I met God by reading the Bible . . . I heard him speak to me through it. I asked, “If you’re really ‘there’—if you truly exist—please speak to me!” and he answered! The answer came in the Sermon on the Mount of Matthew 5-7 where he confronted me about my sin, warning me to stop sinning with my eyes and hands or I would face an eternity without him. He was on to me. He obviously knew me. And I quickly felt the weight of the conversation. Then he went on to tell me to be perfect—as his Father in heaven is perfect. That’s a lot to chew on! In my reading that day—it took almost an hour—I came to Christ’s call for me to “seek first” the kingdom of God and his righteousness. He also promised that he would add everything else that I needed. I quickly responded by saying, “Yes, Lord, I’m yours! Your kingdom and righteousness—knowing and sharing you—is my new ambition from here onward.” So I was his to care for, to direct, and to correct. And I’m impressed with how faithful he’s been; very impressed!
What I want to share here about my conversion is that the Bible only comes alive when we come to God with questions. He doesn’t answer questions when we don’t ask anything! He loves us to ask all the questions we can think of, and to bring our fears, doubts, cares, and concerns to him. This is prayer. Yet Bible reading always goes with prayers: God doesn’t feel obliged to answer our prayers if we ignore what he’s said already!
So life is meant to be a conversation with God. It often seems to be in “slow motion” because I don’t find the specific verses from my Bible reading that answer my questions right away. But over time I find that my questions and requests continue to be answered by him. Sometimes it takes years. Sometimes it involves surprises. But in light of eternity that’s not a real long time, is it? Nor should we expect him to always do what we think he should. He’s God and we aren’t.
I also know that God loves to bring about transformation. He’s still working on my heart, but he has captured it at the most basic level. But there are many more miles to travel. So the need to keep up my questions is crucial in order to keep moving on in faith. And then to keep reading to hear how he answers.
Sometimes we have special times to study or read the Bible. Sometimes we have special times to pray. Whenever and however we do either, both praying and reading are crucial to life in Christ. Jesus called on us to “abide in my words” and Paul talked about “praying always.” We are invited to express our heartfelt concerns to God as a lifestyle. And we also need to “listen” in an ongoing way. Christ invites us to be bold not just in abiding in God’s word but also in taking the faith birthed by reading back to God in prayer. The call to a living faith invites both give and take—the two always working together.
Our prayers come alive as they live within a real conversation. Not just a listing of requests, but the sharing of honest questions from someone who wants to learn and grow. From someone quick with thanksgiving. From someone humble before God rather than demanding and cranky. From someone who enjoys finding and listening to God’s heart more than anything else in life. And then we get to listen for answers by reading what God has to say. Bible reading and prayer: the two go together and set up a great conversation with our Lord who loves us. The goal is simple: “taste and see, the Lord is good!
You said: “Our prayers come alive as they live within a real conversation. Not just a listing of requests, but the sharing of honest questions from someone who wants to learn and grow. From someone quick with thanksgiving. From someone humble before God rather than demanding and cranky. From someone who enjoys finding and listening to God’s heart more than anything else in life. And then we get to listen for answers by reading what God has to say. Bible reading and prayer: the two go together and set up a great conversation with our Lord who loves us. The goal is simple: “taste and see, the Lord is good!
Me: Heh. And to think I was looking for a “teacher” when all this time, I HAD/HAVE one.
He’s some great God, isn’t he, Ron?
Have you ever read Hans Kung’s take on the Sermon on the Mount? Would this be the place to discuss it or might it be something for a different post (if at all)?
I love your response on the first post of this last pair, Leanne. The biblical invitation for us to engage the Lord in more immediate ways (e.g. “praying always”) is something I want to explore as a lifestyle. So thanks for the insight…which is also a bit of good coaching!
No, I haven’t read Kung at all so far, though I have at least one of his books awaiting me on my shelf. I’m much more of a 15th-18th century guy, so I’m always playing catch up on more recent writers.
So, in respect to your preferred authors, would it be fair to say that my preference for the more “recent” stuff means I am “ahead” of you?