“Rejoice in Hope, Be Patient in Tribulation, Be Constant in Prayer” by John Piper (Hope in Jesus Christ)

REJOICE IN HOPE, BE PATIENT IN TRIBULATION, BE CONSTANT IN PRAYER” BY JOHN PIPER

 Romans 12:12 “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”

My hope is that this message and this week will launch you with new faith that prayer is God’s path to hope and joy and endurance and love, and with new resolve to make time to pray regularly alone and with your family and with some group of fellow believers.

What Does It Mean to “Be Constant in Prayer”?
First, let’s first talk about the meaning of “Be constant.” Then let’s put this call to be constant in prayer in connection with what we saw last week in the rest of verse 12. Then let’s see it illustrated in Ephesians 1.

The word “constant” here doesn’t mean that every minute you are praying. It means persist in prayer. Persevere in it. Stay at it. Be devoted to it. Don’t give up or slack off. Be habitual. It’s the opposite of random, occasional, sporadic, intermittent. In other words, Paul is calling all Christians to make prayer a regular, habitual, recurring, disciplined part of your life. Treat prayer the way you treat eating and sleeping and doing your job. Don’t be hit and miss about it. Don’t assume it will fill in the cracks of other things. Dealing with God in prayer deserves more than a dial-up on the fly.

He is, of course, available any time. And he loves to help any time. But he is dishonored when we do not make time in our day to give him focused attention. All relationships suffer without regular focused attention. Paul is calling all of us to a life or regular, planned meetings with God in prayer in which we praise him for who he is, and thank for what he has done, and ask him for help, and plead the cause of those we love, including the peoples of the world.

So “be constant in prayer” in this new year. Ask God to help you. Resolve to use your sanctified will to make it happen. Plan the time and the place and the method. (For the most practical things I have written on how to be constant in prayer, see pages 155-173 of When I Don’t Desire God.)

How Does the Call to Constant Prayer Relate to the Rest of Verse 12?
Now how does this persistent prayer relate to the rest of verse 12 and what we saw last time? Romans 12:12 says, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” We also saw that the whole paragraph makes love the visible overflow of rejoicing in hope. So when we put it all together it looked like this:

First, tribulation is the normal environment where we live. It’s the soil where we are planted in this fallen world. Job 5:7 says, “Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward.” Job 14:1 says, “Man who is born of a woman is few of days and full of trouble.” If you have not tasted this, you will. Learn now that tribulation in this world is normal for the Christian.

Second, Christ has broken into our tribulation (Galatians 4:4-6) and became the ground and goal of our unshakeable hope. He became man and embraced all our suffering. He chose it. He carried it. And in his death and resurrection he defeated it. All of it.

The moral evil and the physical evil. Sin, Satan, sickness, sabotage—Christ defeated them all by dying in our place and rising form the dead. In this triumph he secured for his people—all those who trust him—freedom from sin, freedom from Satan, freedom from sickness, and freedom from sabotage, partially now and perfectly in the age to come.

In other words, Jesus Christ has become the ground of our hope. And he himself is the goal of our hope (Romans 5:1-2, 6).

Therefore, third, in the tribulation of life we can and do rejoice. For those who know and trust Jesus Christ, tribulation does not destroy joy, it drives the roots of joy down deep into hope. So Paul says, “rejoice in hope.” “Sorrowful yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10) is the spirit of all joy in the seasoned Christian life.

Many of our greatest hymns were born in suffering and capture this truth that tribulation is normal here and joy grows with deep roots in this soil. For example, have you ever thought about the paradox of the first verse of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”? It pictures the church as the true Israel in exile here in this world.

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee O Israel!

Now we mourn in this exile far from our perfect heavenly home where every tear will be wiped away. But even now, “Rejoice! Rejoice!” Why? Rock-solid certain hope! “Emmanuel shall come!” He has come once and purchased our freedom from all sin and Satan and sickness and sabotage. And he will come to perfect it for his true Israel.

In this we rejoice.

Fourth, that joy sustains patient endurance. Verse 12 says, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation.” Joy in hope is what enables this patient endurance. Without hope and the joy that flows back to us now from hope, we could not endure the tribulations appointed for us.

Fifth, this endurance through tribulation by means of joy in hope is what sustains the sacrifices that love demands.

The best illustration of this is Jesus himself in Hebrews 12:2, “For the joy that was set before him [he] endured the cross.” The greatest act of love that has ever been performed was sustained by the joy of hope.

“For the joy set before him” he died for us. How do you keep on loving people, and sacrificing to do them good, the way Jesus did? For the joy set before you, that streams back into the present and becomes your strength (Nehemiah 8:10).

