Our Declaration of Dependence
This week our nation celebrates the 4th of July, commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. Our freedom from the control of the United Kingdom and autonomy as a nation is deeply embedded in the identity of the United States of America. Sadly, every day many who claim to be Christ-followers express a similar autonomy from the fulfillment He offers. I say often that “prayerlessness is our declaration of independence from God.” In its essence, prayer is depending on God. It is very easy to rely on other things in the course of a day, failing to sense our need for the Lord, and essentially running on spiritual autopilot.
Prayerlessness is our declaration of independence from God.
Prosperity and ease can have this effect on our spiritual life. Like the Christians in the Church of Laodicea, we can subtly declare, “I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” when in fact, Jesus states, “You are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17).
By grace, prayer has become a major theme of my imperfect life. In my writing and speaking, I often note that I am not a “natural prayer guy” and that, by nature, I am fiercely independent. Prayer is not instinctive to my personality. Yet, over the journey of the years, the Lord has brought me to a growing desperation in the midst of very difficult ministry assignments and the recognition of my frequent failures.
Today, my favorite hymn is the old classic that declares, “I need Thee, Oh I need Thee. Every hour I need Thee. Oh bless me now, my Savior, I come to Thee.” This was sung at my ordination and I suppose will also be sung at my memorial. A newer version by Matt Maher states, “My one defense, my righteousness; Oh God, how I need You.”
Cultivating the Need for Him
When Jesus said, “Pray this way… ” (Matthew 6: 9), He was not simply offering a suggestion or a nice idea for the spiritually earnest. Rather, it was a command, intended to help every Christ-follower pray with a balanced, life-transforming approach that creates a deep awareness of one’s neediness.
The Lord’s Prayer intends that every believer has a deep awareness of one’s neediness.
Jesus’ model prayer divides into the two basic halves that are first Godward (Matthew 6:9-10) and then manward (Matthew 6:11-13). Based on this reality, I like to say that the essence of prayer is: 1) He is worthy and 2) I am needy.
A vital element in recognizing our neediness is to be captivated with God’s worthiness.
A vital element of recognizing our neediness is to be captivated with His worthiness. This is one reason why a worship-based approach to prayer, as Jesus taught, is so essential. The greater, holier, and more awesome God is to us, the more we will see our depravity, weakness, and utter dependence on Him. The more intentionally and consistently we engage in worship-based praying, the more deeply we will see the futility of self-reliance. This is the rhythm of a dependent life. He is worthy! I am needy!
Declaring our Dependence
The Bible gives us countless reasons for a humble, daily declaration of our dependence on God. For the sake of brevity and application, here are three for your consideration.
We need Him because He is the Source of Life – Even a few of the many verses that declare this truth are enough to move our hearts to seek Him today:
- Christ is life and His life is the light of our lives (John 1:4)
- Only Christ has the power to give us life (John 5:21)
- The life Christ gives us is abundant in every way (John 10:10)
- Only Christ brings us to the Father because He is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6)
- Christ’s life is His resurrection power working in us during this earthly journey and for all eternity (John 11:25; Romans 8:11)
- Christ, who IS our life, will also bring us to eternal life and glory (Colossians 3:4)
The Apostle John summarized it well: “And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:10-12).
We need Him because life finds its meaning, fulfillment, and reward in Christ. To declare our independence by neglecting prayer is to play into the hands of our enemy, who came “to steal, and to kill, and to destroy” (John 10:10).
To declare our independence by neglecting prayer is to play into the hands of our enemy, who came “to steal, and to kill, and to destroy” (John 10:10).
We need Him because self-reliance is foolish and fruitless – Jeremiah 17:5-10 expresses this so powerfully. I encourage you to read it carefully:
“Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the LORD. For he shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when good comes, but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land which is not inhabited.
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, and whose hope is the LORD. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit.
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it? I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings.”
The choice to experience God’s blessing is clear. A fruitful life is possible. Yet, God knows our heart and judges accordingly. Our prayer is that the grace of His cross and the power of His Spirit in us will give us a Christ-reliant heart in all things.
We need Him because apart from Him we can do nothing – Jesus made it clear in John 15:4-5, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”
As we rely on, abide in, and draw all sufficiency from Christ through prayer, He lives His life in and through us, producing the fruit of godly character and eternally-significant ministry. What a tragedy to live the Christian life in our own energy and with fruitless results.
This week, every week, and every day – let’s trust Christ for the grace to declare our dependence on Him. May our life’s breath proclaim, “He is worthy! I am needy!”
Copyright © 2023 Daniel Henderson. All rights reserved.