Some of the comments on the prayer post were exceptional. I thought it worth interaction in a post, rather than just the comment thread. It'll give me an opportunity to expand a bit.
I'll skip the frankly silly ones that generously (but inadvertently?) prove my point, by announcing Pope-like affirmations of sheer tradition and sentimentality, without even a pretence of engaging Scripture. Okey doke?
Now to the comments:
jsb—Fair enough point about Mark 9:29 (I believe that, and not v. 27, is the verse you meant). My point wasn't to say that prayer is nothing, but to say it isn't what Scripture doesn't say it is.
So to that, I'd point out that casting out demons was a directive Christ specifically gave to His apostles (Mark 3:13-15). Praying for the effective obedience of God's Word is right in line with what I'm saying.
Also, doesn't James 1:5 promise a response from God short of prophecy, i.e. wisdom?
Chris Anderson gave a great response to that, I thought. "...God's promise to give wisdom in Proverbs 2:6-9, follows several commands to diligently seek wisdom in Proverbs 2:1-5. So the promised wisdom comes, but it comes as I study the Bible; God doesn't put it under my pillow while I sleep."
I'd also add that the Holy Spirit is in our hearts, which is to say our minds. He can direct our thoughts and plans from behind the scenes (Nehemiah 2:12; 7:5; Proverbs 21:1; 2 Timothy 2:7).
You then ask about a comment of John MacArthur's. I'm no MacArthur scholar, and decline the opportunity. If Phil would like to offer his thoughts, that'd be terrific.
I do think we can retrospectively and fallibly see times when our apparently-solitary thinking, planning, analysis, and decision-making had been directed by God from "behind the scenes," as it were. That is not only on a different continent, but on a different planet than direct, inerrrant, verbal revelation such as prophets received (see the previous Nehemiah references).
Later, jsb, you bring up Packer. I just have never been able to view his work the same since his really pathetic Keep in Step with the Spirit, or since reading Iain Murray's Evangelicalism Divided. But insofar as what you quote boils down to saying that that God, in response to prayer, can direct us in Bible study (2 Timothy 2:7), and that these insights are worth recording as insights and not low-octane revelation, I'd enthusiastically agree.
Yes, Mark Hanson, God answers our prayers, always, without fail—by fulfilling our request, or doing something better. I spoke specifically of waiting for God to engage us in dialogue. Two different things.
Tom Chantry, thanks for your thought. Perhaps akin to what you said, it may happen during prayer that God the Holy Spirit directs our mind to Scripture, or even into fruitful thinking. Or He may not. I have certainly had such times, when God "speaks" to me by directing my mind through in-context, relevant Scripture. And I've had many times when He hasn't, when I struggle horribly even to focus my concentration on prayer (Psalm 86:11 itself has often been my prayer). Nothing in Scripture warrants our judging our prayers by the presence or absence of such phenomena. He's not a tame lion; maybe more to the point, He's not our trained dog.
And your 3:55 AM post had some really wonderful and well-put thoughts.
Mike D. asks about the "conversation that Abraham has with the LORD in Genesis 18 (as he pleads with God not to destroy Sodom if there are x number of righteous men living there), Psalm 3:4 (To the LORD I cry aloud, and he answers me from his holy hill), and Psalm 120:1 (I call on the LORD in my distress, and he answers me)."
Good questions. As I said, God does respond to prayer; that's different than saying that He engages us in verbal dialogue, or the modern extra-Biblical fantasies of ooey-gooey ineffible low-octane sorta-revelation.
As to Abraham, he was a prophet (Genesis 20:7), and indeed had verbal dialogue with God. You and I aren't prophets. We share that in common with everyone else.
J & J Bible Ministry—I don't have very specific thoughts about "See You at the Pole" prayer meetings, per se. If these are Christian kids gathering to pray publicly, and thus bearing witness to their faith in public, I'm inclined to say "You go, kids." If they're ecumenical meetings of Christians, Mormons, Roman Catholics, angel-worshipers, Wiccans, god-talking stoners, and whatevers... I think you can guess what I'd say. And again with the Proverbs 28:9.
C. T. Lillies—"So Dan, when are you going to do one on laying on of the hands?" How about "Never"? Does "never" work for you? Let's say "never." (c;
NOTE: when I wrote this, the last comment was 9:33 AM, September 22, 2006 .
Saturday the 23rd finds me another year further from the womb and closer to the tomb, should the Lord tarry. I delightedly share that birthday with my oldest son, Matthew. He, Josiah and I plan to be up in the Sierra, fishing, hiking, barbecuing, and just enjoying. (In my case trying to prove that advanced and extreme old age has not yet made a completely bedridden invalid of me.)
So I probably won't be able to interact much.
I thought about sharing my deep and significant thoughts, gained over the last year of my pilgrimage. But I don't know that I have that many, beyond what I share with you every week.
Which brings me to something I do want to say. As I think over the past year, one of my dominant thoughts is just how much I've enjoyed being a Pyro, and how terribly grateful I am to Phil for giving me the opportunity. Many were astonished when he invited me, never having heard of me. But I can assure you, none was more surprised than I! (Even now, my own blog is just a "crawly amphibian"!) Honestly, I was afraid even to answer his email of invitation, fearing that he might say, "Oh, sorry; wrong address!"
The opportunity to share what God's been gracious enough to give me with so many good brothers and sisters has been a highlight of my life and ministry. Nobody, Phil included, can know how much it means to me. I thank God regularly for this open door.
And thank you, Phil, for the opportunity.
And thank you, Gentle Readers, for taking the time to read, and to interact with, my scribblings here. Your graciousness and encouragement is deeply appreciated.