So rejoice in hope, and by means of that hope-sustained joy, patiently endure your tribulation in the path of love. And how does prayer fit in? It is God’s appointed means (along with the word, which we will see next time) to awaken and sustain hope.

And since hope is the key to joy in tribulation, and joy is the key to endurance, and endurance is the key to love—prayer, as the key to hope, is at the bottom of everything in the Christian life.

So let’s look at one biblical illustration of how prayer awakens and sustains our hope.

Paul’s Hope-Awakening, Hope-Sustaining Prayer

Ephesians 1:15 is a prayer: “For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.”

So he is praying for Christians. “I have heard of your faith . . . therefore I am praying for you.” We should sit up and take notice. Here is a God-inspired way of praying for yourself and other believers. Paul is praying for all Christians here. So this applies to us. This is part of what we should pray. First give thanks, then ask for what we need.

Now what does Paul ask for? What is the deep need of every Christian? First, Paul makes a single request in verse 17, and then he breaks it down into three specific requests, all relating to hope.

Look first at the single, general request, verse 17: “. . . that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him.”

The deepest need of every person is to know God. Not just to know about him, but to know him as your personal Creator, Redeemer, Judge, and Friend. So his first request is “that God . . . may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him.” Do you know God? Really know him? Or more helpfully, we should ask, are we growing in our knowledge of God? Are we going deeper in how well we know God? This happens, Paul shows us, by praying for it. And this is not a one-time prayer for Paul. It is continual. “I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers . . . that you might know God.” Be constant in this prayer! Pray this for yourself continually. Pray this for your family. Pray this for the church and especially her leaders.

More specifically in verse 17 he prays that we would have a “spirit of wisdom and revelation” so that we can know God. We cannot know God without the help of the Holy Spirit. And what the Holy Spirit does is to awaken and transform our spirit so that we can see and savor the wisdom and revelation that God gave to his apostles and prophets. He is a Spirit of wisdom and revelation, and he creates a spirit of wisdom and revelation.

When you read the Bible or listen to a Bible-saturated sermon you are hearing the wisdom and revelation of God. But what happens? Do you see it? Does it have an effect on you? Does it move you? Does it make you hungry for more of God? Does the wisdom and revelation appear beautiful to you? Do they taste sweet? Can you say with the psalmist, “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Psalm 119:103)?

If not, the first step in the remedy is prayer.

“Father, grant me a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of yourself. Please, don’t leave me to myself. I am so worldly. My thoughts and feelings are so unspiritual. I scarcely feel any awe or trembling or sense of spiritual beauty or sweetness or glory. Have mercy and by your Spirit awaken in me a spirit of wisdom and revelation so that when I read or hear your wisdom and your revelation I will have ears to hear and eyes to see the wonder of it (Psalm 119:8).”

Pray that for yourself. Be constant in that prayer. God will show you more than you ever dreamed he would.

Now in verses 18 Paul prays in different words what he has just prayed for generally. The focus of all our knowing and all our seeing and all our savoring—all God’s wisdom and all God’s revelation—is God himself. That is why the first petition in verse 17 is that we might know him: “. . . A spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him.” But now he breaks this down into three requests.

Another way of speaking about a “spirit of wisdom and revelation” is to speak of the “eyes of the heart being enlightened to know.” So that’s what Paul prays in verse 18. He tells the Ephesians that he asks God that “having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know . . .” Then he asks that they know three things with the eyes of the heart.

Before we look at them take note here of this phrase “eyes of the heart.” That is what we need to have enlightened.

The glory of God in his wisdom and revelation is not seen by the physical eye. You can read and hear God’s revelation till you are blue in the face, and if the eyes of your heart are not enlightened, you will not see and savor the beauty and sweetness of God’s wisdom and revelation. You will not know God.

Something must happen to us. We must have a heart that sees spiritual reality. This is a gift from God. That is why Paul is praying for it. The things we need most, we cannot get on our own.

That is why prayer is utterly crucial in the Christian life. When someone says, “I get along just fine without prayer,” they don’t know what they are missing. They are missing it now. They will miss it forever. If you can get something now on your own, you will lose it at death. It’s not worth much.

But if you pray for what you cannot get on your own now, and God gives it to you—a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him, that is, the enlightenment of the eyes of your heart to know him—you will not lose that at death. And it will give you sweetness of pleasures now and inexhaustible joys for eternity. That is what we should pray for.

Now notice the connection with hope. Three things Paul asks that we would be able to see and know with the enlightened eyes of the heart— 1) Verse 18b: “what is the hope to which he has called you”; 2) verse 18c: what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints” (that is, the inheritance that God is and gives to the saints); and 3) verse 19: “and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe.”

