with good reformed theology are "failing in earnestness and zeal." That's why I didn't appeal to reformed theology to make my point. To say, "live like it all depends upon God" is true in the systematic-theological sense but lacks the force of my statement.

I appreciate your comments. You appear to be a godly and a dear man. I bet you're a great pastor!


Chris Ortiz

Jared said...

This is in response to an email I received from the friend who forwarded me the article. He rightly perceived that I wasn't disagreeing with the heart of the article - but he believes I missed the point of the statement in questoin. I post my reply here to maintain the public-ness of this discussion and because it will help me communicate my thoughts more clearly:

I disagree with part of your assessment. To work “as if” it depended on me means (to my ears) to work with the attitude and thinking and belief that it depends on me. But that’s just not the case. What we ought to do is work in light of reality; work in light of God’s sovereignty. We ought not to work “as if” something was true that’s not true. That’s my point.

Yeah, my disagreement with the article is a little one, but it points to a bigger issue (the point of his article was fine, great in fact – I’m only arguing that this one sentence must be amended). You misunderstand my term “behavioral Arminianism” – I’m not talking about his view of salvation at all, but his view of what we do after salvation. To work as if the kingdom depended on me is to make the mistake the Galatians made (being saved by grace but now continuing apart from the Spirit). I’m sure Rev. Ortiz and I would agree theologically on all these things…I just want his theology to edit that one sentence.

My point is not “communicatively deficient”; our belief in God’s sovereignty is what’s deficient. If we fail to see how God’s sovereignty should lead to more, not less, exertion, then we have grasped nothing of the reformed faith. (I dealt with this in the entry.)

Finally, our problem is not being too theological; it’s that we don’t believe & live our theology. And, because of that, we have to revert to sayings like he used instead of calling ourselves to see how the truth is sufficient.


P.s. – you seek to distinguish between two theological concepts that I don’t think should be very distinguishable from each other; man's salvation and God's use of man in the kingdom are both summed up in the doctrine of sovereignty.