God is doing something big inside praying people. He is not primarily interested in our coming one by one as single, solitary individuals, asking for certain things, receiving them, and then going off by ourselves and remaining unchanged during the whole process. God will not have that, because He is far more interested in us than in what we ask – although that does certainly interest Him.
Instead God is working to change us through our asking, through all that He allows to come into our lives, through the Scriptures, through the Holy Spirit, through the providences, the hard things, the hurtful things, and the happy things. He is active in all these things to shape us into the likeness of Jesus, so that we will be at the place where the Holy Spirit is able to intercede, work, and plead inside us, reflecting the tones of the voice of Jesus.
Ultimately, it its not so much what we ask, but who we are when we pray that counts the most.
– Douglas Kelly, pp. 82-83.
The sovereign God on His throne, who has planned all things from the beginning to the end, has arranged His plan in such aa way that the prayers of the saints are one of the major means He uses to accomplish His final goal. Instead of the sovereignty of God clashing with the prayers of the believer, the two actually presuppose one another and fulfill and undergird one another.
– Douglas Kelly, If God Already Knows – Why Pray?, p. 53
What were we made for? To know God. What aim should we set ourselves in life? To know God. What is the eternal life that Jesus gives? Knowledge of God. “This is life eternal, that they may know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3). What is the best thing in life, bringing more joy, delight, and contentment than anything else? Knowledge of God. “Thus saith the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let not the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches; but let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me” (Jeremiah 9:23). What, of all the states God ever sees man in, gives him most pleasure? Knowledge of himself. “I desire … the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings,” says God (Hosea 6:6).… Once you have become aware that the main business that you are here for is to know God, most of life’s problems fall into place of their own accord.
– J. I. Packer, Knowing God, p. 29.
Faith is a Christ-prizing grace, it puts a high valuation on Christ. ‘To you that believe he is precious.’ 1 Peter 2:7. Paul best knew Christ. ‘Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord?’ 1 Corinthians 9:1. He saw Christ with his bodily eyes in a vision, when we was caught up into the third heaven; and with the eye of his faith in the Holy Supper; therefore he best knew Christ. And see how he styles all things in comparison of him. ‘I count all things but dung, that I may win Christ.’ Philippians 3:8. Do we set a high estimate upon Christ? Could we be willing to part with the wedge of gold for the pearl of price? Gregory Nazianzen blessed God he had anything to lose for Christ’s sake.
Faith is a refining grace. ‘Mystery of faith in a pure conscience.’ 1 Timothy 3:9. Faith is in the soul as fire among metals; it refines and purifies. Morality may wash the outside, faith washes the inside. ‘Having purified their hearts by faith.’ Acts 15:9. Faith makes the heart a sacristy or holy of holies. Faith is a virgin-grace: though it does not take away the life of sin, yet it takes away the love of sin. Examine if your hearts be an unclean fountain, sending out the mud and dirt of pride and envy. If there be legions of lusts in thy soul, there is no faith. Faith is a heavenly plant, which will not grow in an impure soil.
Faith is an obediential grace. ‘The obedience of faith.’ Romans 16:26. Faith melts our will into God’s. It runs at God’s call. If God commands duty (though cross to flesh and blood) faith obeys. ‘By faith Abraham obeyed.’ Hebrews 11:8. Faith is not an idle grace; as it has an eye to see Christ, so it has a hand to work for him. It not only believes God’s promise, but obeys his command. It is not having knowledge that will evidence you to be believers; the devil has knowledge, but wants obedience, and that makes him a devil. The true obedience of faith is a cheerful obedience. God’s commands do not seem grievous. Have you obedience, and obey cheerfully? Do you look upon God’s command as your burden, or privilege; as an iron fetter about your leg, or as a gold chain about your neck.
Faith is an assimilating grace. It changes the soul into the image of the object; it makes it like Christ. Never did any look upon Christ with a believing eye, but he was made like Christ. A deformed person may look on a beautiful object, and not be made beautiful; but faith looking on Christ transforms a man, and turns him into his similitude. Looking on a bleeding Christ causes a soft bleeding heart; looking on a holy Christ causes sanctity of heart; looking on a humble Christ makes the soul humble. As the chameleon is changed into the color of that which it looks upon, so faith, looking on Christ, changes the Christian into the similitude of Christ.
True faith grows. All living things grow. ‘From faith to faith.’ Romans 1:17.
– Thomas Watson, A Body of Divinity, pp. 218-219.
A people in covenant with God are a willing people; though they cannot serve God perfectly, they serve him willingly. They do not grudge God a little time spent in his worship; they do not hesitate or murmur at sufferings; they will go through a sea and a wilderness, if God call. ‘Thy people shall be a willing people:’ Psalm 110:3: ‘a people of willingness.’ Heb. This spontaneity and willingness is from the attractive power of God’s Spirit: the Spirit does not impellere, force, but trahere, sweetly draws the will; and this willingness in religion makes all our services accepted. God does sometimes accept of willingness without the work, but never the work without willingness.
– Watson, A Body of Divinity, p. 157.
But are not works required in the covenant of grace?
Yes. ‘This is a faithful saying, that they which believe in God, be careful to maintain good works.’ Titus 3:8. But the covenant of grace does not require works in the same manner as the covenant of works did. In the first covenant, works were required as the condition of life; in the second, they are required only as the signs of life. In the first covenant, works were required as grounds of salvation; in the new covenant, they are required as evidences of our love to God. In the first, they were required to the justification of our persons; in the new, to the manifestation of our grace.
– Thomas Watson, A Body of Divinity, pp. 155-156.
Sin says, ‘I’m not sin at all.’ Then Sin says, ‘I’m pleasant. ‘Yes, pleasant poison. Then Sin says, ‘Ah! do you call that sin? Well it is but a little sin.’ Alas! alas! for us men there can be no little sin, unless there be a little God against whom to commit it. Then Sin says, ‘It is a common good; good people do that.’ A good man has crooked legs; are crooked legs therefore no evil? He has stiff joints; are stiff joints therefore no evil? Ah! men don’t argue that way about the natural evil, but they do about the spiritual evil, because they love sin, and will take any excuse for it, and never readier than when they find it in a good man.
– Moody Stuart, The Life of John Duncan, p. 109.