The first rule is completely counterintuitive. Augustine wrote that before anyone can turn to the question of what to pray and how to pray it, he or she must first be a particular kind of person. What kind is that? He writes: “You must account yourself ‘desolate’ in this world, however great the prosperity of your lot may be.” He argues that no matter how great your earthly circumstances, they cannot bring us the peace, happiness, and consolation found in Christ. The scales must fall from our eyes. If we don’t see that truth, all our prayers will go wrong.Second, Augustine says, you can begin to pray. And what should you pray for? With a bit of a smile (I think) he answers you should pray for what everyone else prays for: “Pray for a happy life.” But, of course, what will bring you a happy life? The Christian (if following Augustine’s first rule of prayer) has realized that comforts and rewards and pleasures in themselves give only fleeting excitement and, if you rest your heart in them, actually bring you less enduring happiness. He turns to Psalm 27 and points to the psalmist’s great prayer: “One thing have I desired of the Lord, one thing will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord to behold the beauty of the Lord.” This is the fundamental prayer for happiness. Augustine writes, “We love God, therefore, for what he is in himself, and [we love] ourselves and our neighbors for his sake.” That doesn’t mean, he quickly adds, that we shouldn’t pray for anything else other than to know, love, and please God. Not at all. The Lord’s Prayer shows us that we need many things. But if God is our greatest love, and if knowing and pleasing him is our highest pleasure, then we’ll be transformed both in what and how we pray for a happy life.He quotes Proverbs 30 as an example: “Give me neither poverty nor riches: Feed me with food appropriate for me lest I be full and deny you . . . or lest I be poor, and steal and take the name of my God in vain.” Ask yourself this question. Are you seeking God in prayer in order to get adequate financial resources—or are you seeking the kind and amount of resources you need to adequately know and serve God? Those are two different sets of motivations.
For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.Philemon 1:7
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken. Eccles. 4:9-12
Heavenly Father, I cannot imagine how storms can be navigated, burdens borne, and hardships handled without the company of a few good friends. I praise you today for the gift of friendship—for the joy, encouragement, and refreshment you give me through my friends.
When we walk through difficult and draining seasons, we’re inclined to think, “No one can possibly understand what I’m going through. Nobody can relate to my feelings and confusion. Everyone would handle this mess much better than I am.”
Those are the times when it’s easy to withdraw into isolation, fall into the pit of condemnation, and reach for some ill-chosen medication. That’s when the gift of long-standing, all-weather, burden-bearing friends becomes especially precious.
Father, I praise you for the gift of hearing my friends say these two words: “Me too.” I praise you for friends who know how to “refresh the hearts of the saints”—including this saint. I praise you for friends who remind me of the truth and power of the gospel, of the love of Jesus, and of the bigger story you are always writing.
I praise you for friends who share their lives and not just their gospel. I praise you for friends who offer tears and not just their answers. I praise you for friends who give life-giving wisdom and not just mess-fixing formulas.
Father, my all-weather friends turn my heart heavenward. They simply remind me that the foundation and fountain of all good friendship is found in the gospel. It’s overwhelming, settling, and centering to hear Jesus say to us, “I no longer call you servants… I call you friends” (John 15:15). Indeed, Jesus is the friend that sticks closer than a brother (Prov. 18:24).
What wondrous love is this, indeed? “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). Hallelujah, what a salvation! Hallelujah, what a Savior! So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ most glorious and gracious name.
Taken from The Gospel coalition