The power is part of the promise of hope, because without this divine power we won’t make it to the inheritance. God keeps the inheritance in heaven for us, and God keeps us for the inheritance, lest we fall and give up on hope in the midst of our tribulation (see 1 Peter 1:4-5)

“O God, awaken and sustain my hope in you. Be my treasure now. And be my inheritance always. Please open the eyes of my heart to see the wonder that you are. Grant me the spiritual taste buds to taste and see and savor that all you are for us in Jesus is better than all the world. And so sustain my hope. And may this hope sustain my joy in tribulation and may this joy sustain my endurance and may this endurance sustain my love for people, and may my love make you irresistibly attractive to the world.”

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books, including Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist, and most recently Expository Exultation: Christian Preaching as Worship.

“Born in The Day”, a worship poem from L.Willows (Love, God’s Presence, Prayer)

Born in The Day

There – gathered, swept, in the Light of God’s midst.
Hearts were ablaze like fires, sun kissed.
Dances unwound, that spun like gold,
To the near and the vast from The Beloved’s hold.

All of God’s children were filled from above
They hastened to hear -to listen, to love.
Marked by time, by the winds that call,
Those were the ones that prayed with enthrall.

Born in The Day when Promise took hold,
hearts were encircled, embraced by Loves’ gold.
There -gathered, swept, in the Light of God’s midst.
Hearts were ablaze like fires, sun kissed.

© 2020 Linda Willows

 Isaiah 9:6 –For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

1 Chronicles 29:11 —Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all.

“The Prayer of Worship and Adoration”, by J. Oswald Sanders from the C.S. Lewis Institute (Elements of Prayer, Through Christ Alone)

 

Prayer: Worship & Adoration by J. Oswald Sanders

Reprinted by permission from his book Prayer Power Unlimited (Source: C.S. Lewis Institute, Knowing and Doing )

A notable lesson in prayer was learned by the author when he read that in prayer there are at least five elements that should be present in a well-balanced prayer life. In a sense, prayer cannot be analyzed, since it is a unity and the outpouring of the single life of the one who prays. Yet in another sense, it can be divided into its constituent elements.

“The fact that [prayer] is worship, and the further fact that worship may be expressed in various forms,” wrote H. W. Frost, “makes analysis possible….Prayer is indeed one. But also it is multiform.”

The five enumerated elements are: worship, or adoration; thanksgiving; confession; petition; and intercession. This concept opened a new world of prayer, for hitherto his prayers had been almost entirely petition. Now the prayer life embraces whole new areas of spiritual experience.

Our Lord’s immediate answer to the request of His disciples, “Lord, teach us to pray,” was, “When you pray, say: ‘Father’” (Luke 11:2). In other words, prayer begins with God. The pattern prayer He gave them was halfway completed before He prayed for personal needs. The concerns and interests of God came first.

This is a supremely important lesson. If God is not given the chief place in our praying, our prayers will be anemic. When our thoughts begin with Him, love is kindled and faith stimulated. So our first lesson will be concerned with Him. We shall consider worship, or adoration, for this is involved in the petition “hallowed be Thy name” (v. 2).

Dr. R. A. Torrey, who was God’s instrument to bring revival to many parts of the world, testified that an utter transformation came into his experience when he learned not only to pray and return thanks, but to worship—asking nothing from God, seeking nothing from Him, occupied with Himself, and satisfied with Himself.

The idea of worship is common to the whole human race. But as generally used, the word worship seldom conveys its full scriptural content. It means “to bow down or prostrate oneself.” Worship is the adoring contemplation of God as He has revealed Himself in Christ and in the Scriptures. It is the act of paying honor and reverence to God. 

When we pray “Hallowed be Thy Name” we are worshipping God.

F. W. Faber caught the sense of the word in these lines:

How wonderful, how beautiful, the sight of Thee must be,
Thine endless wisdom, boundless power, and awful purity.
O how I fear Thee, living God, with deepest, tenderest fears,
And worship Thee with trembling hope, and penitential tears.

The Old English form of the word, worthship, gives an interesting sidelight on its meaning, implying worthiness on the part of the one who receives the honor. This is reflected in the apocalyptic ascription of praise to Christ: “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive… honor and glory and blessing” (Rev. 5:12).

Worship flows from love, and where there is little love there will be little worship. But there can be an element of selfishness even in love. We can and should worship God in gratitude for what He has done for us, but it reaches a higher level when we worship Him simply for what He is, for the perfections and excellences of His own being.

“I have known men,” said Thomas Goodwin, “who came to God for nothing else but just to come to Him, they so loved Him. They scorned to soil Him and themselves with any other errand than just purely to be alone with Him in His presence.”

Worship, then, is the loving ascription of praise to God for what He is, both in Himself and in His ways. It is the bowing of the innermost spirit in deep humility and reverence before Him.

