I want more noisy Christians. Or perhaps I should say, I want more Christians to become a whole lot more noisy in the exercise of their faith, especially in terms of bringing their prayers to God.
It always strikes me so fascinating (I’m sure I’ve said this before) that Jesus emphasizes the importance of demanding, expectant, unceasing and bold prayer. I think of his teaching in the Sermon on the Mount, in which laid down the invitation and promise six times in a row. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matthew 7: 7-8)
Using three different word pictures, Jesus told his disciples about the surety of God’s faithfulness to answer prayer; then in case they had not fully realized what he was speaking about and how serious he was in assuring them of God’s lavish generosity and graciousness, he repeated the triad. Six times in a row, Jesus declared that when we forthrightly bring out petitions to God, when we earnestly pursue God for his blessing and when we relentlessly hammer on the door of heaven, we will receive, find and have the door opened to us. In other words, we are to be noisy Christians when it comes to prayer.
Interestingly, right after his double invitation to ask, seek and knock, Jesus immediately spoke about how human parents, though broken and sinful, know how to give good gifts to their children, and said that therefore they could be sure that their heavenly Father had good gifts for those who ask. Or to put it differently, God has good gifts for those who are noisy, persistent and bold in their asking. (Matthew 7: 8-9)
In the parable of the unjust judge (Luke 18:1-8), Jesus again used a negative example of an indifferent magistrate being badgered into awarding a just decision to the persistent widow just to get some peace and quiet in order to stress God’s abundant eagerness to bring “justice for his chosen ones who cry out to him day and night.” Emphasis: on crying out and being noisy before God.
One of the folk in our congregation was sharing the other night about how he was “asking an awful lot of God these days.” He went on to say that he had been encouraged with the assurance that God delights in our asking and is swift to pour out blessings when we call upon him in faith and hope. Did I say that I love noisy Christians?
On reading the title about noisy Christians, some people may have presumed the blog to be a rant against that ungracious belligerence which stridently demands conformity by all others to the person’s particular prejudices and principles. Others may have expected the theme to be a call to us to sing out our praises joyfully in worship or perhaps about the need to be more earnest, daring evangelists in our conversations, albeit with much grace, humility and respect. I suppose I could have equally well used the same title to gripe and grump about church members who too readily gripe and grump about everything.
While the title, “Noisy Christians” could have served any of those topics, I suggest that we too easily and often fail about being noisy at prayer, that is, at being strong, bold, persistent and consistent, expectant and trusting in what we ask of the Lord. And the need to be noisy is not because the Lord is either hard of hearing or indifferent to our requests. Rather we need to learn to be noisy in prayer not because we instead need to beat down heaven’s door but rather to beat down the doors of doubt and disbelief and of our own proud self-sufficiency. The problem of unanswered prayer is rarely God’s unwillingness to respond (though often in his kindness he does not give us the things for which we wrongly ask), but rather because of our lack of sincere and faithful asking. As with so much of our spiritual life, part of our growing in the art and discipline of prayer is moving from the place of just thinking or talking about prayer, and actually praying – boldly not timorously, confidently not despairingly, and thankfully as if our prayers have already been answered and not apologetically as if we’ve been merely bothering God.
When Jesus voiced the invitation to come unto him, with the promise of his “resting” us with his grace, he was echoing his Father’s gracious promise and beckoning to come with all the trusting exuberance of children who look to the sure loving provision of their God. Or when St. Paul urged the Thessalonians to pray without ceasing, he might have added that we should all of us raise a joyful noise of prayer to our God who so gladly listens to our cries.