Thursday, July 30, 2009

The trouble with prayer

This week in VBS, the kids have been studying the book of Daniel, which of course, means I have been studying the book of Daniel. This is one of the great dangers of teaching others – you might possibly learn something as well. I say dangerous because you simply never know where “learning” will take you. While ignorance might be bliss, learning something new can be terrifying. Who knows what changes some new knowledge may require of you? Especially if that new knowledge comes from God through prayer.

Think of Daniel. Daniel was a man of great prayer. Now, we often think of prayer as simply some quaint way of talking to God – kind of a superstitious way to guard against trouble. Talking to God, however, hardly ever keeps us out of trouble. For while that might seem to be our main goal in life, the scriptures seem to reveal that keeping us trouble free isn’t high on God’s priority list. Far from keeping Daniel out of trouble, prayer seemed to keep propelling Daniel right into the middle of it. Prayer kept informing Daniel of what a true loyalty to God really looked like. In at least one case it looked like the bottom of the lions’ den (remember, prayer got Daniel into the lions den well before it got him out of there).

Prayer more than anything else we might do, connects us with God’s work in the world, a work that is as subversive to the world’s ways as it is good for those who will submit themselves to it. Our primary example of this is Jesus Christ who came to undo the ways of this world, the ways of sin and death. What did we do to him? We put him on a cross. When we pray, we are asking God to replace our ignorance of his ways with a realization of his will. After all, he taught us to pray, “Your will be done.” I wonder, though, are we actually ready to do his will? What if it leads us right into the middle of the lions’ den? What if it leads us to a cross? C.S. Lewis compared a person who goes looking for God in prayer with a mouse that went out looking for the cat. That seems about right.

So why in the world would we pray? Why did Daniel pray? Perhaps he realized the great truth that for as fearful a life lived with God might seem to others – it’s nothing compared to how frightful a life lived with out him would be. For while the jaws of the lion certainly scare, Daniel knew, they’re nothing compared to the hand of an Almighty God.

For [Daniel’s God] is the living God and he endures forever . . . He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions – Daniel 6:26, 27.

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