May 9, 2016

Praying with your eyes open: removing the blindfold of ignorance

by Clint Archer

pinataI was 23 when I first saw one. It was a hollow, colorful, papier-mâché creature stuffed with candy, chocolates, and assorted sugary delights. They strung it up and told me to hit it. They called it a piñata.

As entertaining as this experience was for me, I suspect the real entertainment for the college students in my Bible study was witnessing a grown man attempt to rupture his first piñata. But the joke would soon be on them.

I flailed aimlessly with all the force I could muster, missing the elusive treasure trove and inadvertently losing my grip on the stick. It shot like a spear at the crowd of gawkers, and smashed into the cheekbone of a girl who was caught off-guard by the missile.

It was also the last time I ever attempted to hit a piñata. In fact, it was the last time I would wield a weapon while blindfolded.

However, if Paul had to comment on some of my early prayers, he might draw a comparison. Many Christians pray like God is a piñata, which they blindly poke with aimless prayers. Let’s allow Paul to take off our blindfolds for us with this model prayer…

Eph 1: 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers

Paul frequently describes his prayer life as unceasing. Paul had a veritable shopping list of requests on behalf of dozens of churches, believers, unbelievers, rulers, and even enemies. Praying was like breathing for the Apostle. And breathing works best if it’s unceasing.

Unlike holding your breath (current records barely break the 24-minute mark), prayerlessness can last for days, weeks, and months, starving you of spiritual vitality, leaving you spiritually weak and fatigued, which in turn makes you vulnerable to doubt, temptation, worldly thinking, and unwise decisions.

What you’ll see without a blindfold of ignorance:

1. The Picture of Your Inheritance

Paul prays Eph 1:18…that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,

blindfoldedThe hope of our inheritance gives us a motivation to live holy lives and heap up reward for eternity.

When my wife and I as newly-weds were living in a roach-infested ghetto apartment and she was slogging as a waitress til midnight, while I was working and studying, we would sometimes sit down head-in-hands and ask why are we doing this? But it was the best way to save money for a future down payment on a house. We had a goal in mind. We would talk about the design, the garden, and how there would be no roaches.

Keeping the picture of your glorious inheritance in mind begets perseverance in trials.

2. The Power of God

Eph 1:19-20 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places

Would it help your prayer life if you understood the greatness of God’s power? I mean really grasped it?

Have confidence that Jesus can resurrect you to an inheritance of eternal life.

3. The Plan for The World

Eph 1:21-22 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church,

In this sin-cursed world we all experience difficulty, disease, and disaster. If we didn’t know where life was heading, we’d plunge into despair or we’d try to numb the pain with the empty distractions of booze, entertainment, career, relationships, and comforts.
Knowing the plan of God injects meaning into life. We know why we are here, and where we are going.

Don’t pray like you are hitting at the piñata for candy and miss the nutritious meal laid beside it because you are praying limited by the blindfold of ignorance.

Pray with the picture of your inheritance in mind, pray with the power of God in mind, and pray in line with the plan of eternity. And then sit back and see what God can do.

Clint Archer

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Clint has been the pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church since 2005. He lives in Durban, South Africa with his wife and four kids.
  • Jason

    “Don’t pray like you are hitting at the piñata for candy and miss the
    nutritious meal laid beside it because you are praying limited by the
    blindfold of ignorance.”

    Anything beside a piñata can only hope to be missed…

  • Jane Hildebrand

    I often find that when I jump right into praying for my family and others, my prayers seem repetitive and dry. My mind wanders and I am distracted. But when I begin my prayers by telling God that I love Him and am grateful for my salvation, my heart softens and I want to linger a little longer in that love and hope.

    I believe one of the reasons God gives us children is so that we can understand the depth of the love He has for us. And just as it softens our hearts to hear our children say they love us, so God’s heart is softened when we tell Him we love Him. This is still one of the most profound and beautiful things I have come to learn about God, that He truly loves us.

