Is there context for this? Taken just by itself it is an abomination! What’s wrong with it? It isn’t just one thing:1. How do we know when we are “really” helpless? This is important, because unless we can be sure of that, we can apparently not “truly” pray.2. Is there other than “true” prayer? Is that the futile thing most of us do who are not “really” helpless?3. Do we have to be “really helpless” before we can give thanks to God and praise His name? Or do we only “truly” pray when we are asking for something?4. Are we more likely to convince God to give us what we want when we are “really” helpless? Who was more helpless than our Lord in Gethsemane? Yet He prayed “Thy Will be done.” Most of us pray those same words at least once a day in the joyous knowledge that we are not “really helpless”, yet our prayer is heard.5. Can the child of God ever be “really” helpless, even when he thinks he is? “My help comes from the Lord.” 6. Does the effectiveness of our prayer depend on the intensity with which it is prayed, or does it rest on the immutable promises of God? (Romans 8:26) “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes for us with sight too deep for words.”7. Only one who is not a child of God is ever truly helpless, but does he truly pray before the Holy Spirit has “drawn” him?Peace and Joy!George A. Marquart
Yes, thee is more context and the context answers your concerns. He quotes from Olav Hallesby, a Norwegian theologian, in his little book on prayer:"I never grow weary of emphasizing our helplessness, for it is the decisive factor not only in our prayer life, but in our relationship to God. As long as we are conscious of our helplessness we will not be overtaken by any difficulty, disturbed by any distress or frightened by any hindrance. We will expect nothing of ourselves and therefore bring all our difficulties and hindrances to God in prayer. And this means to open the door unit Him and to give God the opportunity to help us in our helplessness by means of the miraculous powers which are at His disposal. We are helpless, then, because we cannot know when we are really helpless. We even ask forgiveness for our confession of sin! Yes, there is other than true prayer - there is that prayer which regards itself as a work done to God to get Him to fork over. The dime in the vending machine. (Dime. That dates me, doesn't it?)No, we don't try to convince God we're really helpless. We simply really are. And He knows it all too well - it's we that too often forget it. He means "helpless in ourselves" - in other words, not using prayer as a tool that WE have to help ourselves, but using prayer truly as a helpless leaning upon Him who alone IS our help, as you indicate. He doesn't speak of the intensity of our prayer - for that is exactly looking interiorly again - and that is at heart the opposite of prayer's outward gaze to the only Helper we have.
Our helplessness can never be “the decisive factor in our relationship to God.” Granted, gladly and joyfully, that “we are beggars”, for (1 Cor 4:7), “What do you have that you did not receive?” and (Romans 7:18). “I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.” But God has given us His immeasurable gifts, which take away our helplessness: (1 Cor. 12: 7) “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” Are we to pretend that we have not been given this gift? (Romans 8:37) “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Yes, these are gifts, but it is not the gifts that do good works, but we who have been given the gifts.(Ephesians 6:10) “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” Helpless?Luther’s commentary on Psalm 18, “I hope that by this time almost everybody knows that whoever prides himself on being a Christian must also takepride in being holy and righteous. Since Christendom, is holy, a Christian must also be righteous and holy, or he is not a Christian. All Scripture calls Christians holy and righteous, as does also this verse. This is not boastfulness; it is a necessary confession and an article of faith . . . . The whole Christian Church is holy, not by its own work but in Christ and through Christ's holiness. As St. Paul says: "He has cleansed her by the washing of water with the Word” (Eph.5:26). Anyone who hesitates to boast and confess that he is holy and righteous is actually saying: "I am not baptized. I am not a Christian. I do not believe in Christ. I do not believe that Christ died for me. I do not believe that He took awaymy sins. I do not believe that His blood has cleansed me, or that it can cleanse me. In short, I do not believe a word of what God has declared of Christ and all Scripture testified.'' Helpless?To focus on being helpless as “the decisive factor not only in our prayer life, but in our relationship to God” is not that much different than what the servant did who was given one talent. It is the refusal to acknowledge that we have been given gifts that will never leave us helpless. We have to understand that we were helpless until we entered the Kingdom of God through Baptism. From that moment, we were “empowered” and therefore never helpless, (Colossians 1: 11) “May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Peace and Joy!George A. Marquart
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