I just had an experience that I thought I would comment on, not because it is new, but because though it has happened enough in the past it gave me a minute of pause and I decided to write about it.
It goes like this: You pray for someone/something you said you would or that you had on your heart, and felt confidence on all counts (faith, scriptural support, heart fervency, etc) – all those things that a person who prays knows as basis for faith that God hears, and answers. Then, the very thing prayed for seems to suffer some sort of attack that creates some doubt. Did God hear? am I disqualified for some reason? what is going on?
In this instance I prayed for some people in missions, and my daughter specifically, to be protected particularly in traffic. Whether simultaneously or soon after a report of a serious accident. So, what is going on here? Did this prayer not work or did it work, but in a flawed way. Some people are not going to like the phrasing “prayer working”, but we labor in our prayers, so it seems like a good way to think about this. And James speaks of effectual prayers, effectual meaning “producing an intended effect”.
While there might be numerous explanations, one that ought to be considered, when a seemingly opposite situation seems to come forward than the one prayed for, is that you have walked into enemy territory. You have started to wage war spiritually. Sometimes the enemy of our souls is used to having dominion over an area, of life, of a family, of a city or nation, and the prayer of a fervent saint is making an inroad of uncomfortable efficacy to take back blessing for the situation prayed for.
You may be experiencing the resistance of a an evil spiritual power. That is one possibility that you should consider. I believe the Spirit of God can give you insight into whether this is the case in your particular request. There are times when Jesus said we should be encouraged when we see seemingly hostile events taking place.
In the case of my own prayer, the lives of the people in that accident were kept, even though there was injury. My daughter was not involved though some of her coworkers were. What does this tell me? It tells me that in an area that desperately needs the blessings and freedom of the gospel, prayer for mission workers should be redoubled. That is right- I am encouraged to further pray for protection… to meet resistance with faith in the power of the covenant in Jesus blood. And therein is the key to prayer that works. God honors His covenant in the blood of Jesus. It is our confidence in that that the devil fears, and the enemy of our souls will try to squelch. The gospel (good news) of freedom is the news that a covenant, an everlasting agreement, has been given to us and sealed with the blood of God’s only begotten son. The psalm 91 promises of protection and deliverance are ours in Christ Jesus. When we know that God is pleased to answer us, then our prayer will “work”. Although it is more accurate to say that we know that God is going to act on our behalf.
I encourage you to pray, and to find what is promised you in the eternal covenant in Christ Jesus for us.
I came across a discussion of the Greek word translated “daily” in the Lord’s Prayer, epiousion. Via Challies, the article, “How Do We Define Biblical Words?” pointed out that this particular segment of the Lord’s prayer had some controversy surrounding it. That was news to me, though years ago another part of the Lord’s prayer, “lead me not into temptation”, took on a whole different interpretation than I had expected when a discussion moved me to look into that.
So, in what seemed a simple enough request there is much more to learn about what we are being taught. There some consensus that the word translated “daily” is more the way we would understand a concept like “Superessential”.
Jesus uses an unbelievably strange word that does not occur anywhere else in all Greek literature except for discussions of the Lord’s Prayer. -Bill Mounce
But epi + ousia also, literally, means ‘above essence’ or ‘above being’; and so there is a second possible interpretation, which would render epiousion as something akin to ‘superessential, supersubstantial’, etc. This meaning, too, was not unknown to the Fathers; and particularly because it related to bread in the prayer, the Eucharistic overtones of the word were significant. Thus the request in the prayer is for bread that goes beyond that of mere subsistence: the bread of life. We see this, for example, in St Cyril of Jerusalem:
“Give us this day our substantial bread. Common bread is not substantial bread, but this Holy Bread is substantial, that is, appointed for the substance of the soul. For this Bread goeth not into the belly and is cast out into the draught, but is distributed into thy whole system for the benefit of body and soul. But by ‘this day’, he means, ‘each day’, as also Paul said, ‘While it is called today’ (cf. Hebrews 3.15).” (St Cyril, Mystagogical Catecheses, 5.15)
For me, it draws together with ideas on Jesus teaching that He came to give life abundantly. There is a great deal of teaching now on this abundance…just as formerly there was much interpretation given about having only so much as was “needful”.