When Scipio Africanus returned to Rome after a resounding victory, he rode in triumph, followed by his captives. As he went, he scattered the largess of the victor to the crowds that lined the way. Some were stirred to gratitude by his liberality; some because he had rolled away from their homes the fear of the invading army; still others, forgetful of their personal benefits, praised the qualities of the victor—his courage, resourcefulness, liberality. It was in this last group that the highest element of worship was present.

Worship can be wordless. “My soul, be thou silent unto God,” said the psalmist (Psalm 62:5, ASV, marg.). There are times when words are an intrusion, times when the worshipper is hushed into awed silence by the ineffable Presence and can only be silent to God. A single word can enshrine a wealth of worship, as when the word Rabboni fell from Mary’s lips (John 20:16).

But worship must be “in truth” (John 4:24, KJV), that is, free from mere profession or pretense. Brother Lawrence, that saint of the kitchen, learned that to worship God in truth is to acknowledge Him to be what He is, and to acknowledge ourselves to be what we are.

How Worship is Stimulated

The scholar in the school of prayer may feel that God seems far away and unreal, so that attempts to worship Him seem a farce.

The question arises, How can I know God better so that I can worship Him more worthily?

God has granted a partial revelation of Himself in the wonders of nature. “The heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1, KJV). We learn there of His almighty power, His transcendent beauty, His unsearchable wisdom. But nature does not reveal Him as a God of love and mercy.

Only “in the face of Jesus Christ” will we see the full blaze of the divine glory (2 Cor. 4:6, KJV). All the fullness of God dwells in Him in bodily form (Col. 1:19), and no worship that ignores Christ is acceptable to God, for it is through Christ alone that we have access to the Father.

In Thee, most perfectly expressed,
The Father’s glories shine,
Of the full deity possessed, Eternally Divine!
Worthy, O Lamb of God, art Thou,
That ev’ry knee to Thee should bow.
Josiah Condor

This raises a second question: How can I know Christ, who alone reveals God?

The answer is, of course, that we know Christ primarily through the Scriptures, which are the only tangible means of knowing Him. “You search the Scriptures…and it is these that bear witness of Me” (John 5:39). In them is to be found the complete and satisfying interpretation of God in Christ.

The Scriptures are rich in material to feed and stimulate worship and adoration—especially the Psalms, which are God’s inspired prayer book. As you read them, turn them into prayer. Vast tracts of truth await our exploration. Great themes abound—God’s holiness, sovereignty, truth, wisdom, faithfulness, patience, love, mercy—all of which will call forth our worship.

The use of a good hymnbook in private devotions can be a great aid to worship. Not all of us find it easy to express our deepest feelings or to utter the love of our hearts to God. We are very conscious of the poverty of our thoughts of God and the inadequacy of the words in which we express them. But we can appropriate the outpouring of worship and praise of men and women whom the Spirit has gifted to express these thoughts in verse. Try using a hymnbook regularly.

We should guard against the idea that worship is confined to the realm of thought, for Scripture links worship with service. During the temptation in the wilderness, our Lord quoted the Old Testament: “You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only” (Matt 4:10, italics added; cf. Deut 6:13, marg.). We should not separate what God has joined. Worship is no substitute for service, nor is service a substitute for worship. True worship will inevitably find expression in loving, sacrificial service.

PRAYER
Worthy of praise from every mouth,
of confession from every tongue,
of worship from every creature
Is Thy glorious Name, O Father, Son and Holy Ghost;
Who didst create the world in Thy grace
and by Thy compassion didst save the world.
To Thy majesty, O God, ten thousand times ten
thousand bow down and adore,
Singing and praising without ceasing, and saying,
Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts;
Heaven and earth are full of Thy praises;
Hosanna in the highest.
Nestorian Liturgy

A native of New Zealand, the late J. Oswald Sanders (1902-1992) was a consulting director for Overseas Missionary Fellowship, the organization founded by Hudson Taylor in 1865. He preached and taught in conferences in many countries and wrote over 40 books on the Christian life, including The Incomparable Christ, Satan Is No Myth, and Enjoying Intimacy With God. He received the Order of the British Empire for Christian service and theological writing.

Source: Knowing and Doing, C.S. Lewis Institute (Learn More)

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Knowing & Doing is published by C.S. Lewis Institute; 8001 Braddock Road, Suite 301; Springfield, VA 22151. Portions of the publication may be reproduced for noncommercial, local church or ministry use without prior permission. Electronic copies of the PDF files may be duplicated and transmitted via e-mail for personal and church use. Articles may not be modified without prior written permission of the Institute. For questions, contact the Institute: 703.914.5602 or email us.