Saturday, August 13, 2011
to push past the barrier of my brain and pray
When I was in my teens, the concept of prayer left me bemused. Even long-standing, mature Christians may understand where I was coming from. At times, we may feel tempted to bypass prayer because it seems to violate our gift of common sense. The caption under the guy at the top of this page expressed it for me. How can talking to an invisible person about things He already knows improve our condition one iota? It would seem that our time may be better employed by getting out there and doing things, or seeking the counsel of flesh-and-blood people whose facial expressions we can see, and whose advice we can actually hear with our physical ears.
Then I was drawn to the story of Naaman, the Syrian army commander who contracted leprosy. He was also advised to do something that made no earthly sense to him. He'd traveled such a long way to consult Elisha, the prophet from Israel he'd heard good things about. He did it out of desperation but hadn't expected Elisha's advice to be so ridiculous. In the first place, Elisha wouldn't even do him the courtesy of coming out to speak to him. He merely sent a message. "Tell him to go and dip himself in the water of the Jordan River seven times."
What a major let-down! The poor guy had common sense. He'd already washed himself several times in clean water at home, to no avail. The dirty water of the Jordan would only swell the sores with more infection and make him worse. I would have said, "So much for that quack! A prophet indeed!" Only one little Hebrew maid helped Naaman put his position in perspective when she said, "Sir, if the prophet had told you to do something costly and complicated, you would have done it, wouldn't you? And this is so easy, what do you have to lose?"
Thank God Naaman was open-hearted enough to listen, because we all know what happened when he did.
That got me wondering if I was like Naaman? The Bible tells us that God loves to use the 'foolish' things of this world to confound the wise. The simple thing He asks of us is to humble ourselves and pray. If He'd asked me to carry out some complex chanting, cleansing or posturing formula ritualistically each day, I tend to think I might have taken Him far more seriously.
Yes, I was dealing with the same God who asked Naaman to dip himself seven times in the Jordan. He asked Joshua to have his army march silently seven times around the walls of Jericho before blowing their horns. He asked Moses to speak to the rock, demanding water. He asked Ezekiel to to lie on his side for months, eating food cooked over cow dung (and originally it was meant to have been human dung, but Ezekiel was too 'straight' for that). As the ultimate craziness, He allowed His Son to die on the Cross in the place of sinners, so anyone who believes in Him would have their sins blotted out. That has been a crazy-sounding stumbling block to many.
What eccentric, unorthodox action is He asking of me? Simply to talk to Him and believe that He's listening and willing to act on my behalf. He asks me to expect that He'll honour my obedience with answers. He asks me to forget any illusions that I'm merely hot-airbagging to the four walls of my room. When I think about it, this is totally consistent with His other 'crazy' behavior and makes perfect sense.
Since taking this attitude on board, I've experienced and heard about many, many answers to prayer and ways in which it has made a vital difference to situations. How about you?