Vital Habit #1
PRAYER and SCRIPTURE
No other book can match the Bible in terms of its circulation or impact on the world. Anyone searching for spiritual growth would be foolish not to examine it. The Bible is a collection of spiritual wisdom and insight, which has withstood the test of time and changed countless lives. Yet, it is also foolish to mindlessly accept any belief that is backed up with a Biblical quote. No one can ignore that the Bible can be falsely interpreted. People have used the Bible to support the massacre of thousands of “witches” in Europe, the enslavement of African Americans, and still use it to support polygamy to this day. Nearly all Christian denominations claim that the Bible is the word of God and that they base their beliefs on it and yet they differ greatly in their opinions as to what it says on most controversial issues. The Bible needs to be respected and studied but there needs to be a healthy degree of doubt for any one particular interpretation. People who claim to have the absolute and only interpretation of the Bible usually show their ignorance rather than their understanding.
The Bible contains the word of God and we can grow dramatically by studying it. But how do we avoid the dangers of misinterpretation? Do we ask someone else to explain it to us? At first glance that would seem to be the answer, but this too is dangerous. A casual glance at the religious leaders of our society will demonstrate that they vary dramatically in their interpretation of the Bible. And only a fool would fail to recognize that there are cult leaders and extremists who have actually twisted the Bible to promote bigotry, hatred and many other things the Bible actually argues against. There are many suggestions to guide your quest for the real truth in the description of the final vital habit below (Respect All Truth Equally), but the most effective tool to help us properly understand the scriptures is prayer.
It makes sense that if we can learn from the people who wrote the Bible that we can learn still more from their teacher. Most inexperienced believers view prayer as a time to recite to God a shopping list of requests. Some feel they can increase the likelihood of getting what they want by asking for these requests more emphatically. Some pray by giving long arguments to God as to why they think they should have what they are requesting. Do they really think that they are instructing God? Do they think that their arguments are going to help God realize something that God didn’t think of before? Do they really think that if God has decided that what they are asking for is not in their best interest that they can still get God to break down and give in if they beg and plead with God enough?
God already knows what we want and need before we ask. God already knows what is best for us. God already loves us and wants to give us the best life can offer. We don’t need to convince God to do this. God is not like some dysfunctional parent who will give into our teasing and give us something harmful just to stop our begging. Sometimes God says “No” and when God does say “no” it’s not because God doesn’t care or doesn’t hear us, it is because God loves us. This is almost always impossible to understand for shortsighted people…like nearly all of us.
So if we can’t teach God anything new by praying…why pray at all?… The answer? We may not be able to teach God anything, but God certainly has plenty to teach us. Often the answer to our prayers is standing right in front of us, but we don’t notice it until God opens our eyes during prayer.
The reason that many of us feel God is silent is not that God isn’t speaking, but rather it is because we have too many other things drowning out God’s voice.
Like Elijah, most of us need to recognize that the voice of God is often a “still small voice” and not an earthshaking vision of rapture. When we shut off the TV, turn down the stereo, remove the thoughts about the deadlines we have to meet and the bills we have to pay…when we clear our minds of all of that…sometimes we start to notice the voice that was always there underneath it all. Which brings us to the next Vital Habit:
Vital Habit #2 - Rest
Vital Habits Index