Prayer Vs. Bible Reading: Which is Better?

Prayer is a beautiful, amazing, powerful thing.

Prayer

Image by Chris Yarzab via Flickr

God’s Word is an even more beautiful, amazing, powerful thing.

Or is it the other way around?

Or… does it make any sense either way? I don’t think it does. I often hear people extolling one or other of these glorious things over the other one, and although I get where they are coming from, it still annoys me. Sometimes a person is particularly gifted with the blessing of being able to walk very closely with God in prayer. The same thing happens with the Bible: some people have the grace to glean volumes from Scripture in a way that is positively miraculous and incredible beyond the ‘norm.’ Sometimes both are given to the same person, but not always.

And so when someone has a gift like that, they are generally excited and grateful with boundless joy over it, and because of the glory of what they are experiencing, they strongly encourage and exhort their friends to strive for the same thing. And they won’t exhort as strongly from experience for the other, because they simply don’t have that experience. And so you end up with a natural division… with one group of people dedicating absolutely everything to prayer, and the other group of people dedicating themselves absolutely to Bible meditation and study.

There are extremes, and there are gradients all across the board, but that’s the tendency I see happening.

Is this good?

Well, you can’t deny that focusing on one is better than focusing on none. But why does this disparity occur? Why are some people gifted with an aptitude for one, and not the other?

God gives different gifts in different ways for different reasons.

Some gifts He gives equally to everyone, barring extenuating circumstances, such as rain. The rain falls on the just and on the unjust, unless there’s a drought in judgment from God, and the sun rises on the evil and the good, unless an audaciously faithful commander tells it not to in the name of God.

Some gifts He gives for seemingly no reason (in our earthly wisdom) out of His own plan and grace, such as the talents, challenges, and things that you are born with.

Some gifts He gives in fulfillment of an absolute promise, such as salvation. He promises that if you turn to Him and believe on His name, you will be saved, period, full-stop, no other option. If you seek, you find, if you knock, it will be opened, etc.

Some gifts He wants to give us, but won’t until we ask. Some of them He won’t give us until we sacrifice for it and work for it. Some He won’t give until we beg. Is that because He doesn’t want to give them to us? No, He just knows that we can do without them, and that we will be more blessed from them if we dedicate ourselves to seeking for them. He also wants to strengthen us through making us wait sometimes. Patience is a hard learned lesson.

I think it is the latter which plays most into whether or not we are blessed in prayer or the Word. Various things will make a person want to improve their walk with God in one or the other, and they will work at it and seek God in it with tenacious pleading and seeking, and God will give it to them. Sometimes God will give it for less trouble, other times for more. Sometimes He gives it for seemingly very little, perhaps because He knows you’ll need it for something. We never know.

But in any case, we do have a choice in the matter when it comes to where we are now. If one is lacking, believe you this: it will hamper the other. And you need to get it sorted.

Prayer and Bible reading are not really individual acts, or they shouldn’t be. They work in unison. In fact, the closest way I can see of looking at them is as two sides of a coin, or as breathing.

When you breathe (Go ahead, try it. Okay now stop. Just kidding! :D ), you breathe in… and you breathe out.

Doing just one and only that one kills you.

Doing one more than the other damages your health.

Praying and Bible study is like that. It’s a conversation.

Praying is talking things out to God: laying your burdens on Him; confessing your faults; praising Him for His goodness; thanking Him for His blessings; interceding on the behalf of others, and etcetera.

When you meditate on God’s Word, you are filling yourself with His Truth, washing yourself in His ways and testimonies, learning and being challenged, seeking exhortation and rebuke, finding answers and being guided, encouraged, equipped, and refreshed.

Do you see the pattern?

One is a form of expression – the other is a form of intake. If you do only one, you get messed up.

So try this experiment, as a kind of illustration. It isn’t the only way to pray or study your Bible, and it isn’t the best way, but it can really help improve both, I’ve found.

Open a passage of Scripture.

Start inhaling as you read.

When you come to the top of your breath, start exhaling as you begin to pray over what you just read or over something that was laid on your heart while you read.

At the bottom of your exhale, start inhaling again and switch to reading again.

(Oh, don’t try and inhale or exhale as much as you possibly can, just breathe normally.)

This isn’t Eastern mysticism or “empty your mind” meditation. It is simply a way of learning the synergistic and symbiotic relationship of praying and Bible reading. And it works.

