Over the past two weeks we have discussed the tale of two storms. Which needs the most attention? Which one do we deal with first? Do we calm the outer storm, to bring peace to the inner; or do we calm the inner, to bring peace in the face of the outer? Our tendency is to pray, “We perish!” prayers, and pray for the weather to change, for the storm to go away, for the trial to cease. Jesus reminds us, “In the world, you will have tribulation, but in me, you will have peace!” And then He said remarkably, “I have conquered the world!” (John 16:33).
There is nothing wrong with praying “I perish!” prayers. Or with notifying God that we are in a storm. Nothing wrong with asking for intervention or provision. Nothing! But the mistake comes when we think that the quality of our inner life is maintained by manipulating the external by prayer; when we blindly and automatically attempt to get God to fix the outer as the first and best answer, if not the only cure. God’s way, at times, may involve deliverance from the fire and flood, at other times, it is deliverance through such things. And that is resilient faith! It is the faith that says, “We will arrive at the other side, despite what the wind and waves seem to say.” God has the first and the last word in the matter.
Suppose you are a first responder. A man, it seems has fallen from a steep cliff into the edge of the waters below. Those on the scene pull him from the water and off the rocks. He has broken limbs with deep cuts and lacerations, and he is bleeding severely. His fractures are compound. What do you suppose is your first wisest action, as a medic? Bind up the wounds? Stop the bleeding? Splint the broken limbs? Actually, it is none of those, as important as they are, the first issue is not his wounds, but his life! Is his heart still beating? Is he breathing? Without the force of life inside of him, bandaging wounds would be futile. The issue is always the vitality of life! It is the inner man, not the outer man! He indeed may be perishing, but without breath and without a heartbeat, the focus on the external is not helpful.
We live in an age of reductionism. Magical rainbows are reduced to refraction of light. Smells are explained as blind attractions by humans, animals and insects. We are all a set of spinning atoms and neurons, differentiated only by our DNA. All a part of cosmic mystery being unraveled by science. “We’ll understand it better by and by,” is not attributed to spiritual perception in the hereafter, but in scientific exploration here and now. The gospel was against such a notion. It declares man to be a ‘special’ creation, worthy of redemption, with an invitation to bring our concerns to God. Fallen, yes, but still the objects of God’s loving concern.
The rabbis came to Jesus with questions about the law, “What is written…what do you think it means?” Jesus answered not with an emphasis upon the law, but on love, “Love the Lord … with all your heart; and you neighbor…do this and you will live” (Luke 10:26-28). We live out of duty. Oswald Chambers said, “It is by the heart that God is perceived and not by reason…”
Half the population of the Roman Empire were slaves, humans treated as chattel. But the gospel, elevated men. It was a message about a God who came to bring life to all classes and peoples.
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- This blog is an excerpt from The Praying Church Handbook – Volume II – Personal and Family Prayer. Learn more>
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P. Douglas Small is founder and president of Alive Ministries: PROJECT PRAY and he serves in conjunction with a number of other organizations. He is also the creator of the Praying Church Movement and the Prayer Trainer’s Network. However, all views expressed are his own and not the official position of any organization.