Rev. Christopher MacRae
Kilmallie Free Church Manse
Phone: 01397 704434
Registered Scottish Charity SC038140
This project is being part-financed by the Scottish Government and the European Community Highland Leader 2007 - 2013 programme
Rev Malcolm Maclean
Sunday Thoughts - Jesus and Difficult Trials
When the Saviour heard of the report of the murder of John the Baptist he found a solitary place (Matt. 14:13). This time of solitude was followed by the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 (Matt. 14:14-21). Again after this miracle, Jesus found a place of solitude (Matt. 14:23) in order to pray to his Father, and it was followed by the miraculous experience for Peter and the apostles on the stormy sea when Jesus walked on the water (Matt. 14:22-33). Jesus often went by himself to strengthen himself in God no matter his situation, be it a harrowing one or a triumphant one. The obvious lesson is that we can only cope with and benefit from every situation, whether it be pleasant or sorrowful, by going to God about it.
During his time of prayer with his Father Jesus saw his distressed disciples in the storm (Matt. 14:22-33). Since they already had experience of being rescued by him in a storm at sea (Matt. 8:23-27), it could be argued that their previous experience should have helped them cope with the current storm. Perhaps it did, but they also needed a fresh experience of Jesus for the new situation, no matter how similar its contents were to previous ones. It is clear that Jesus wanted to help them and the ferocity of the storm could not keep him away from his disciples.
This incident is a picture of many occurrences in the Christian life. The disciples were in the storm because Jesus had sent them on their journey. They were in the path of obedience when the storm came. It is a mistake to think that obedience to God will remove difficult times in providence.
But just as Jesus had his eye on his disciples, so he has his eye on us. From the heights of the mountain he had the best overall picture of the situation that his disciples were in – they may only have seen what was near at hand but Jesus saw everything. It is the same with us – we can only see the immediate effect of the trouble but Jesus sees where it fits into his overall plan of blessing for our lives.
Jesus came to the disciples at the right time. He wants to help us too. Just as the ferocity of the storm could not keep him away from the disciples, so the troubles that we face are not too big for Jesus to deal with. It is not the strength of the troubles that prevents Jesus coming to our aid; rather he knows best when to come and calm the storm that we may imagine is raging out of control. And when he does come, we will see that his timing was best.
The purpose of the Lord's Supper
What is the point of the Lord's Supper? As a congregation we had our quarterly celebration this evening.
It is clear from the Bible that the Lord's Supper should not be participated in unthoughtfully. We can see this from Paul's instruction that all intending to take part in the Lord's Supper should examine themselves beforehand. Why should they examine themselves? The main reason is to assess the state of their current devotion to Jesus. How warm are their affections for him? How delighted are they in his forgiveness of their sins? How determined are they to serve him in their daily lives? Self-examination should not be used as a reason for not taking part in the Lord's Supper. If I discover defects in my heart, the proper response is to confess them to God and thank him that the Lord's Supper is for penitent sinners.
Moreover, it is very important to realise that the Lord's Supper is communion. The communion is twofold: through the enabling of the Holy Spirit we have communion with Jesus (which means that we speak to him in our hearts and he speaks to us from his Word, mainly via his promises) and through the Holy Spirit we have communion with one another (which is why we should have our eyes open at the Lord's supper and is also why we sing words that exhort one another). The Lord's Supper is not a private meeting between Jesus and me! Instead it is a communion involving Jesus and us.
Another feature of the Lord's Supper is that it is a time of consumption. We have heard many times that it is a feast, and one reason for a feast is for the participants to enjoy plenty provision given by the host. It can be an insult to a host for a person to nibble when he should be eating plenty. What would cause a person not to eat plenty at a feast? One reason would be ill health and loss of appetite, another reason would be that the individual had filled himself with other food. We can easily see how those reasons illustrate spiritual problems. I can create a loss of spiritual appetite by not engaging in the regular activities that provide spiritual health, such as prayer and Bible reading. I can also fill my inner life with other things, which may be all right in moderation, but if pursued too much they replace Jesus in my heart. It is best to come to the Lord's Supper having prepared by prayer and Bible reading and having refused to fill our minds and hearts with other things. When we do so, we will discover that we can consume a great amount at the King's table.
