Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Bible Study and Prayer

Another question from my Failure Day IV list (I've taken the liberty of organizing them by personal, marriage, and family): How much time do you spend reading the Bible and praying each day? Is it commensurate with the time you spend in non-eternal affairs?

Something I've always fallen short in. It is remarkable to me that, being someone who loves to read, that I have such difficulty really sitting down and reading the Bible - reading it with intensity and and attention I would give a good secular book or a text for a test, really digging in and studying, making applications from the text. Too often, it's the sort of thing I do haphazardly if at all.

Prayer is the same way: More often than not, it's a struggle to get out of bed to pray in the morning ("You know, God doesn't care where I am and after all, I'm warm") or in the evening ("I'm so tired -really hard to focus"), or to pray during the day ("This sounds too short and foolish - prayer is supposed to be a formal thing").

The thing I notice as I write these is that in both cases, these involve our communication with God: in reading the Bible, we receive (hear) God speak through His word; in praying, we speak to God, bringing our sins and our cares, aligning our wills to His. That is interesting to me because I spend a lot of time every day communicating with people, and trying to ensure that they have a full and pleasant communication with me, yet I don't do the same thing with God?

And time spent in Bible reading and praying versus non-temporal matters? That's just embarrassing on the face of it. If I spend 30 minutes a day in prayer and Bible reading, I so often feel that I've "reached my max" - yet I can talk to folks on the phone far longer than that, or dedicate an hour or two every day to any temporal activity.

And I wonder why my life is seemingly bereft of God's power and wisdom.

I've made a few changes since I moved. Following the tradition of George Mueller, I now read the Scriptures kneeling morning and night (I use something to rest on if I'm losing the feeling in my legs - no sense in being stubborn about it). Mueller did it to demonstrate both his reverence for the Scriptures as well as his willingness to receive God's word. I will say that it has allowed me to focus more on what I am reading.

I've also changed up my annual reading program (there are many good programs out there that will get you through the Bible in a year), but have added to it by reading my main program out loud morning and evening. This forces me to slow down and think about what I am reading. In the slow down department as well, for books I am reading (secular and non-secular), I am sitting with pen in hand, underlining as I go - I find that this again forces me to slow down and ponder what I am reading.

In the prayer department, I am still woefully inadequate. I was one that was brought up praying eyes closed and kneeling, so prayer lists were not something that I was used to using. I have tried to be better about this for about 5 years - it's a long process, even just in the recalling of writing the requests down and remembering to pray over them.

One of the strengths of the ascetic tradition of the Catholic Church is that they take regular times during the day to worship and pray. This is something I should incorporate more fully into my life as well.

The motto of the Cistercian Order is Laboare est Orare, To work is to pray. This is also something that I think would improve my sense of serving God daily: that my work, done well, is another way for me to give glory to God (and something I could give glory to Him eight hours a day doing).

I can only state for myself, the lack of greater Bible Study and prayer means a greater lack of spiritual growth and power in my own life. The fact that my experience seems to reflect so much of the church today suggests that this problem is not unique to me.

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