Saturday, January 27, 2007

Protecting Prayer

One way of understanding the title of this entry is that of a prayer which asks the Lord's protection in a difficult or dangerous situation. Such prayer has biblical precedent. We find an example of such a prayer offered by a group of exiles as they prepared for the long and dangerous journey from Babylon to Israel (see Ezra 8:21-23)

However appropriate and true it is, that is not the intended meaning for this blog entry. My meaning here is the protecting of the time and circumstances in which prayer occurs. The three enemies which war against the Christian, namely the world, the flesh and the devil, have a way of trying to entice or convince us that time in prayer with God in Christ is not a top priority. In our entertainment-crazed culture, we find too often, as Shakespeare put it, that "the world is still deceived with ornament" (The Merchant of Venice Act 3, Scene 3). My wife refers to this as "being distracted by shiny objects." Our culture exists in a time in which these "shiny objects" are available to us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. These are the things which grab our attention and often take away (as in steal) our time with the Lord. This may take many forms depending on our lifestyles. Perhaps it is that "just one more" television show or video game that you think will take only a few minutes and mutates into an entire evening. Perhaps it's that "I'll hit the snooze button one more time" which ends up becoming several snoozes and results in little or no time in prayer in the morning.

There can be other aspects to the world's call to neglected or deflected prayer. Many of us live through times in which a number of real demands are made upon us. Perhaps it's an increased number of hours at work. (Ironically, I received a call at home for tech support from work while I was writing this entry). Perhaps you've just brought your newborn baby home and the child is keeping you up at night. There can be a number of demands, legitimate in themselves, that demand our attention. It must be noted that an increased workload was an strategy of an evil Egyptian pharaoh. You can find it in Exodus 5:1-9

Afterward Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, "This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: 'Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the desert.' " Pharaoh said, "Who is the LORD, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD and I will not let Israel go." Then they said, "The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Now let us take a three-day journey into the desert to offer sacrifices to the LORD our God, or he may strike us with plagues or with the sword." But the king of Egypt said, "Moses and Aaron, why are you taking the people away from their labor? Get back to your work!" Then Pharaoh said, "Look, the people of the land are now numerous, and you are stopping them from working." That same day Pharaoh gave this order to the slave drivers and foremen in charge of the people: "You are no longer to supply the people with straw for making bricks; let them go and gather their own straw. But require them to make the same number of bricks as before; don't reduce the quota. They are lazy; that is why they are crying out, 'Let us go and sacrifice to our God.' Make the work harder for the men so that they keep working and pay no attention to lies."

For Pharaoh, the most important thing in life was not God. It was himself and his own glory in the building projects of his reign. Therefore, according to Pharaoh, it was critical to get the attention of the Israel off God and onto him. Reflect on how this attitude still prevails in so many ways in our own time and place.

More on this in the next entry...

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