The Lord's Supper is also a time for consecration. Like all the other means of grace, the Lord's Supper brings potential for the future. In ordinary life, eating a good meal gives strength for the activities we need to do. Similarly the Lord's Supper strengthens our souls, especially with regard to our affections. The outcome of participating in the Supper is that we should love Jesus more and love one another more. We know that the proof of eating a good meal is the strength we have for the tasks at hand. But in doing the tasks we don't think about the strength. Instead we just do them. If we spent the time thinking about where the strength would come from, others would think that we had forgotten we had eaten the meal that provides the strength. We should come away from today's remembrance meal strengthened for serving Jesus. This does not mean that we can ignore the daily sustenance we get from Bible reading and other means of grace. But the Lord's Supper does strengthen us for service.
Sunday Thoughts - Faith is often tested
When we read the story of the interaction between Jesus and the woman of Canaan (Matt. 15:21-28), we may be surprised at the way Jesus initially responded to her plea for help. It is possible that his way of dealing with her was designed to correct some misapprehensions that she had.
The lady was in a desperate state because of the health of her little daughter. She must have heard that Jesus was able to cure people with the same problem. When she met him, although she was not a Jew, she used terminology that only a Jew would have been expected to use when she addressed Jesus as ‘the Son of David’. Was one of her misapprehensions that she had to behave like a Jew before Jesus could help her? His answer to her, that he was only sent to help the lost sheep of the house of Israel, seems to suggest there was a difficulty about her race. I suspect she had to learn that she had to draw near as a needy Gentile sinner.
Whatever the reason, the disciples misread the silence of Jesus as a sign that he wanted nothing to do with her (v. 23). It was good for the lady that during her time of crisis she set her eyes on a silent Lord and not on the speaking disciples, for if she had listened to them she would have no hope. We have to be very careful when speaking about providences that happen to other people.
But Jesus was testing her regarding the reality of her faith. What kind of faith did she have? It is possible to be convinced that somebody can work a miracle and for that conviction to fall short of true faith; this would especially be the case when Jesus was healing numerous others. For many of those whom Jesus healed did not become his followers because their faith was limited to his ability to heal.
The outlook of faith, for which Jesus aimed, was for her to reveal humility. Her humble mind was displayed when she likened herself to a pet dog that sat below the children’s table as they were fed. She willingly put herself to the bottom of the pile. This is what made her faith great, that she realised that although she was an unworthy sinner Jesus had the power and love to help her. The lesson to us is that desperation itself is not enough when seeking the help of Jesus – there also has to be humility. Jesus was prepared to delay answering her request until she expressed her plea in a humble manner.
Sunday Thoughts - It is Who You Know that Matters
Sometimes a situation in life depends on who your connections are. If I was in debt, I would value a rich relative; if my car breaks down, I am grateful if I have a mechanic for a friend. In olden days, if a person was summoned to appear before the king, that individual would be glad to have ‘friends at court’ who would speak on his behalf. We can imagine many circumstances in which we would need help from others.
The same is true in the spiritual life as well. We all have a form of spirituality, even if we think that we do not. Everyone has an opinion about God, and that opinion, even if it denies his existence, is an expression of spirituality. As we are well aware, there is a wide range of spiritualities around today, each of them claiming to offer spiritual help in one way or another.
The Christian life is a unique form of spirituality, not only because it is true, but also because everything connected to it depends on knowing Jesus Christ. Unlike the scenarios I depicted earlier in which each situation required a different person to provide help, Jesus personally supplies the help in every situation. Here are some such situations.
With regard to obtaining salvation from the effects of our sins, we receive it through faith in Jesus and in what he did. We believe that he did two things for us in order for us to be forgiven. We had two needs: we had to live a perfect life and we had to pay the penalty of our disobedience to God’s law – and we can do neither of them. Yet Jesus did both on our behalf: he lived a perfect life as our representative and he paid the penalty of our sins when on the cross. When we trust in Jesus, we do so knowing that he performed those two requirements.
