Cross Points 4.23.21

Prayer's Counterpart

We talk about prayer in a connection sort of way, as if it’s a key to communicating with God.  And yet I’ve admitted openly in this series of Cross Point articles that I can be frustrated in prayer, because things often do not go like I want, or like I think they should.  Am I (are we) left with this frustration, simply to cry out without response?  Isn’t something missing?

The answer is yes, indeed, something is missing when we pray and pray with only the hope that God will answer through circumstances, to provide what we want, and then we do nothing more.  Our relationships don’t work that way in daily life, do they?  Our marriages don’t work that way as we communicate, do they?  There are two sides to the communication process.  In our relationship with God, prayer is only one-half of the equation.

It’s been said that people typically pray in two categories: trouble, or trivia.  “There are no atheists in foxholes,” they say, and that accounts for trouble.  When we are sick, or when we’ve messed up royally: God, get me out of this mess; God, solve this problem.  Or we pray out of habit.  At meals, at a church function, the “Lord’s prayer” by memory without thought.  This accounts for trivia.  When else do you and I pray?  What else do we pray about?  That’s one side of the issue.  The other issue is that we often do not allow God to speak.
Do we expect his answer to only be through resolving the problem we’ve presented?  “I want this, God,” but God hasn’t answered unless he provides what I want.  Or do we expect a voice from heaven to speak audibly?  That has happened, but rarely. Surely, if prayer is a conversation, praying only deals with one side of that conversation.

How often do you read your Bible?  Do you take the time to have a good Bible, with introductions to explain who the author is, who the audience is, what is the context of the writing?  A good study Bible also has footnotes and references that help a lot.  The NIV or ESV Study Bibles are good ones.  You need to know the context.  God won’t magically reveal something to you that is contrary to what he revealed through the author and to his original audience in the Bible.  You need to understand that. If their context applies to you or me, then yes, the message may speak to you or me also.  Otherwise we play with scripture, leading to all sorts of misinterpretations; not what God intended.  Context, context, context.  It also helps if you are part of a good Bible study, to gain insights from a seasoned Christian teacher, and from the perspective of others who join in the study.  Seated classes in a school setting offers more than virtual on-line classes, I am convinced, and the principle is the same with Bible study.    
God speaks to us in this way.  If we fail to take part in Bible study, especially the teaching of Jesus and his apostles within the New Testament pages, we short-circuit the conversation with God.  We speak to him, then we wait in a vacuum, wondering why we don’t understand his perspective.  There will be things we won’t understand, make no mistake, God’s ways are higher than our ways.  But he gives us much to help in our understanding as we consider the lives and circumstances and teachings held in holy writ.  We learn from Abraham and Moses and David and the prophets, from Jesus and The Twelve, as their questions and concerns, their teaching and examples, speak to us.  

You’ll remember that when Jesus was tempted in the wilderness by Satan, his responses were always with scripture (Luke 4:1-13).  Just praying for Satan to leave him alone wasn’t enough.  When the Jewish leaders tried to trip him up with their traditions, he always pointed them back to God’s Word (Matt. 15:3).  When he wanted them to know he was fulfilling the prophecies, he pointed to scripture (Luke 4:21).  God’s Word has answers we need.
If you want a healthy prayer life, you need a healthy Bible study life also.  Don’t neglect this.  
Cross Point: “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).
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