I don’t think we are looking so much at conflicting ideas as the building of a concept that our own selfish, self promoting natures conflict with. The idea has unity, our desire to rationalize our choices does not. At the root of it is our struggles with learning how to pray. It then makes perfect sense that this would be included in the master pattern on how to pray.
We need more to survive and thrive in each day than some pieces of physical bread, but we do need physical bread. Every day we look to the almighty God, our great sustainer. It evokes the name of God, El Shaddai, Our Provider. With the whole concept of someone who nourishes us in the most elemental way.
It melds with an idea I have thought of lately- that we have not only lost the concept of what it is to “Father”, but what the true picture of “Mother ” is, as well. This is why it is so easy to get mixed up in how we relate on these most elemental levels.
The farther from God, the more lost we are in so many ways.
How, like a salmon swimming upstream, does a Christian move against the almost overwhelming flow of our materialistic culture as it indulges in one of the most consumer-oriented, commercially immersed holidays of the year?
We’ve been through the catchy phrase phase of “Jesus is the Reason for the Season”, but that didn’t help very much. We have steeled ourselves with good intentions, and organized lists. “This year” we will not get caught up in mad, irritable crowds of shoppers. Only to be faced with ungrateful store policies that outlaw the mention of “Merry Christmas”… because, well, you know… it might offend customers. Is the answer in putting a creche back in the capitol buildings? Singing the carols in the secular school plays? Wearing the red and the green? Will these things put Christ back into Christmas for us? What will?
I think I found the answer. And it is in the most obvious place: Advent.
Today was the first Sunday of Advent, and our family gathered around our own seasonal tradition of the Advent log. Ours is a little different than some in the details of how we celebrate Advent, but the fact that we do connects us with many likeminded Christians around the world.
Like no other time of year, as a family we make an effort to devote some minutes each day leading up to Christmas for a time of worship: saying a prayer, reading a scripture, sharing some religious songs- mostly Christmas carols, lighting candles. That is our core set of activities, with additions changing as our family matured, sometimes hit and miss with the competition of other Christmas hustle and bustle. It is an effort to settle in for the quietness and presence of such an act: sitting down together, centering thoughts on God and His wonderful gift. It is a well chosen effort and time given, that I can tell you. The story of our first Advent log.
The effect of it is to make a place for Christ, and find how perfect a fit He is for the center of Christmas celebration.
However, there was more for me to discover in Advent this year. In preparing devotional posts for the endeavor I started some years ago, of making a blog that functions like an Advent calender, I found myself renewing my acquaintance with the Savior in a deeper way. This year in contemplating God’s promises (the theme chosen for 2009), I was surprised how revived my soul felt after searching through the scriptures. How much it has impacted my focus during the season already!
Enter into the ancient Church tradition of observing Advent, whether with a Jesse tree, or an Advent wreath, or simply with daily devotional time centered on the holiness of the season. Let it be “set apart”, which is the meaning of “holy” for your consideration of the meaning of this beginning of the gospel story.
Discerning biblical truth consists of more than stringing together a series of prooftexts. We must encourage Christians to think theologically, systematically, and holistically, asking questions of plain logic, such as, “Does this make sense? Does it cohere?” All truth is God’s truth, and a logical contradiction is not truth.
Exegesis of scripture, discovering an understanding of what God’s message to us means, consists of many aspects of study.
People tend to favor their own methods, but there is a synergistic working together of things that will highlight the truth. In the knottiest of questions I like using an overview approach that I have called “the principle method”. If broken down into its essence I might say this is based on finding God’s revelations of Himself and applying that as a test, or key, to our understanding of the meaning in individual parts of scripture. I would structure this as the pivotal fulcrum between conflicting ideas of scripture’s direction, thus creating a balance of understanding.