With regard to living the Christian life, every spiritual blessing is given to those who are in Christ (united to him by faith). They receive the help of the Holy Spirit because he is given to them by Jesus. Their prayers are heard by the heavenly Father because they are offered to him in the name of Jesus. They have a role model to imitate day by day, and that role model is Jesus. He instructs them how to live and enables them to become like him increasingly. Yet they also know they still commit sins, and when they confess them to God they do so knowing that Jesus is their Advocate in heaven. They have many benefits in this life through knowing Jesus.
On the Day of Judgement, Jesus will be their friend and will ensure that they will be publicly acknowledged as his people. Throughout the endless ages that will follow that awesome event, Jesus will share his limitless inheritance with each of them. He will continue to function as their Shepherd, leading them into all the aspects of the glory of the new heavens and new earth. Although they will then be perfect in holiness, they will still depend entirely on Jesus and value him in a manner far beyond what they can do in this world. It will all depend on the fact that they know him.
Obviously, it is in our own interests to acquaint ourselves with Jesus. If we trust in him, we will discover that he is faithful and reliable, the One who will always be there for us, and whose help we will receive from him personally whenever we need it.
Sunday Thoughts - Being Different
Andrew Bonar wrote on one occasion, ‘Believers are not to be like the world. It is their peculiar honour and privilege to be quite different from it.’ In what ways are they different? The basic difference is that they trust in Jesus alone for their salvation. Trust in Jesus means dependence upon him. It is not the strength of their faith that matters, but the object of it. Jesus is the object of their faith in the sense that they depend on what he has done for them, particularly his sin-atoning death on the cross when he suffered, in their place, the wrath of God against their sins. Since Jesus paid the penalty, they depend upon his work. If I was in debt, and a rich person paid it for me, it would be strange if I were then to depend on someone else to pay it. A believer had spiritual debts, Jesus paid the cost for them, and now that believer depends on Jesus and what he did. This is the crucial difference between Christians and others. There are other differences between followers of Jesus and the world. What is meant by the ‘world’? It is not a reference to the physical world. Instead the term ‘world’ describes the system of things that is hostile to God and his ways. There is a very simple way of discovering if something is worldly or not. The method is to ask oneself, ‘Will this attitude, action or intention cause me to break one of the ten commandments inwardly as well as outwardly?’ If it will, then it is worldly. And according to Bonar, it is an honour and privilege for believers to be different.
Of course, it is always possible for them to turn difference into a negative outlook and focus on what they do not do. Instead they are to show how different they are by becoming increasingly like Jesus in character. One biblical description of such a character is the fruit of the Spirit detailed in Galatians 5:22-23 (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control). What a difference, and a privilege, to be like that!
The final difference between believers and the world is in their destinies. Followers of Jesus will be taken by him to heaven after their lives here are over. It is always good to know where one is going in this life; it is even more important to know where one will be going in the next. Because of the promises of Jesus, his followers have assurance of their destiny, and that is a great honour and privilege.
Jesus in Psalm 40 (2)
In Psalm 40:6-8, the Son of God, who is the speaker, states that he is about to become a man (these verses are a prophecy). The Son refers to a book or scroll in which certain matters are written about him. While we are not told exactly what the scroll signifies, there are two possibilities. One is that he is referring to the book of God’s eternal purposes in which the Father’s intentions for his Son were detailed (obviously, this would not be a reference to a literal book in heaven).
The other possible meaning of the scroll is that it refers to the Old Testament scriptures. As far as David himself had been concerned, when he became king of Israel he would have discovered God’s requirements in the books of the Old Testament that were then available, mainly in the Pentateuch (Genesis–Deuteronomy). By the time of the Incarnation, the Old Testament was complete and it is full of teaching about Jesus. He himself refers to this in Luke 24:44: ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’ There is no doubt that the Old Testament was a primary source of how Jesus understood his Messianic work.
The Son also addresses the Father as ‘my God’. Psalm 40 is not the only Messianic psalm that has this manner of speaking on the lips of the Son (Ps. 22:1, 10). Jesus after his resurrection addresses the Father as God in John 20:17 when he speaks to Mary Magdalene of his imminent ascension to heaven. It is evident in Psalm 40, from the connection that the Son makes with God’s will, that he is speaking to the Father as his servant, and this is one reason why he calls him ‘my God.’
