*The Cure: Pour out Your Soul in Prayer
Examine yourselves…test yourselves.
2 Corinthians 13:5 NIV
Have you forced God to depart from you by giving place to anger? Have you fretted because of the ungodly or been envious against evildoers? Have you been offended against your brothers or sisters in the Lord, looking at a real or imagined sin—so as to sin against the law of love by estranging your heart from them? Look to the Lord that you may renew your strength—that all this sharpness and coldness be done away and love, peace, and joy return, together with a tenderhearted, forgiving spirit.
Have you given way to any foolish desire? To any kind or degree of inordinate, unruly, misplaced affection? How then can the love of God have place in your heart till you put away your idols? It is vain to hope for recovery of His light till you “pluck out the right eye” and cast it from you. Cast out every idol from His sanctuary, and the glory of the Lord shall soon appear.
Perhaps it is the lack of striving, a spiritual sloth that keeps your soul in darkness. You go on in the same even track of outward duties and are content to abide there. Do you wonder that your soul is dead? O stir yourself up before the Lord. Shake yourself from the dust. Wrestle with God for the mighty blessing. Pour out your soul in prayer! Continue with all perseverance! Watch! Awake out of sleep and keep awake, that you not be more and more alienated from the light and life of God.
*From How to Pray: The Best of John Wesley on Prayer, published by Barbour Publishing, Inc. Used by permission.
In this sixty-sixth lesson on prayer, Wesley confronts our inward complacency with sin, some of which we do not even recognize as such. He mentions anger; anxiety; envy; offense; foolish desires; inordinate, unruly, misplaced affections; and idolatry. But we know there are others, as well.
In Ephesians 5:5-17, the apostle Paul says, “5 For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not be partakers with them; 8 for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light 9 (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), 10trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. 11Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; 12for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. 13But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light. 14For this reason it says, ” Awake, sleeper, And arise from the dead, And Christ will shine on you.” 15Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, 16making the most of your time, because the days are evil. 17So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (NASB).
We must awake, watch, and pray in order to expose the unfruitful deeds of darkness, even in ourselves, and expose them to the light of Christ’s countenance.
In Galatians 5:19-21 Paul again lists those works of the flesh that we must wakefully watch for and pray against. He says, “19Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
We know that practice here means a marked behavior in; something you can be identified with. If we do not take the time to examine and test ourselves, as 2 Corinthians 13:5 tells us to do, we can fall into the habit of continuing in sinful thoughts and actions. Thus, Wesley ends in warning, “Perhaps it is the lack of striving, a spiritual sloth that keeps your soul in darkness. You go on in the same even track of outward duties and are content to abide there. Do you wonder that your soul is dead? O stir yourself up before the Lord. Shake yourself from the dust. Wrestle with God for the mighty blessing. Pour out your soul in prayer! Continue with all perseverance! Watch! Awake out of sleep and keep awake, that you not be more and more alienated from the light and life of God.”