“Prayer is inseparable from the spiritual life of a believer. It is the heartbeat of faith.” -Edward Koehler, A Summary of Christian Doctrine
Pray like a sinner
How did the people in the Bible pray? What did they pray for and what impact did it have? This journey through the prayers of the Bible is meant to get us back to the basics of prayer. Next stop; Genesis 4:1-16.
Lying to God
In Genesis 4:1-16 we still find God’s people talking to God in face to face conversation. However, just like Adam and Eve hid from God, Cain lies to God. When it comes to prayer this second instance of not being entirely open and honest with God should come as a strong lesson to each of us: Lying to God is pointless. We can’t hide things from God, there’s nothing we can say to God that He doesn’t already know and we can’t lie to God.
With God our lives, our minds and our souls are laid bare. There’s no point to not being honest with God.
Adam and Eve had two famous children: Cain and Abel. Cain grew up to be a farmer and Abel grew up to be a shepherd. They worshiped the Lord in part by bringing offerings to Him. Abel brought a lamb, the best of his flock. Cain brought some of his crops. Abel’s offering was accepted, but Cain’s was not.
The problem wasn’t with the grain, but rather with Cain. Cain’s gift was perfunctory and selected without discernment. Cain wasn’t offering his best and his unspoken response is anger and sadness.
The grace of God is evident in this event.
Before Cain can walk away God answers his unspoken anger. God doesn’t cast him out, or curse him, but corrects him.
If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” (Genesis 4:7 ESV)
God is clear that He cares for Cain because He adds that part about subduing sin, mastering it. God does what a loving father does; corrects Cain and gives him what he needs to be successful in the future.
Cain’s response is infamous.
This was Cain’s second chance, or maybe his 200th chance. It was one more opportunity to listen to God and obey, or turn from God and let his anger get the best of him.
Cain lures his brother into the fields – Cain’s domain. There he kills his younger brother.
God’s grace is again evident.
God knows what’s happened. He has seen it as He has seen everything. Again, God doesn’t curse, or condemn, but he offers one more chance, by asking a question.
“Where is Abel your brother?” (Genesis 4:9 ESV)
At this point Cain was certainly going to face punishment of some kind. But in His response, when he speaks to God, he is defiant.
He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9 ESV)
This is a lie. A flat out lie compounded with a self-serving denial of responsibility. This was Cain’s last chance to come clean and instead he decided to lie to God.
The consequence of Cain’s lie and the murder of his brother are disastrous.
When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth. (Genesis 4:12 ESV)
Cain loses his livelihood and his home. In that moment he realizes that he has lost his communion with God and he is afraid.
Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, you have driven me today away from the ground, and from your face I shall be hidden. I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” (Genesis 4:13-14 ESV)
When we approach God in prayer it does us no good to lie. Our prayers should be true and honest. Even when we sin we must be honest with God about our sin. If we can be honest with God about our sin we can be honest with Him about everything; Our praise, worship, questions, doubts, concerns, hopes, joys, defeats, failings or success.
Lying to God simply drives a wedge between us of distrust and if left unchecked it could separate us from God entirely.
David, King of Israel, sinned against God and tried to cover it up. When his lie was exposed he did the right thing and repented immediately. Psalm 51 is a song of his confession and in it we are reminded of Cain.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. (Psalm 51:10-12 ESV bold mine)