The willing Son also describes his inner life when he says that God’s law is within his heart. The law of God was written on the human heart of Jesus and all that was needed for it to be displayed was the passing of time. This is what took place. Because he had a perfect heart, Jesus lived a perfect life.
The humanity of Jesus, the body that was prepared for him by the Father, should often be on our minds. From heaven he came to the womb of Mary and united himself with his human nature simultaneously to its creation by the Holy Spirit; when he was born, he emerged from the womb to live a perfect life as a child, a teenager and as an adult until he died on the cross and was buried; while his body was in the tomb for three days, his human spirit was in heaven; on the third day, his spirit and body were reunited in resurrection power; a few weeks later, he in his risen humanity ascended to heaven and was glorified and enthroned at God’s right hand. There he is at present, waiting for the next stages of his exaltation: his resurrecting of his people from death and his appearance as the Judge of all creatures. After that, his people will enjoy his endless fellowship as he interacts with them through the body that was prepared for him by his Father.
It is not surprising that the singing Son praised God as he anticipated and experienced the Incarnation. And we can imagine Jesus singing these verses or meditating upon them during the years he was on earth, as he thought about what was going to happen to the body that had been prepared for him by the Father. And now in heaven in his glorified body, he looks forward with joy to what he is yet to experience in the body that was prepared for him so long ago by his Father.
Because he was given a body, we too can look forward to transformation: ‘But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself’ (Phil. 3:20-21). ‘Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we will be like him, because we shall see him as he is’ (1 John 3:2).
Jesus and Psalm 40 (1)
Verses 6-8 of Psalm 40 are quoted in Hebrews 10 as applying to the incarnation of Jesus (when he became a man). The author of Hebrews 10 is clear that it is Jesus who is speaking in the psalm, which means that in these verses of Psalm 40 we are allowed to listen in to a divine conversation between the Father and the Son just as the Son was about to come into our world. Yet it is a conversation given in the form of a song. The Son is singing to the Father a song of gladness and joy.
The first item in the song is that the Father took no pleasure in all the sacrifices that were offered in the Jewish ritual because they could not deal permanently with the problem of sin. Although he had given instructions about them, the Father was looking forward to the time when they would be abolished. And that time had drawn near. So the Son sings to the Father about a development that pleased him.
The second detail is found in the line, ‘My ears you have opened.’ The psalmist may be referring to the practice in Israel when a slave wished to show his total devotion to his master by having him bore through his ear to the doorpost (Exod. 21:6). If this is the meaning, it points to the amazing willingness of Jesus to dedicate himself to fulfil the Father’s will. Taking the practice of performing the boring at the door, we could say that Jesus allowed his ear to be bored through by the Father at the doorstep of heaven as he was about to enter this world.
The author of Hebrews did not quote from the Hebrew Old Testament when translating this phrase. Instead he cited the Septuagint rendering (the Greek Old Testament) which reads, ‘a body you have prepared for me’. The translators of the Septuagint interpreted the Hebrew clause when they translated it. Yet their interpretation was made under the supervision of the Holy Spirit and they provided the full meaning of the Psalmist’s original phrase, and their rendering was used by the author of Hebrews, that the reference was to the incarnation of the Messiah.
The clause in Hebrews 10 indicates that it was the Father who decided what the humanity of Jesus would be like. This statement is not in conflict with what the angel said to Mary in Luke 1:35: ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.’ Rather it reveals that each person of the Trinity was involved in the Incarnation: the Father planned what the human nature of Jesus would be like, the Son assumed the human nature into permanent union with his divine person, and the Spirit formed the human nature in the womb of Mary. Of course, the Incarnation is a great mystery, but that is inevitable given that it was a divine activity.
