Saturday, August 31, 2013

Pondering. Praying.

Let's be honest here: most Christians would rather get an hour long deep-tissue massage from Ironman when his repulsor blasters are malfunctioning, or pet a cat, or pour Tobasco sauce in their eyes, or do anything else rather than pray.

Actually, that's not true. I could only do 30 minutes, not an hour.

Or perhaps a more accurate statement would be, "most Christians would find it easier to endure [insert something horrible and outlandish here] rather than pray". Biblically, we read that this should not be so; but practically, I think we can all relate to this inner tension - a desire in our renewed selves to pray, but the overpowering resistence of the old man against our spiritual endeavour. In the Christian there is a Spirit-born desire, in the core of his being, for prayer. We know that prayer is powerful, that it is effective, and that it is essential to a flourishing Christian life; we know that it is a spiritual weapon with which we wage spiritual warfare; we enjoy theorizing what it would look like to lead a life of deep prayer; we study and analyze the great prayers of Scripture, from Nehemiah to Jesus to Paul, in order to correctly formulate prayers; we read the literature from those great Christian mystics who have reckoned prayer as necessary for spiritual life as their very breath for physical. But then...

...we don't pray.

Let me make it more personal. I don't pray. At least not very often. You may pray on a regular basis, and if you do, I commend you for it. I really hope to be like you one day very, very soon. Surely you are seeing God move in your life and in the lives and situations of those for whom your are praying. Surely God is manifesting himself to you through those intimate times. If that is you, I beg you: press on! Keep praying! Do not grow weary in performing labor that sends ripples through the fabric of the spiritual realm! God hears your prayers; indeed, he even inclines his ear towards the prayers of the righteous person. So please: don't stop. Please continue to set the example for weaker brothers and sisters; for those who are struggling; for me.

So, if I'm not praying then what am I doing? What else is there to do? Well, I am a ponderer. I ponder things. I get an intense joy out of thinking about things deeply, mentally disassembling every cog, wheel, bolt, and spring of a matter in order to understand its inner workings and thereby form my own opinion of and more thoroughly appreciate that matter in its entirety. I especially enjoy pondering theological matters, as theology is an attempt at describing God and everything that is related to him, which is...well, everything. In him we live and move and have our being; he holds all things together with the word of his power. If God is the reason for all of the existing universe, then I can't see there being any other subject as being more worthy of my intense, focused pondering.

Pondering, thinking, meditating; whatever you want to call it, the activity that takes place in the grey matter between our ears has a significant place in Scripture:
  1. The one who meditates on the laws of God are compared to a tree who is planted by streams of water, whose leaves never wither and whose branches bear fruit in its season,
  2. We are encouraged by Paul to dwell on heavenly things, things that are just, lovely, pure, excellent, and worthy of praise,
  3. Paul also tells us in Romans to be transformed by the renewal of our minds,
  4. Peter likewise places a large emphasis on the thought life in 1 Peter, and
  5. In one of the most well-known passages of Scripture, we are told to love Yahweh our God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength.
The Christian life is one that is lived and fought primarily in the mind. It is the thought life of the believer that often determines whether a particular skirmish - with the flesh, with sin, with the devil - is won or lost. It is with our minds that we mull over and analyze and understand the precious truths of Scripture. For example, when I come up against a battle with my lust, it is with my mind that I dwell upon the verses that deal with lust and sexual immorality; it is with my mind that I understand the perverse nature of pornography, and its correlation with the sex trafficking industry and other sexual crimes; it is with my mind that I perceive the pain that my lust brings to my wife, and the offence that indulging in lust causes God. I then determine that gratifying my lustful desire is not something that is beneficial for anyone. It is with my mind that I am able to receive information in order to make use of it.

But to only think is not the full picture of the Christian life that we are given in the Bible. It is prayer that calls down fire from heaven; it is prayer that changes the hearts of kings and rulers; it is the prayers of the righteous that God responds to and delivers them out of their troubles, it is prayer that heals men of sickness and demonic influence. And yet not prayer, but the God to whom we pray.

With our minds we can do the work of a tactician, correlating information to make a plan; but it is with prayer that we invoke the presence and power of God to set that plan into action. A plan is great, but what good is a plan if it is never acted upon? Jesus said, "If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them" (John 13:17). And how can we do divine work without divine power? We can't. And because we cannot, we pray that we might be able to. By his grace, God responds if what we are asking him to accomplish is in accordance with not only his nature, but also his will.

What am I saying? In a nutshell, just this: I tend to think a lot, but I pray very little. I reckon that if I had split my time 50:50, or even 70:30, between thinking and prayer, I would have experienced much more victory, power, growth, and maturity in my life than I have thus far.

My desire is to pray more. Not to show you that I am a spiritual person, or to make you esteem me any higher. No, I desire to pray more because it is in the presence of God that we are humbled and made to be a more useful tool in his hand; I desire to pray more because I desire to accomplish his will here on this earth; I desire to pray more because for the rest of eternity I will be in his presence, and if that will be my position for eternity it makes no sense to not be in his presence now. If we cannot enjoy the presence of God on earth, what makes us think we will enjoy it in heaven?

If, when you think about prayer, a back rub from Ironman still seems like a better alternative, then I pray that God would meet you in those moments and show you the value of prayer. It is my prayer that we would not only do the important work of pondering, but also the powerful work of praying.


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