And lest anyone think this is a subjective and … by inference… unproven method of arriving at the truth of God’s message I found a very ancient and reliable illustration: the Nicene council and the influential arguments of Athanasius.
In pursuing reading relative to the gender debate within the Church an intriguing avenue opened. Kevin Giles has written a book which connects the issues of how we view the Godhead and how we view male and female interpersonal relationship. Within the first part of the book dealing with views of the Trinity, the Nicene council… and resulting creeds … is prominent. In the debates over doctrines the usual pattern of conflicting scriptures and their individual exegesis evidences do battle. This is a familiar territory for everyone who finds themselves trying to negotiate their way between theological conflicts. Calvinism/ Arminianism… works vs. faith…. cessationism vs continualism…. and here, trinitarianism vs subordinationalism. Too many ism’s don’t you think? Some people just tune it out, it makes their heads swim; others are into their ( dare I say it?) anal element.
But the truth is out there somewhere, and that is what we are aiming toward, it is something worth the time and effort for many of us. Some of us are pearl connoisseurs, looking for that big T Truth. Principles are the stepping stone bridge over the troubled waters of seemingly unresolvable dispute. I think, personally, this is because principles are usually grounded somewhere in the nature of God Himself, as He has revealed Himself. Jesus, in His perfect simplicity stated it this way: I Am the Truth. This is why this method of scripture study works. There is overarching truth, not a multiplicity of it, but there is overarching truth to be found, and it provides structure and parameters for the rest of the understanding.
I think there are several terms that are used for this same concept. At times I have expressed this as “presuppositions”, because to use the principles in discussion, there has to be an agreement that these are indeed true.
Athanasius is quoted as speaking of “the scope of scripture”, “the overall drift”. and “the theological center”1 in forming his concept of “homoousios”. This line of thought resulted in the acceptance of our present ideas of the Trinity as defined and confessed within the Nicene Creed. It is one of the presuppositions that many orthodox Christians work from. Giles, in his book, “The Trinity and Subordinationism The Doctrine of God & the Gender Debate”, submits that we in Evangelical Christianity are reworking the old debate, for self-invested reasons of our own. Although he gives the benefit of the doubt to Evangelicals on the basis that their grasp of history is lacking. He chalks this up directly to the idea that todays Evangelical theologians are vested in their determination to prove the subordination of women, and thus “read back” into the doctrine of the Trinity and threaten to subvert the whole trinitarian doctrine that was previously established as a result of the Nicene council.
What Giles argument here does not do is establish anything concerning the gender debate – that is dealt with later in the book, but he makes a very cogent observation about the blind spots of today’s manner of theology in our own stream of Evangelicalism. And how important it is to not be reactionaries. Using the full connotation of the word.
But what I am saying here concerning “principles” is that this overview is as important to contextual reading as specific textural reading, context on the smaller scale of singular scriptures and even books of the Bible. There is an entirety to the Bible that cannot be ignored, and there are times when we must establish the basic principles and then go on from there. This is Paul’s contention in the book of Hebrews,”not laying again the foundation”. Continue reading The Principle of the Thing: one method of understanding scripture’
They have questions and they think… and that deserves serious time to answer their questions.
2nd Question in the series
“How can you preserve your integrity as a Christian when in high school, feeling lots of peer pressure? You are already reading the bible and praying, but that doesn’t seem enough”
This is a real life question. It is usually answered by Christian adults with “Read your Bible and pray” more, and I think the person finds they are doing that but “how do you keep yourself from changing to what other people want to see?”.
It’s a fact that our society is increasingly secular in a way that is both more anti-Christian and conformist. People have always struggled with the need for acceptance, especially during their teens. When you add those two pressures together in our present culture how do you keep from going down the moral toilet?
Sometimes we make the mistake of answering old questions with old answers, when really we should take a fresh perspective. It isn’t that the Bible and Christianity are outmoded for today’s culture, but rather that we give outmoded, regurgitated answers… so let me look closer at the question.
