20 August, 2016

FAQ — What about prayer?

Q. 1.God answers prayer and protects your loved ones whether they are saved or not. Is this not a sure infallible proof of common grace?”

To answer this question, one needs to break it down into its constituent parts.
Augustine's mother, Monica, prayed for him before he was converted. God answered her prayers in preserving him and converting him. Clearly no common grace there because a believer was praying for an elect.

So let us consider a believer (X) praying for an unbeliever ( Y ) who is reprobate, though the believer did not know this for God alone knows his decree. X prays for Y's conversion, if God wills it. Y is not converted. No common grace and no free offer there.

X prays for Y that Y is not killed on the icy roads. Y was not killed on the icy road last night. Does this prove common grace? Would Y have been spared on the icy road last night even if X had not prayed for him? Other reprobate unbelievers were not killed on the icy roads either without anyone praying for them. How does this prove common grace?

God has purposes with the continuance of life of unbelieving reprobate people. What would have happened if the pharaoh of the Exodus had died before Moses came to meet him in Exodus 5? How could he have hardened his heart and had his heart hardened by God had he already been dead? For God raised him up in order to show his power him through the 10 plagues and his destruction at the red Sea (Romans 9:17). Pontius Pilate's preservation in life was not through a love of God for him but so that he would fulfil God's role for him in his providence in handing over the Son of God to be crucified for our salvation.

God has all things in His eternal counsel which includes all the lives of all the reprobates. Their continuance in life for a time doesn't prove that God loves them but proves that God's eternal decree must be fulfilled, for the wicked world must fill up the cup of its iniquity.

Thus you see we are back to the old false notion that a mere continuance of life for the reprobate is proof of common grace for them. But the Bible says that it would be better for Judas Iscariot if he had never been born. His hell would not have been as bad if he had died a year before he betrayed the Lord Jesus. Scripture teaches that the wicked keep up wrath onto the day of wrath the longer that they live (Rom. 2:5). (Rev. Angus Stewart)


Q. 2.Does God answer the prayers of unbelievers?”

We believe that a distinction needs to be made here between God’s hearing and answering prayers in His love and grace on the one hand, and in His wrath on the other hand. We also believe that this distinction is biblical.
It is true, of course, that God hears every prayer that is made, since He is the One who sees and knows all things. Even a verse like Proverbs 28:9 implies that God does take notice of the “prayers” even of the wicked. He does not, however, hear and answer them in His love and grace, and in this sense is sometimes said in Scripture not to hear them at all (Is. 1:15; Mic. 3:4).
Indeed, God sometimes turns away the prayers of His own people when they walk in their own ways. Psalm 66:18 speaks most clearly of this: “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” That is a dreadful thing, but a means God uses to bring back His wayward people to Himself.
Similarly, it is sometimes true that God also answers the prayers of the wicked—even of His people when they act wickedly—but in His displeasure and wrath. Psalm 106:13-15 speaks of this. God gave the Israelites the meat they asked for, but gave it in His anger and sent along with it “leanness into their soul.”
That is an angry answer to prayer. It is also a reason why we must be very careful in prayer. Not every answer is a gracious answer and not every answer shows that God is pleased. Many take it for granted that just because they have gotten what they asked for, that God is pleased with them. One must be sure that the request is not made in lust (as with the Israelites), i.e., in sinful covetousness, and by way of tempting God. God can give things in order to set people in slippery places and to bring them down to destruction (Ps. 73:5, 7, 18, 19)!
The rules for prayer laid down by Scripture must be followed. Prayer must be made to the one true God as He reveals Himself in His Word (John 4:22, 23). It must be made first for those things He has commanded in His Word and then for all other things in submission to His will (Matt. 6:10). So, too, humility (Luke 18:9-14) and faith (James 1:5, 6) are necessary in prayer.
Such prayer God not only hears, but delights in (Prov. 15:8). Such prayer He answers in His love and grace, and His answer is always exceeding abundant beyond what we would ever ask or think (Eph. 3:20). (Ronald Hanko, “Covenant Reformed News,” vol. 5, no. 2)


Q. 3.Should children be taught to pray?”

It is our conviction that this question must be answered in connection with what Scripture says about children, especially the children of believers. This will decide whether one can and ought to teach them to pray.
If we believe, as many do, that there is no difference between the children of believers and unbelievers, then there is NO reason at all to teach them to pray. They themselves, then, are incapable of being taught to pray, of praying in faith and of using the language of prayer (“Our Father …”).  Not only that, but, in praying, they will be making themselves an abomination to God (Prov. 15:8; 28:9).
Prayer is a deeply spiritual activity, far beyond the capacity and desire of a heart that has not been touched by the wonderful grace of God. It is, as one Reformed creed says, “The chief part of thankfulness to God” for that great salvation He has freely given us through our Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of Jesus Christ.  No unbeliever or “little viper,” as Jonathan Edwards once called his children, can engage in it.
Those who believe that there is no difference between children of believers and unbelievers, therefore, would be more consistent if they were like people with whom I am acquainted. These people, believing their children to be unsaved, will not allow them to pray the Lord’s Prayer, because it begins with the words, “Our Father.”
We believe, however, that Christians should teach their children to pray and that they should do this believing that there is a difference between their children and the children of unbelievers. That difference lies in the promise and grace of God.
God promises that He will be the God of believers and of their children (Gen. 17:7; Acts 2:39). By virtue of that promise, the children of believers (even when one parent is unbelieving) are “holy” (I Cor. 7:14).
We do not conclude from this that all our children are saved. There is no warrant for believing that in Scripture. Nevertheless, we do believe that God who promises does not change or lie (Heb. 6:17-19), and that He will find His elect among our children by the power of His sovereign grace. It is in that hope that we baptise our children and in that same hope that we teach them to pray.
In other words, we teach them to pray in the confidence that God will bless that instruction and use it to fulfil His own immutable promise to be our God and the God of our children after us. And, we not only teach them to pray, but in all things bring them up in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). (Ronald Hanko, “Covenant Reformed News,” vol. 5, no. 3)

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