I’ve seen many very neat blessings come out of this in my own devotions, and I’d like to see what you think when you try it. So don’t forget to come back and comment. :)

The Final Summit: a review

The Final Summit

The Final Summit

The Final Summit is a book in a series, and it isn’t the first book, and I read it without reading the others first (because I got it free from Booksneeze in return for an unbiased review). So it was a bit… non-immersive for me. I wasn’t connected to the characters. But then, I don’t think that was one of the goals in the first place.

This book is a lecture in success and effective living, framed in the narrative of a life of a man. It’s a good read, interesting, and well written, but it isn’t an action adventure novel.

The premise is that the greatest minds of the earth from all ages are gathered together to answer one question. The question was this: “What does humanity need to do individually and collectively to restore itself to the pathway toward successful civilization?” The answer was two words.

I disagreed with the author’s answer (which I will not give, because that would be a spoiler) because although it was a good, viable one, it was not the real answer. It did not go deep enough and it did not strike true enough. My answer is: “Seek God.” For if we seek, we find — God promises that. And if we keep on seeking, even after we are saved, we will draw ever closer to Him. Every other answer to our society’s problems can be found along that journey. And without it, no other answer is complete, even if you put all of them together.

But aside from that, the book is a good, educational read. Especially for history buffs. :)

A Mountainous Vision

Carrauntoohil. A clear view of Ireland's highe...

Carrantuohill (Image via Wikipedia)

Last week I talked about a concept that I have found life-changing… a life principle that will re-energize your walk with God no matter what you are walking through – exciting or boring.

This week I plan to expand on that principle a bit, or rather add upon it. I want to share with you something that I learned just this last Saturday on the highest mountain of Ireland: Carrantuohill. During my gruelling hike (or climb, whatever you want to call it) to the top of that misty peak (very misty… couldn’t see a thing) I was praying, musing, and thinking.

Mountains are great places to do that.

You are all alone… despite all the other hikers going up with you. The weight and grandeur of nature is so vast that us humans become small. And so in the ultimate colossal world the few humans struggling next to me seem miles apart from my soul… which expanded to sing and rejoice with the hills, giving glory to the Creator God who made us all.

You are brought to the end of yourself. The exertion progressively strips and drains away every kind of energy you have. The constant variety makes each step into a unique challenge, forcing you to continually shift gears and go on with a new method of walking or climbing. You can’t relax into a consistent, easy stride, ever. In the end, your body is exhausted on every level, in every part, and you are going on by hope. And prayer.

And I am able to meet God in a special way. It seemed like each step was a new journey with new things to learn. It was also a powerful dramatization for principles and lessons already learned, grounding them deeper within me.

The principle I want to share with you was both of those: I already knew it, but I learned it again as if it was new, in a new way, with new insights.

If you recall my previous post, the principle I shared with you there was that in every point of your life, you can always ask this question and find a guiding rule for glorifying God in that moment — “Am I facing a challenge that I can do in God’s strength for His glory, or am I being blessed with a respite of happiness for which I can thank and praise Him?” In other words… all of life is made up of bumps, big and small.

This next principle builds on that.

All valleys, peaks, and bumps in life are leading up a mountain.

See, on Carrantuohill, I had to watch my footing constantly. I had to plan how to move my body forward, guiding each joint and muscle to work together in efficient harmony. I had to focus on each bump and decide how to best navigate it for the best results.

But if I had only focused on that I would have been in deep trouble. I would have wandered away from the group, gotten lost, become stranded on the side of the mountain, unable to return or go on. Even if I didn’t get lost, my path would have meandered here and there, back and forth, instead of on the most efficient path up the mountain. I had to continually look up, and keep the next goal in sight.

Look up, see the next ridge; look down, see the next step.

And so our lives go.

Do you have a master vision and passion for your life? Do you see the goals and journeys you must take to fulfill that vision? Can you look from those objectives to your day to day life and say, “This is the next step I must take to take me there.”

Without a direction, all the steps you take are merely wanderings. And any success you come across along the way will be mere happenstance… if you even recognize it when it happens.

You can’t write your life story by the seat of your pants… there is no editing in life. You only get one draft.

So plan it.

And take the next step with the light of a vision in your eye.

* Bounce Bounce Bounce *

A scene of Tokachi Plain, Hokkaido, Japan.

Image via Wikipedia

Okay, so that title was a bit misleading. This is a deep post. Very deep. * nod nod *

Well maybe not that deep. But it was life-changing for me, and I wanted to share it with you.

See, I am a collector. I don’t collect Hotwheels or stamps though, I collect principles. Life principles are best. I love it when I find a new concept, insight, proverb, or rule that will alter my life in a beneficial way. And once I examine and test and refine it I will do my best to integrate it into my habits and motivations and standards and life in general. Keeps me growing and improving all the time, and that is powerful.