    • Emma Noble

      Ditto! My mind is sooo prone to wandering and distraction when I pray. Beginning with praise and giving thanks has helped me a lot. And if I’m in such a funk that I’m struggling to do that, I open up my Bible to Psalms and start praying select passages to “force” my mind to focus.

    • Ira Pistos

      Yes. The love of God leaves the word awesome grasping for adequacy.

      I consider how very much I love my wife and she I. Then I consider that God loves us more and more perfectly.

      I pray for the capacity to love Him in turn as fully as He deserves. The answer to that prayer has changed and is changing me in ways I couldn’t have imagined.

  • Kermos

    At the other end of the city in which I reside, I am aware of a family that had a children’s birthday party with a pinata. They used a wooden broom handle with a plastic screw cap on the end of the handle. It was tragic. A child swung the handle and the plastic screw cap flew off the end of the handle and hit the father in the eye, who was standing behind the child swinging the handle. The father is now blind in one eye. I am not trying to draw an analogy with this, rather just be careful.

    In Ephesians 1:18 “are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.” Not only does God give us the most wonderfully blessed inheritance of being with our Lord Jesus Christ now and forever, but also the assembly of God – “in the saints”! “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25) and previously “exhort one another daily” (Hebrews 3:13).

    Praise Jesus, God put “all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the assembly” and here we have communion to pray without ceasing with the God of heaven and earth!

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  • Ira Pistos

    Prayer: The most potent force granted to the human race and a priceless gift.

    Clint, the framework that you taught some time ago to develop a focused and worshipful prayer time was excellent.

    Thanks for that.

    • The CACTIS template is the one Instillnuse every day. I’m glad you found it helpful.
      For other readers: you can search this site for CACTIS (yes I know the plant is spelled cactus)

      • Ira Pistos

        🙂

        Thanks.

  • Emma Noble

    Oh, I just love this passage! It’s always been a favorite when it comes to prayer! When I feel (incorrectly so) that God isn’t powerful or attentive enough to actually understand my fumbled words, discern my heart, and to answer me, I think about the resurrection. That same God who is powerful enough to raise Christ from the grave is surely powerful enough to help me. Romans 8:26-27 has really ministered to me in this, too.

    We also do well to remember that when we comment to others that we’re not sure that God is really hearing us, that He really cares, etc. that we’ve demeaned the Lord, which is sin and needs to be repented of. People may respond with things like, “Oh, you need better self-esteem… you just need to believe that you’re worthy of the Lord hearing you.” But we need to remember that this has NOTHING to do with self-esteem. God hears and answers our prayers in keeping with HIS character and grace, not because we’re amazingly wonderful people. So this Ephesians passage is also great for those conversations… if someone starts moaning and groaning about the supposed ineffectiveness of prayer, it’s useful to point out the proper view of God–and His work in the life of the believer–and that if one doesn’t believe that, the problem is a spiritual one and not a self-esteem issue.

    • Ira Pistos

      Well said. I believe, I have no numbers or research to back this, that prayer is probably the most misunderstood concept both within and without Christianity.
      At least in regard to what I think of as foundation principles and understanding..

      • You don’t need numbers, you just need to listen to some people pray.

  • tovlogos

    Amen Clint.

    “Eph 1: 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers”
    I always remember Eric and Lyndon in my prayers for specific reasons.

    • Hey, can I get in on those prayers? I need all the spiritual help I can get!

      • tovlogos

        Clint, my brother — with all my heart. Every day.

  • Starrocks923

    What a wonderful blog post, Clint. I always enjoy how you take modern day things such as doppelgangers and piñatas and use them as springboards for theological discussion.

    I very much look forward to meeting you at the Foundry Conference, by the way! Jesse once told us about the “Property of Clint Archer” incident at the evening services. It was the most effective metaphor for Judges 15 I’d ever heard… 🙂

    • Funny. I’ll be in DC shortly. Please introduce yourself to me.

      • Starrocks923

        Will do, and I’ll try to bring a few church friends with me who’d really like to meet you. (Or already have!)

        Fancy steak dinner at a steakhouse is out of my budget, sadly. I don’t suppose you like buffalo wings…? 🙂