In the Christian life there are three supports in a worldly, ungodly society. Why do I label culture that way? Simply because it has its own set of standards and values, thus has a worldly rather than heavenly basis; often those are in direct opposition to how God’s values and standards are represented in the Bible, thus ungodly, not God-like. The three supports are relationship with God through prayer; study of His values and system through Bible reading and study; and fellowship, or close relationship with like minded people. (Those who also love God and follow His ways, as revealed through study of the bible and through direct relationship with God, themselves.)
This is always underlined in discipleship of Christ, whether consciously and formally taught, or by example. Paul, in the Bible said it this way, “Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern.” -Philippians 3:17
Let’s say, that you, the Christian in high school, are trying to read your Bible regularly, on top of the homework and studies for school; you are also trying to regularly develop your prayer life, and ask God to help you become true to yourself and Him in your everyday life. You are getting the feeling you are losing ground, and sometimes it just feels like you are swimming upstream against very strong current every day. Why isn’t the effort to read the Bible and pray enough?
There might be several things going on. It might be that third leg of “fellowship”. It might be that you are facing the test and trials that are inherent in the Christian life, but you weren’t prepared for that, and it is taking you by surprise.
Do we really understand how much pressure a person in a high school environment is facing to behave in ways they don’t even have any desire for? It is intense. It comes from all sides, and very few things are in place to give them bulwarks in their faith. Their parents, maybe, their Church somewhat, but how much time, and how much quality are coming from these types of supports and alliance? Maybe not enough. We throw children into a long term, time consuming, peer pressure environment. The answer for young Christians is that they need that third leg of fellowship with other Christians to be strong and of high quality. There needs to be an emphasis on developing relationship with others who love God. As an adult Christian in a predominately Christian culture of home and church I can tell you that this is challenging to find and maintain. How much more for kids whose main church life is spent on empty entertainments? Who aren’t challenged or invited to question, think, and discuss important Christian doctrine and issues in a Spiritual context?
Maybe we have been ignoring the spiritual side of our children in our Churches, and maybe as parents our relationships with our children have been squeezed into small slots of time that are too regulated by our own pressure to cultivate that sort of communication. I’m not trying to condemn anyone, here, I just think we should take a second look about what we are asking of young Christian people, and what sort of support we are actually giving them. Their spiritual well-being is at stake.
So what is that answer to the question for you, that person in High School who is feeling the life smushed out of them? Maybe one thing is to be brave to raise the questions and start the conversations that are needed in your church and with your friends and family. This is part of being yourself. Another is to open yourself to your Christian parents and leaders that you trust, desire to keep the lines of communication open, don’t be quick to get offended. We all need to work at communicating and it doesn’t come easily sometimes. Remember the Bible verse,”Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.”” -1 Corinthians 15:33 and work at having close friendships with others who are as interested in following Christ and learning discipleship as you are. Grow your prayer life. Keep studying the Bible, maybe in a group. It all works together.
And trust God that He really does want the best for you, and is with you in even the worst of times of pressure and failure. Have you received the gift of the Holy Spirit? Maybe you need more dynamic spiritual power that comes with receiving that gift. Ask God for it. He wants you have His Spirit leading you and within just as He was in Jesus. God wants you to become your full self, and to be true to that self, trust Him.
If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”
Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.
Remember Art Linkletter? “Kids say the darnedest things” was a funny segment on his show (that was a long time ago, so if you don’t remember I don’t blame you), but now many teenagers have real theological questions and interests that come up in their average day and it isn’t so funny. Whether you watch “Supernatural” or not, there are many ideas about doctrine, and worse, there are quite a few assailants on faith who act as though they have it all wrapped up. They don’t. I used to debate/discuss with them all the time, and I know that Christianity has some very reasoned valid answers to modern questions of existence and meaning. But that isn’t the why or wherefore of this exercise that will occupy this blog for awhile.
No, the actual reason I was inspired to do some little theological FAQS is due to the real questions that came up in conversation with one of my children. This then led me to ask some of their friends to give me some of their real life questions. And that will be where I go with the blogposts for a little while in my “Bible Theology According to Mom“.
