In this morning's Scripture reading I noticed something that is going to make my praying a lot easier from here on out:
"But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your father who is in secret. And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you" (Matthew 6:6).
God rewards you for praying! I know we don't like to talk much about rewards in the same breath as Christian living because it makes us look mercenary and less spiritual. But God talks about rewards, so who am I to refuse a divine incentive? I know that there will be crowns distributed on graduation-from-the-late-great-planet-earth night. Here are a few teasing hints:
"Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable" (1 Corinthians 9:25).
"For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you?" (1 Thessalonians 2:19)
"Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing" (2 Timothy 4:8).
"And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will received the unfading crown of glory" (1 Peter 5:4).
"Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life" (Revelation 2:10).
"And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward" (Matthew 6:5---the inference is that you can opt for reward here or in heaven).
I used to think the "reward" of praying was receiving what you asked for, period. And I certainly appreciate it when God grants what I ask. But according to this verse, we receive reward just for the asking. Whether the Lord deems it in my best interest or not to answer my prayer, He is delighted that I asked. God, unlike some other people in your life, likes to be asked for favor. Many Old Testament figures (the Gibeonites come to mind, and many Israelite kings) got into trouble because they did not ask.
Last autumn I prayed that God would heal my sleep. (He has since done that, by the way.) I prayed and even got the elders to pray over me---and sleep was not forthcoming for many subsequent weeks. My friend David, who was the one who had counseled me to go to the elders in the first place, asked the Lord, "Why didn't you honor her prayer?" David immediately heard in his spirit: "I did hear it; she has treasure in heaven."
This was a possibility that hadn't occurred to me when I had thought that prayer requests suggest only two possible outcomes: (1) request granted; (2) request not answered. But now two additional responses from God present themselves: (3) request granted and reward stored in heaven; (4) request not granted and reward stored in heaven.
Who would have thought that God's very commands are the ways he uses to bless us?
To hear commentaries by Andrée Seu, click here.