The real gospel is the good news of the Word made flesh, the sin-bearing Saviour, the resurrected Lord: "I am the living One, and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore" (Rev. 1:18). This Christ turns the world upside down. One prime effect of the holy Spirit's inworking presence and power is the rewiring of our sense of felt needs. Because the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, we keenly feel a different set of needs when God comes into view and when we understand that we stand or fall in His gaze. My instinctual cravings are replaced (sometimes quickly, sometimes gradually) by the growing awareness of true, life-and-death needs:
- I need mercy above all else: "Lord, have mercy upon me." "For Your name's sake, pardon my iniquity for it is very great."
- I want to learn wisdom, and unlearn willful self-preoccupation: "Nothing you desire compares with [wisdom]."
- I need to learn to love both God and neighbour: "The goal of our instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith."
- I long for God's name to be honoured, for His kingdom to come, for His will to be done on earth.
- I want Christ's glory, lovingkindness, and goodness to be seen on earth, to fill the earth as obviously as water fills the sea.
- I need God to change me from who I am by instinct, choice and practice.
- I want Him to deliver me from my obsessive self-righteousness, to slay my lust for self-vindication, so that I feel my need for the mercies of Christ, so that I learn to treat others gently.
- I need God's mighty and intimate help in order to will and to do those things that last unto eternal life, rather than squandering my life on vanities.
- I want to learn how to endure hardship and suffering in hope, having my faith simplified, deepened, and purified.
- I need to learn, to listen, to worship, to delight, to trust, to give thanks, to cry out, to take refuge, to obey, to serve, to hope.
- I want the resurrection to eternal life: "We groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body."
- I need God Himself: "Show me your glory." "Maranatha. Come, Lord Jesus."
Make it so, Father of mercies. Make it so, Redeemer of all that is dark and broken.
Prayer expresses desire. Prayer expresses your felt sense of need. Lord, have mercy upon us. Song expresses your felt sense of who God is and all that He gives. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound. But there are no prayers and songs in the Bible that take their cues from the current therapeutic felt needs. Imagine, "Our Father in heaven, help me feel that I'm okay just the way I am. Protect me this day from having to do anything I find boring. Hallelujah, I'm indispensable, and what I'm doing is really having an impact on others, so I can feel good about my life." Have mercy upon us! Instead, in our Bible we hear a thousand cries of need and shouts of delight that orient us to our real needs and to our true Saviour.