Thoughts on Prayer (3) - the Prayer Meeting in Acts 12
C. H. Spurgeon has an interesting sermon on the prayer meeting recorded in Acts 12 when many Christians met together in a house to pray to pray for Peter’s release. Here are three short extracts from the sermon. The number. ‘The text says, “Many were gathered together praying.” Somebody said the other day of prayer-meetings, that two or three thousand people had no more power in prayer than two or three. I think that is a grave mistake in many ways; but clearly so in reference to each other; for have you never noticed that when many meet together praying, warmth of desire and glow of earnestness are greatly increased. Perhaps two or three might have been all dull, but out of a larger number some one at least is a warm-hearted brother, and sets all the rest on a flame. Have you not observed how the requests of one will lead another on to ask for yet greater things? how one Christian brother suggests to another to increase his petition, and so the petitions grow by the mingling of heart with heart, and the communion of spirit with spirit? Besides, faith is a cumulative force. “According to thy faith so be it done unto thee” is true to one, to two, to twenty, to twenty thousand; and twenty thousand times the force will be the result of twenty thousand times the faith. Rest assured that while two or three have power with God in their measure, two or three hundred have still more.’ The time. ‘But there is another lesson. The dead of the night was chosen because it was the most suitable hour, since they could not safely meet in the day because of the Jews. It becomes those who appoint the times for prayer meetings to select as good an hour as they can, a quiet hour, a leisure hour, an hour suited to the habits of the people. Still let us remember that whatever hour is appointed, if we come together with true hearts, it will be an acceptable hour. Better still, it would be well if there could be meetings for prayer at all hours. Then every hour would be an acceptable hour, and if one happened to be unseasonable, another would be convenient, and all classes of believers could thus meet together at some time or other to pour out their hearts in prayer to God. Oh, brethren, if your business will not let you meet in the middle of the day, meet in the middle of the night; if you cannot come together for prayer at the times that are generally appointed, then have prayer-meetings at such times as will suit yourselves; but do let there be a unanimous resolve throughout the whole church of Christ, that much prayer shall be presented to the Most High.’
Its success. ‘What wonders we have obtained in the Tabernacle in answer to prayer. We began this work with a little handful of Christian men. I remember the first Monday night after I came to London; there was a slender audience on the Sabbath, but thank God there was almost as many at the prayer-meeting as on the Sunday; and I thought, ‘This is all right; these people can pray.’ They did pray, and as we increased in prayer we increased in numbers. Sometimes, at prayer-meetings, my heart was almost ready to break for joy because of the mighty supplication that was offered. We wanted to build this great house: we were poor enough, but we prayed for it, and prayer built it. Praying gave us everything we have. Praying brings us all manner of supplies, spiritual and temporal. Whatever I am in the church of God this day I owe, under God’s blessing, to your prayers. As long as your prayers sustain me, I shall not flag nor fail, but if your prayers be gone then my power is gone, for the Spirit of God is gone, and what can I do? All through the church of God the true progress is in proportion to the prayer. I do not care about the talent of the speaker; I am glad if he has talent; I do not care about the wealth of the congregation, though I am glad if they have wealth; but I do care beyond everything for the deep, real, earnest prayer, the darting up of the souls of Christians to God, and the bringing down of the blessing upon men from God; and if this were the last word I had to address to this congregation, I would say to you, dear brethren, abound in prayer, multiply the petitions that you put up, and increase the fervour with which you present them to God.’
Thoughts on Prayer (2) - Praying for Pastors
Every congregation wants a biblical pastor. There are many ways at which we can look at having one, and one crucial element is the prayers of the congregation for him. Usually a congregation is exhorted to do so at an induction and no doubt most congregations pray earnestly for their own minister(s). Yet they should also pray that other congregations should have such pastors and we are aware of vacant churches in our denomination (indeed it would not take long to pray for every minister in our denomination – we could pray for one presbytery each day, and then we would be praying for all our ministers weekly). And they should continue to pray for their own and other ministers because it is possible that they may become stale in their spirituality and distracted from the main aspects of their calling
An obvious element of praying for pastors is that the petitions should be biblically informed. Paul frequently mentions features of his pastoral work and often requests specific prayer by churches for particular areas of his activities. One passage that highlights several characteristics of his work is Colossians 1:24–2:5. I will draw attention to four in 1:24-29 here and mention next week those in 2:1-5.
The first characteristic that Paul mentions in 1:24-29 is his joyful spirit despite being in difficult circumstances (he was under arrest in Rome when he wrote this letter). There are many matters that can deflate a pastor (as there are with all Christians) and the devil will aim to do so. Yet it is important that pastors work with a sense of spiritual joy, and we should pray that God would give this blessing to them.