Today’s Question: How can you trust the bible- wasn’t it just written by men? And what about the “missing parts”?
This is probably one of the most important questions for Christians, because a lot of our answers rest on “what the Bible says”. It is true that it was written by men. We know that, and it says so itself within the scriptures. We don’t make any claims that angels wrote it, or that God downloaded it directly onto parchments or tablets. The one passage that is said to have been written “by the finger of God” is Exodus 31:18:
“When the LORD finished speaking to Moses on Mount Sinai, he gave him the two tablets of the Testimony, the tablets of stone inscribed by the finger of God.”
But then, “When Moses approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain.” So, we don’t have anything remaining for that claim. What we do have is a body of work that has remained faithfully true to the original through many ages. The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls gives evidence for consistency of the Old Testament writings, not the purported change over time from transference. So doubts arising from an idea that the scriptures suffered loss or change of meaning over time just isn’t supported by any reasonable suspicion. It is as dependably consistent an any type of historical document can acceptably be. And I think, more so.
Think about what people normally choose to accept for historical validity. Even in modern times we often accept far less than what we have available to support the trustworthiness of the scripture accounts and of their accuracy within themselves ( that is, passed on through generations and copies).
OK, but what about missing parts, or other books that aren’t included in the “Bible”?
In an article discussing this on the Columbia University site, there is the idea that the Old Testament portion of the Canon (acceptable official body of scripture) was already in effect before Christ. The Jews had an authoritative view of what books were inspired by God. So the short answer is this: there were always other books to consider, but certain ones were weighted with authority based on a set of “tests”.
For the New Testament Wesley Ringer states:
1. First, the books must have apostolic authority– that is, they must have been written either by the apostles themselves, who were eyewitnesses to what they wrote about, or by associates of the apostles.
2. Second, there was the criterion of conformity to what was called the “rule of faith.” In other words, was the document congruent with the basic Christian tradition that the church recognized as normative.
3. Third, there was the criterion of whether a document had enjoyed continuous acceptance and usage by the church at large.
Otherwise, I would summarize it this way:
One was “who” accepted the books or not. Were they the apostles or those who both studied the scriptures and lived exemplary lives? Were there a group of these leaders who agreed on the inclusion of the books?
Another is the way the book itself agreed with other accepted books, was there harmony of teaching within the stream of expression given by each book? The books themselves have an overall agreement or were circulated, and accepted, as trustworthy doctrine.
AD 85 :By this time, all of the writings we include in our New Testament are in their present form and are in use by Christians. ~Timeline of formation of Canon and of the Creeds.
It is more complex than that, but that gives the main idea. By the way, just because I link to a particular page that is helpful, doesn’t mean I agree with the entire theology of what is represented. I might even link to an atheist view if it helps to clarify the discussion, but that doesn’t mean I agree with everything the writer is saying or the opinions of their site- just so you know.
But let’s get to the real gist of the question: Did God write the Bible? I am going to be painfully honest here. No one can prove He did…just like no one can prove there is a God at all. And I know that if you are a Christian you don’t really like that answer, but if we are talking about proving something to people who want indubitable proofs in a physical manner, it just isn’t there… and it isn’t there for a reason. I am saving you a lot of futile effort here, in just coming out with the fact that you can’t prove this, and that there are other ways and reasons to have confidence in the assertion the Bible makes for itself: that it is God’s Word written as men were inspired in their hearts and minds by the Holy Spirit of God Himself. You can be confident, but you aren’t going to have hard and fast proof to show someone who wants to believe otherwise.
There. That is out of the way…now let’s get on with why we can trust the books we have in the canon of the Bible, and why we can safely do without those which aren’t included.
People sometimes make unreasonable requirements of matters in the realm of Christian faith that they don’t make in any other way in life. If they insisted on these requirements in any other comparable situation in life, no one would get very far. The main matter I am speaking of here is establishing veracity. Determining whether something is true.