But anyway, I recently came upon a desperate need for a new life principle, and went in search for one to fill the gap.

All my saved life, I have been in extremes of circumstances. I am either up on a mountain, or down in a valley. All the time. The more level ground in-between went by so quickly I never really noticed them. I definitely didn’t learn how to live in them.

Until now.

Yes, my life is more crazy than it ever has before, but I am having periods in between the valleys and mountains where I have to survive in a new war field… the plains. Yeah so they are only a week long in general, but hey, it’s long for me!

I had learned how to glorify, praise, and thank God on the mountain tops without succombing to pride and arrogancy every time (still a struggle, but victory is here). I had learned how to seek God’s strength and mercy in the valleys, drawing closer to Him without despairing and losing sight of that blessed hope that belongs to those who trust in Him. But I hadn’t learned yet how to go on doing the same thing day after day without being driven to God forcefully by either one of those extremes.

As soon as things got easier, they got harder.

I’m not the kind of guy who takes to monotony easily. In fact I hate it as much as a Karnian Great Mountain Wyvern hates baths (and for your information, that is so little as to make a scale come up negative). I always delegate such jobs to you strange but wonderful folks who actually like doing the same thing over and over and over and over and… * gags * over. And so in the plain… things are so… plain. Boring. Bland. Tedious. Insipid. Bleacgh.

And of course I end up lagging.

And things get worse, because then I end up not being as close to God as I need to be, and when you aren’t close to God… life loses meaning. Which means I get even less interest out of life. And the vicious spiral continues.

I was talking about this to one of my dear friends, and she pointed out that all of life, even the plains, are made up of a bunch of little bumps. A simple thought, but profound. Quite profound. And I saw the makings of the very life principle I had been needing so badly. And I promptly named it Be-Bumpy (right along with Be-Creative and Be-Grateful and all those other ones). And I can say with perfect honesty that it is has changed my life.

Life always brings us one of two things in predominance, every moment. It brings them to us large and small, and in various measure, but it always brings them to us with an inequality, whether slight or great. At any moment you can look at where you are and ask yourself this question with assurance of a helpful answer: “Am I facing a challenge that I can do in God’s strength for His glory, or am I being blessed with a respite of happiness for which I can thank and praise Him?”

Sometimes you can pick either one or the other – in fact you can almost always do that, unless there is a hugely challenging valley or a hugely high mountain. In which case it is best to just stick with the obvious one, in my experience.

This question is still helpful to ask even if it is obvious which end of a hill you are on, though. It serves as a brilliant reminder of what your reaction should be to it.

Otherwise, it serves its regular purpose admirably: it gives you something to be excited and passionate about in the daily grind.

In other words, it brings an eternal perspective into your moment by moment life.

See, some people will say that all you need to do is discipline yourself to be diligent in those kinds of times. But what does that mean? How do you discipline yourself, and what in the world is discipline?

I would define discipline as a measure of the kind of maturity in which we make choices about our immediate actions based upon long range motivations. (Yes, another one of Jay’s extremely compact lexicology definitions, haha.) Christian discipline would mean that those long range motivations include a heavenly, eternal perspective

See, we always do what we want. Period. Every time. No exception. This is good, this is a law of life, and it is not part of our carnal nature. It is as true of angels and God as of us.

When I choose one choice out of several options, I am basing that choice off of my own preferences. If I choose one, it is because I want it more than the others: that is the definition of me choosing it. Innumerable factors go into why I want it more than others, but that doesn’t change the fact that I want that one most.

If someone walks up to me and asks for a hundred euros, I probably will not want to give it to him. I would rather keep it. I have no reason to think that giving him the money would bring me any value now or in any time in the future (including heaven).

If, on the other hand, he asks with a drawn and loaded gun, now he has added in another consideration that I must factor into my decision. I now want to give him the money because that is tied to me keeping my life. I want my life, and so I want to give him the money. I may not like having to make that decision, but I didn’t have a choice about that one.

Discipline is basically taking into account future results. If I choose to watch TV all day instead of working towards something productive, I am not displaying maturity. A mature person would look into the future, figure out what he wants there, and then based on those desires, figure out what needs to be done now. Then, he wants to work rather than watch TV, because he sees the value it will give him. Our fleshly nature is to avoid this kind of maturity and live in the now without regard for consequences. That is why an eternal perspective is so, so important.