The second feature mentioned by Paul is his ongoing awareness of his divine calling. God had set him apart as a steward, with the role of making the word of God fully known. This does not mean that a pastor has to preach about every word in the Bible, but I think it does mean that he has to explain, as much as possible, everything the Bible says about Jesus (Jesus, after all, is the focus of what Paul calls the ‘mystery’ revealed to God’s people). We should pray that pastors would remember their calling to convey the message of who Jesus is and what he has done, is doing and will yet do.
A third detail of pastoral work is proclamation. Sometimes we imagine that proclamation involves loudness, but I suspect a more important element is clarity. There is no point in a loud message that no-one understands. How did Paul ‘proclaim’ Christ? He did so by warning and teaching. In other words, he warned his listeners about error (in belief and practice) and taught them the truth (about belief and practice), and did both by using words and language his audiences could understand. Of course, such messages require wisdom as to when they are declared and concerning the level of content in them. So we should pray for wise pastors who will preach with clarity as they warn about error and teach the truth.
The fourth aspect of pastoral work that Paul refers to is his realisation that such work was hard (he uses the term ‘toil’). Paul, despite all his years of experience, despite his many natural gifts, found pastoral work a struggle even although he had divine help. It is important to note that Christ’s help did not remove the struggles of Paul, instead these struggles were the channels through which Christ’s power worked effectively. If a pastor loses the sense of struggling, there is something wrong with him. We should pray that pastors will struggle along with God’s help and thus see his blessing.
Thoughts on Prayer (1) - For a Congregation
Several prayers by Paul are included in his letters. They give us insight into the kind of prayers that church leaders should make when interceding for others. Of course, these aspects should be seen in all who pray to God.
He mentions his prayer life in Colossians 2. The first point to note is that Paul had to make a great effort when praying (Col. 2:1). He calls it a struggle. Why is prayer often a struggle? One reason is difficulty in persevering with a request; another difficulty is distractions; a further difficult is spiritual opposition. No doubt there are many more hindrances. Nevertheless, the fact is, it is not easy to engage in meaningful prayer. Anyone who says that it is simple does not know what he is talking about.
Since Paul wanted those he was praying for to know that he was struggling, his words indicate that another aspect of genuine intercession is honesty with people. How often have we said that we would pray for someone, and then have forgotten to do so? Did we admit our failure or give the impression that we had kept our promise? We will not persevere in prayer if we pretend that we are. It is far better to admit our failures and start again.
Paul also extended his intercessions to include those he had never seen. As far as is known, he had never visited the geographical area in which Colosse and Laodicea were located, which means he had not met most of those for whom he was praying in that area. No doubt, it is easier to pray for those we know, and praying for unknown persons can be a struggle. In any case, Paul’s example here shows that it is very appropriate to pray for congregations we don’t know much about. It would be to our spiritual benefit to select a couple of Free Church congregations that we know little of and begin to pray for them. If we do so, it will not be long before God sends information which we can use in prayer.
For what did Paul pray? He prayed that others would have spiritual growth in order to grow in their knowledge of Christ. The signs of congregational growth are shared encouragement and communal unity (Col. 2:2). These two features are the bases on which people can stand in order ‘to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ’ (v. 2). Paul did not want individuals to grow spiritually in isolation from others, and did not pray that they would. Jesus reveals himself to those who join with others to seek him. This is why church attendance is so important.
In Jesus ‘are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge’ (v. 3). Since all are hidden in him, it means that he is sufficient for spiritual provision. Yet since these blessings are hidden, we have to go to where they will be shown, and the most likely place for that to occur is church meetings. Indeed, the role of a teacher is to lead others to understand who Jesus is and what he has to give.
Paul willingly told the Colossians why he prayed for them in this manner (v. 4). He knew that some of them were in spiritual danger from clever speakers. He could have prayed for them without telling them why, but that was not his method. Instead he prayed about the danger and told the Colossians about their peril.
Paul also told them what the answer was that he asked from God. The apostle wanted to rejoice in their church gatherings (this is what he means by ‘good order’) and in ‘the firmness of your faith in Christ’, in other words, a stable, steady delight in and dependence on Jesus. It is appropriate in our prayers to God to state the answer that we would like, as long as we acknowledge his sovereignty.