In systems of law, especially, we rely on witness and testimony. In much the same way as the Bible canon was established, it matters who the person, or group of people, is: a trusted person who gives their expert testimony or their character witness to events or what the facts might be. Science supports that testimony, particularly in modern cases, but it is the interpretation of that science, and expert application of it that gives a convincing case. So it still relies upon the witness of people. There are matters where it is the testimony of a witness alone that is admitted for establishment of the truth of a matter.
And this is exactly the basis that God has for establishing truth about Himself. If we insist that this is not sufficient, then entire systematic ways we have of establishing truth simply collapses, and we would function on a very low level. We would never have nuclear power for example. Because we can’t prove everything about nuclear theory, we can only observe and act on what we observe.
The truths of the Bible are often observable over time. And many of its detractors will admit that. They might admit to the value of Jesus’ teachings, for example. But how reasonable is it to have something prove valuable over a long history of man, only to deny its value based on its age? Or based on the fact that there are variable interpretations? And those are the ways that many criticize the trustworthiness of the Bible as an inspired document, excuses to dismiss its value.
Whether we talk of whether the Bible is truth or God exists, we will come to a wall. That wall is the fact that faith is involved in accepting either as fact. As with law functioning with witness and testimony, much of what we know to be true is based upon faith. Our faith in the witnesses ability to tell us facts or relay information, our faith in the information itself. We use faith to believe much about the universe. We function with enough verifiable facts to move forward.
Often, it comes down to the same situation we see in the book of 1 Kings, when Elijah faced an opposition who countered all the claims that the God of the Old Testament, the Mosaic covenant with the Jews, was the God to worship and follow. That He was the True God, and that his words in his law and through his prophets was true. Elijah let God prove who He was and who He was speaking to and through. So in the final analysis, we believe the truth of the books that are handed to us within the Canon of the Bible, but it is up to God to prove that He inspired them. He does this through outcomes, and through His own acts. In the meantime, we may do much investigation to add to our own convictions. We can study archaeological information, lexicon explanations of the original languages, historical texts, etc. to better know and understand.
Thus, we prove how we believe Him, and our own ability to discern truth. Ironic, isn’t it?
If this didn’t answer your question, I hope it got you thinking, anyway. Have more questions, things you want to say? give me your comments, please.
The act of prayer is the exercise of the spiritual life, or the “man of the spirit”. Once we are children of God it would seem that praying would come easy, but what is it that stands in our way? As in all spiritual growth, the three enemies are the same: The flesh, that is ourselves in selfish desire to indulge our own will and do things through our own power; The world , the many distractions around us and the wisdom that says physical work is more important than the solitary and quiet time spent in prayer; The devil, the spiritual being who opposes God and all things that destroy his own nefarious plans.
The Arguments of the Flesh
When we give in to our determination that our schedule, or our leisure time is first priority we are going to find the time left for prayer to be squeezed into the small allotments of time hurriedly rushed through. Instead of placing our relationship with God foremost… it is relegated, despite our best intentions, and promises into the back rooms and leftover parts of our day. We feel farther away, and awkward in our time of prayer. It nags at us, but we aren’t sure of it’s real importance after awhile ( although we won’t say so in so many words).
The Wisdom of the World
The world displaces prayer when we become convinced that other things are of higher priority. These might be “Good” they may seem “spiritual”, but they are of the world, and not the wisdom of Christ, in the end. Running around to many meetings, taking care of an endless stream of obligations, making sure our social needs and demands are all met… al of them except an appointment to meet with the Lord. Taking ten points, or following four methods, or meeting our top three priorities, somehow we have a plan for everything except how to actually sit down to pray. Running in circles, worrying about keeping up our image, and maintaining our important and hard won promotions… all these are what the world applauds, not time on your knees that no one knows about or can quantify in their assessment of your productiveness and success.
The Devil in the Details
There are times you must recognize that the blockades and discouragements have a demonic spiritual source. this can take more guises then can be told, but the one way to uncover it is to persevere in the face of self-condemnation and be firm to not allow hindrances to overwhelm your prayer time. Banding together with others who pray builds the strong cord that resists the stumbling blocks of evil.