When we sacrifice ourselves for God, we are doing it because we want to please Him more than we want to please our flesh. If we didn’t want to please Him, we wouldn’t do it. If we didn’t care about heaven, we wouldn’t do it. Etcetera.

This maturity can be gained in many ways of course… through study of the Scriptures, learning more about God and worshiping Him, experiencing consequences brought about by previous actions, motivation seminars, etc. But the more we learn to apply the widest and highest perspective possible to our immediate, current, day to day choices, the more this maturity will grow, the more our discipline will grow, the more our diligence will grow.

This powerful question brings all this together for you, tying your prime motive into your immediate task. Because your prime motive should be God.

So remember it. And if you have improvements on it, let me know in the comments. Or if you have other life principles, or if you have used this kind of idea yourself in your life, or if you just want to say welcome back to posting! (Haha, yeah, I know, it’s been way too long, and I am sorry.)

“Are you facing a challenge that you can do in God’s strength for His glory, or are you being blessed with a respite of happiness for which you can thank and praise Him?”

Who is More Spiritual?

On the Rebelution forums I recently replied to a thread asking about spirituality and what it means. The starter of the thread pointed out that people often use the word ‘spiritual’ in a derogatory way (either in the sense of “I am more spiritual than you” or “he is so spiritual”), and was wanting to discover its proper use. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity, and posted the following short word study on the subject. * grins *

Great conversation, and great questions. I was very pleased to see the depth of thought expressed here. Defining your terms on these kinds of things can make a huge impact in your life.

Pardon me as I rearrange and edit your questions a bit to better fit with the flow of my thoughts on this. Smile

What do you understand as being spiritual, and what do you think it SHOULD be?

Whenever I want to define a word, I always do research beforehand, and I always go to Webster’s 1828 dictionary in my research. I firmly believe that his is the best English dictionary ever created, especially because he based it off of the Bible, and so is actually one of the most powerful study helps you can have for studying the Bible.

Anyways, to paraphrase what he says about spirituality that is germane to our discussion here, to be spiritual is to be holy, and to follow after spiritual things. Which makes perfect sense. (You can look up the full definition here.)

If you really think about it, there actually only two definitions of spirituality that make sense: 1) to walk in the Spirit, or 2) to look like you are walking in the Spirit. This differentiation is vital to our discussion.

Are there any Bible verses/passages we can use to address this issue? Do they help tell us why this issue matters?

There are quite a few, as it turns out. Just do a search for ‘spiritual’ in the Bible (check it out here) and you will find a slew of passages talking about this concept. And in fact I could only find one that might have had a bad connotation with the word. All New Testament mentions contrast spirituality with evil, darkness, carnality, the unsaved, and sin.

But here are some highlights:

Romans 7:14 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.

Romans 8:6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.

1 Corinthians 2:14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

Galatians 6:1 Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.

Colossians 1:9 For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;

Obviously, from the above passages, some people are more spiritual than others, and that is a good thing. We ought to all strive to become more spiritual: that is our goal. And some have gone farther along that road than others.

What does being biblically spiritual look like, in private and public?

In both cases, being spiritual is being Spirit-led. And what is being Spirit-led? It is being Christ-like. Quite simple, really.

John 15:26-27 But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:
27 And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning.

Romans 8:1-6 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.
3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:
4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
5 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.
6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.

What are some common misconceptions about spirituality? What kinds of standards do these misconceptions flow from?

Those who maintain a Pharisaical attitude towards others, seeking their own righteousness, not the righteousness of God, behaving in a way that is contrary to the true law of God in order to make themselves look more righteous than others, will often call themselves spiritual, and others will do the same in a derogatory way. But they are the farthest people from true spirituality, for the are not following the Spirit of God, but rather their own fleshly desires.

We only perceive it as spirituality because they, like the devil, make themselves look like angels of light in order to deceive others.

2 Corinthians 10:14 And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.
15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.

What are some things that people do that make others consider them to be spiritual, or more spiritual than others?

Legalism is actually the correct term for this attitude, but unfortunately people misuse it so much, I hesitate to promote using for its right use. I wrote an article on it here, if you want to find out, in depth, what I believe on the issue:

http://siremethmimetes.wordpress.com/2009/07/20/legalism/

What steps can we take to work towards the right kind of spirituality, and avoid the wrong kind?

Meditate on God’s Word with the motive of becoming more like Him. Pray to God with the motive of learning to love Him more. Consider things in light of the eternity of God. Learn to see yourself in your proper position, from the eyes of God. Study to see God for what He is, truly. Then you will have the true humility that starts you on the path to true righteousness and a spirit-led life.

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