Sunday, May 28, 2017

Reformed Spirituality

You don't have to read or listen to much on prayer for a Christian to say that prayer includes listening to God.

Now, strictly speaking, I'm not convinced.

(1) Prayer in the Bible always seems to be talking to God. (I would be interested to hear any counter examples). Jesus says, "When you pray, say..." and gives the Lord's Prayer as something to say and as a model for our praying. When we pray we talk to God. Simple.

(2) The Reformed consensus is that God's Word to us is final and sufficient in Scripture. The Bible is God speaking today. He does not give new extra words. Listening to God is engaging with the Scriptures.

it pleased the Lord, at sundry times, and in divers manners, to reveal himself, and to declare that his will unto his Church;c and afterwards, for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the Church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing;d which maketh the holy scripture to be most necessary;e those former ways of God’s revealing his will unto his people being now ceased.f 
The Westminster Confession of Faith (part of chapter 1, of the Holy Scripture)

We all know that prayer is not a vending machine and it is good if our prayers are not just shopping lists for ourselves but include Adoration of God, Confession of Sin, Thanksgiving and Supplication for others and ourselves (ACTS). We want to pray in the light of and in response to the Scriptures.

But we can go further.

Just because prayer is talking to God and reading the Bible is listening to God, it does not mean that either should be a speedy barrage of words. It might do us good to slow down and pause. We are not only to read and study the Bible but to think and meditate on it - to chew the cud, the murmur it over to ourselves. We do well to stock our minds with it. We have the blessing of printed Bibles we can read and of audio Bibles and so on, but what might our spirituality look like if we depended more on the Old Testament, Psalm, Epistle and Gospel we had heard read and proclaimed on Sunday? Would there be gains as well as losses?

Maybe we could slowly, thoughtfully, deliberately remember God and his presence with us and consciously enjoy him. We could pause to think of his majesty and goodness and love and to praise him. We could pray the Psalms we know. Or dwell on a single line from the teaching of Jesus.

And maybe we could even simply be with him. We need not bring our agenda. If our thoughts are racing and distracted, fine. He wants to hear about all that. We can talk to him freely. But maybe we could also learn to be quiet and still and wait in his presence.

It's worth a go, anyway.

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