How To Overcome
As Jesus did, use the Word. Arm yourself with pertinent verse from the Bible which encourage you, and keep your eyes on the right track
Don’t worry about the small distractions of your mind at first, they are just the normal chaos of the mind settling into place. Consider following the Our Father prayer as a guide to keep your prayer coming back into focus
Don’t feel guilty, feel glad that God loves you and that you can bring your petitions to Him
Remember that God so loved you He gave His Son for you… He loves you, He loves your prayers
Remember that persevering prayer is overcoming prayer, and you will receive answers because God promises to answer. Don’t worry how it works or the way that God makes decisions, trust Him and ask
Pray in different ways: singing to the Lord, petitioning, praising, seeking forgiveness and forgiving, use quiet time and use music… allow your relationship with God to grow
Use specific times and methods to give your prayer life consistency
I don’t mean when we need help in crisis or the “Thank God” when we avert one, but the discipline of prayer that we are called to do as disciples in relationship with Our Lord, and as co-laborers in His harvest. It must be hard because it is quite a feat to persuade people to actually do it.
Not that there is any shortage of desire to learn about it, or talk about it, or subscribe to it’s benefits, but the action of taking time to really step into the experience is where we stop short.
We all know how good it is, and how necessary. For a believer in Christ it is not a debate over those facts. Instead it is the priority and discipline of it that causes all the shortages in prayer. And I do think that is the great unseen shortage of our day, and if this is so… if we are experiencing a shortage of prayer production what does that mean in terms of our ability to “know God”? How can we know Him, and know His will if we are not in prayer relating to Him? If it were just a matter of reading our Bibles and having Bible studies ( no shortages there!) then the Pharisees would never have missed out on the great event of their generation: the Advent and manifestation of The Christ.
Christian usually see themselves as the True Believers and rarely have any suspicions that they are Pharisees. Yet, too often they concentrate on their attention to doctrine and neglect of living spiritual life. Real spiritual life springs from a relationship with God in the Spirit of worship and paying heed, and consequential obedience; the doctrine is the husbandry of it. Doctrine feeds, gives guidance and sometimes prunes the spiritual life that springs up from within. How much good is fertilizer for the cast off branch? I am taking this analogy from Christ’s parables, and particularly from the admonition that we “Abide in the vine”
We are often promised in seminars or by book marketers that reading about or learning about prayer will transform our lives. We attend, we purchase and read, but we remain unchanged…why is that? I believe it is because we subtly substitute our interest in “the topic” with the actual practice in our lives. This makes no difference in the spiritual reality. It only deludes our own minds, and then we wonder why we are so collectively weak and ineffectual. The very opposite that we are told is the outcome of true intercession.
I encourage you: take time to pray. Make it your priority, in your day, in your family, in your church.
Every time you read about prayer, institute a practice of it right away. Stop midway through your book…pray. In all the meetings of your church life… make sure at least one each month is a group prayer action: a family time, a meeting at church devoted to prayer, etc. The opportunities are there.
This is one part of your life where the learning is in the doing, knowledge cooped up in your head won’t benefit you when it comes to mastering the art and labor of prayer. Perhaps because it is dependent on connecting to God and receiving His part of the response, and not simply an end result in itself.
I have called upon You, for You will hear me, O God;Incline Your ear to me, and hear my speech.
Call upon Me in the day of trouble;I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.
Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.
Lent will start on Wednesday, the 25th of February in 2009, and will continue for 46 days until Saturday, the 11th of April. So what is the significance of that for many of us?
Lent is the traditional fasting time that extends from Ash Wednesday through Easter. It is to represent the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness, fasting and being tempted, some believe. For most Christian traditions (those which incorporate it into their Church calender) it means that people give up something as a form of fasting and self denial. Ash Wednesday is a day to reflect on one’s mortality, and the whole mood of the season is the coin side to Christmas.