Unbelievable thoughts from a simple non-theologian:
Friday, July 23, 2010
Unbelievable thoughts from a simple non-theologian:
I was barely conscious, ready to wake up and face the day- gearing up to go and sit at the feet of the Lord and gleen His Wisdom from His Book, when I thought of the things I wanted to remember to pray for. There were the usual people- coworkers, friends family, loved ones- and right in the middle of it, I heard myself ask, "Lord, what difference does it make if I pray, really?"It was actually more of a half-connected unintelligible flit of a thing in all honesty, as I rolled from one side of my bed to the other to hit the snooze bar.
I have often wondered what this 'prayer thing' is all about. I have heard theological sermons on prayer and the power of it, but never really made a deep connection to how the power of an Almighty God is harnessed in the prayers of His people. I just took it on faith that that was how things worked. God cares about what we care about. He is 'open for business' 24 hours a day, and doesn't care if our prayers are long and eloquent or short and sweet. I have prayed both. I have seen COUNTLESS answered prayers, and yet I confess, it has always slightly eluded me and remained a mystery. After all, God isn't ringing His hands wondering what is going to happen in the whole universe until I check in with Him in the morning (or anytime). He is not to be manipulated and yet all throughout His Word, He encourages us to seek Him out and ask Him for the things He already knows we need. So just what is the power of prayer?
When you ask God a direct question, you better be preparing yourself for results.
This time was like a lightning bolt of information that all snowballed on itself into one gigantic, revolutionary thought that came together like the pieces of a complex puzzle that I had been waiting to see the image of, my whole life.
I started to approach it from God's perspective. If God made me, His little Pride and Joy-- the apple of His God-eye, what would it mean to Him to have me pray? Like all relationships, it would show that I cared about asking Him for advice. Seeking Him to know Him better, is certainly and element of it. The discipline of relying on Him to solve my problems and help me to give better advice would surely be one advantage. And I always thought that the act of praying was a piece of it, as well. Having the discipline to clear your mind of the clutter of life to set aside and wait and hear from the Lord is crucial.
And what about what it says about my fellow man? When I enter in to the concerns of others, doesn't it show that I am valuing people and honoring people? Like leading strays in to the house of my rich, powerful Father, it would indicate that I know He is good and wise and will do the right thing for people. And they are always welcome, even to be adopted into the family.
Of course there can be a selfish element to prayer, in a sense. I know many a Christian may never break out of the 'laundry list' type of prayer-- "Lord I need A, B, and C.. thanks. Have a good day." Still, I find that any serious Jesus follower will go beyond that way of thinking at some point. The more you read the Bible, the more the Lord has to say about prayer. We're supposed to cast all of our cares on Him, because He cares for us... and what about praying for those who persecute us? We are to ask for wisdom and knowledge-- something that James says the Lord LOVES to give us.
But ultimately I think that prayer really shows that we are gasping for meaning and connection in our world and going to the source that will provide it. By offering up intercessory prayer- praying for the needs of people, we are entering into their pain and celebrating their victories. We are becoming entwined in the fabric of their lives. This was the Lord's great plan for us.
As I thought through prayer, another pillar of the Christian faith popped in my head. Maybe because I was just getting ready to have my time that consisted of those two primary things- prayer and Bible Study. I wondered again, "Why is it so important to read the Bible?" Again, the hypotheses came rushing like a mighty wind...
The Bible-- a collection of stories, poems, letters written over 1500 years on several continents with hundreds of authors of all different occupations... Why am I reading it? Why is it new to me everyday? Why can you spend a lifetime reading it and never cease to find something to speak to what you are going through in every situation?
If you believe it is the Word of God-- and I do because, let's face it- that we have it at all in it's unaltered state is a miracle in and of itself. Plus, it is LIFE CHANGING and transforming. I have seen the words of this Book stop demons in their tracks, on the mission fields of Central and South America. I know that it cuts through religious backgrounds, skin colors, creeds, and socio-economic status. Anyone can study it. But they will not remain the same if they are truly seeking the life that it contains.
Because of its historical and literary content and its use of storytelling, it speaks to the human heart like no book ever could. In reading it you will enrich your mind, learn about the foundation of the world, and your place in it. Its apex is the coming in the flesh of God in human form-- Jesus, the Christ. All antiquity points forward to the coming of this Messiah, and all history since His resurrection is lain on the foundation of His time here. The messages are timeless and relevant for every generation and yet written in historical context and culture. It has the power to engage your mind, heart and soul all at once.
At the end of my thoughts about these two pillars of the faith, I was dumbstruck to reach one final conclusion. God impressed on me, "What are the two Greatest Commands taught by Jesus?"
Quickly I replied, "That's easy Lord. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. And the second one is like it- Love your neighbor as yourself." And just as I finished congratulating myself for remembering it, so early in the morning and so close to unconsciousness, I remembered that He also said that all of the other Commandments hung on those two.
The Ah-ha moment came when I put together that reading the Bible was our way of telling God that we trust the record He left for us, of human history and divine inspiration-- enough to attempt to live our lives based on it. We are saying that we want to enrich our minds and renew our spirits and let the wisdom of the Lord to infuse our hearts. We are submitting to Our Creator by reading His ownership manual and love letter to us all rolled up into one. We are choosing to love the Lord with all our hearts, souls, minds and strength.
And when we pray, we are interacting and entering into the lives of our fellow man. Our neighbors, coworkers, friends and enemies are being blessed when we intercede for them, and we are having our hearts for them transformed and our perspectives bending more toward seeing them the way Jesus sees them-- flawed, weak, redeemable-- just like ourselves.
Jesus could have said that the two greatest Commands were "Live Cleanly and Go to Church" or "Keep away from society and Be Nice"-- but He didn't. We have no way to accomplish those things.And if we could, we would say it was by our own will power or determination. But by making the Commands what He did, He set us on the path to find out how to achieve those things. And the only way is to seek Himself-- for grace, mercy, strength, encouragement and wisdom. And we find Him when we read His Word and pray.