So for one of my missions trips, I received a big ‘ol package of preparation material and such. I haven’t really thoroughly explored it until recently, and when I did, I noticed a prayer journal they encourage you to use to “ignite” your prayer life. So I opened it up and started looking through it.
Week One, Day One- Time With God
“But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:6)
Okay, cool. Good verse. Talks about being honest and real when you’re praying to God, and not to be showing off or whatever for the people around you, because this is contrasting to the hypocrites mentioned in the previous verse. Then I keep going.
Jesus didn’t mean that we must go into a room and shut the door. He did not do that when He prayed. But He did find ways to be alone with God, and that’s what He is telling us to do today.
Oh. Really? That’s what the Bible’s saying right there? Ummm, so what about in Matthew 6:5, where Jesus says to not be like the hypocrites, who love to pray to be seen by men? Is the solution really to just be alone with God? This passage isn’t about necessity of praying when you’re alone, it’s about the perspective one needs to have when engaging in prayer. Prayer is a conversation with God, whether in a group setting or by yourself. But prayer is about God, not about you. That’s what the verse is saying.
So I skip down to the journal part of the devotion, and the first question goes like this:
What does my heart sense God is saying to me?
When I see this question, I picture myself when I was younger, closing my eyes and concentrating as hard as I could to try to hear what God was saying. I would try to keep my mind as blank as possible, warding off any possible distracting thoughts, and I would curse Satan when he wouldn’t let me hear what God was trying to tell me. I eventually figured out there was something wrong with that.
My beef is with the idea of needing to ask the question. If God is saying something, your heart doesn’t need to be uber spiritual at the time. You don’t need to be prostrate and fervently praying before God to be able to “sense” God saying something to you.
Exhibit A: Numbers 22. Balaam and his donkey. If you recall the story, Balaam was pretty much blind to God. But God had something to say to him anyway. And God made sure that Balaam heard it and followed it.
Exhibit B: The book of Jonah. This time Jonah was vehemently opposed to doing what God said, but God got through to him anyway.
And take into account every true prophet in the Bible. They didn’t give a message saying, “This is what I sensed God was saying to my heart.” They would know beyond a shadow of a DOUBT what God was saying, and they didn’t need to even ask the QUESTION! God just said what needed to be said, and nobody had any question about whether it was God or not. Why would it be different for us?
I do think there’s a good reason why that question is so popular though, and I may blog on that next (I’ll give you a hint, I think it actually is productive, but not in the way people mean it or take it). However, right now I have Bible verses and a testimony to memorize, and I need to train my evangicube skills. So I need to go do that. But I’m doing prelim forming of the next blog post in my head already, so expect that sometime in the next week. It’ll also likely be a long one.
So yeah. Discussion is definitely encouraged; in writing this rather strongly weighted opinion, I don’t want to discourage other perspectives, so discuss away!
(Btw, here’s the next blog post in the series.)