Pray…or listen… (part 3)

Something we hear quite often in our daily practice is:

I’ve prayed so much, but I never get an answer.

Its superlative is:

I stopped praying because I never got an answer anyway.

And yes…. We also know that feeling from our own past. But….. then we ask the following question:

When was the last time you read your bible? So, not as part of a church service, but read it yourself?

And then it usually becomes quiet….. very quiet… the answer is often “not for years” or “not in the last weeks, months”…. oops. And we can also ask the question:

When did you study the Bible? Not only reading, but also studying? When was it written, and who was it written for? (context)

And then it stays quiet 99% of the time. The answer: “never”, we come across a lot.

That being said, let’s take a look at a bible verse:

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

2 Timothy 3:16-17

You may find it even a bit annoying that we immediately come back with a Bible text, but pay attention… an example of the life of Jesus himself. So set the scene:

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

And now it comes…..

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.

Matthew 4:1-4

Jesus could also have given an answer himself: “I think, I think that, I tell you that, I have found out that, I just ask God and this was His answer to my prayer”, but He did not.

He answers with a bible text…. This is the word of God and this is His answer! Jesus refers to Deuteronomy 8:4. The answer is already written in God His word.

Yes, Jesus could have prayed: God, give me an answer to the devil’s annoying question! But no… Jesus already had the answer ready. Because Jesus Himself studied the Bible…. And not just a little…a lot.

Why don’t we as humans do that more often? So many answers are already contained in THE Divine answer in His bible. Maybe…sometimes….you may not want to know that answer, but God is oh so clear in His answers to LOTS of questions in His bible.

As we already gave as an example in part one:

Example: God, I like this girl, we already have a relationship. She is not a Christian, can you please give me a sign that I can marry her? Because if she sees my good Christian example, then she can become a Christian as well. Can I God? Will you bless me?

Uhhhh…. God has already given you that answer in His word:

Be not unequally yoked with unbelievers, for what has righteousness in common with lawlessness, and what communion is there between light and darkness?

2 Corinthians 6:14

But if you don’t read His Bible… are you really listening? Prayer is beautiful, but if we don’t read His word….

And speaking of reading… there is a huge difference between reading and studying.

You can read the Donald Duck weekly. It doesn’t matter why Donald isn’t wearing pants, if you get the joke it’s enough. Studying is something else. When you read something, you have to go a few steps further, for example:

  • Contextualize the verse within its passage
  • Contextualize the passage in the book and in its original context
  • Look at key words and phrases, based on the original language and culture
  • Apply the passage to your life and community

If you don’t do that, and just read, you have the risk of hearing something that God definitely isn’t saying. There is such an example at https://www.emmy.foundation/en/english-blog/wrong-bible-text-part-1/

And speaking of listening….

In a conversation, you do not only use your mouth (to pray), but also your ears. Do we also do that in our prayers? Are we really listening? Or are we just talking? Where do we pray?

Something we often hear is:

I pray a lot, all day long, when I have something that bothers me, I tell God.

But let’s go back to Jesus Himself… here’s what He did:

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.

Mark 1:35

Jesus took time, in silence… a time, devoted to God… with nothing and no one around Him…. We see those moments more often in the Bible, such as in Matthew 14:13 and John 6:15. But do we? Listening to God? Be silent, in a silent place… and listen? Or are we so busy that we don’t take that quiet time (anymore) with God?

Quiet time and Bible study. Delving into God’s answers that are already there and listening to His voice… critical if you’re looking for His answer….

So yes… do pray and praise, but to listen…maybe more than asking God for A, B or C…..

This was part 3 in this series on prayer. Click here for part 1, 2, or 4.

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