Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Praying through the Bible

An honest Christian will admit that sometimes it's difficult to focus while reading the Bible. We get tired, distracted, even bored. And the same can be true of praying. Part of the reason is that we are unsure why we are reading the Bible, and we are unsure what to pray about.

As a science teacher, I teach my students to use the SQ4R method of reading textbooks. It's an effective method of reading because it causes the students to develop a purpose in reading and to actively engage the material. But, a hundred years before educational researchers developed the ideas behind SQ4R, a Christian minister gave simple advice that accomplishes the same goal.

In George Muller's autobiography, he confessed how he had struggled for years to read the Bible. But, then he discovered a way to keep focus and bring passion to his reading. As he read through the Bible, he would turn the verses in prayers. Amazingly simple. Amazingly good. By the way, I highly recommend Muller's autobiography. It's an easy book to read, but packed with wisdom and evidence of God's greatness and love.

So, here I am going to put into practice Muller's advice using 2 Cor 8:1-15, which I plan to teach this coming Sunday.


1 We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God granted to the churches of Macedonia: 2 during a severe testing by affliction, their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed into the wealth of their generosity.

Father, I pray that regardless of my material condition, my joy from you would overflow into generosity toward your people.

3 I testify that, on their own, according to their ability and beyond their ability, 4 they begged us insistently for the privilege of sharing in the ministry to the saints,

May I have such passion for serving your people that I would eagerly seek opportunities to meet the needs of others. May I consider it a privilege to be used by you for your purposes. May I always see the truth that you do not need my work, but rather you let me participate with you as I learn from you.

5 and not just as we had hoped. Instead, they gave themselves especially to the Lord, then to us by God's will.

Father, I give myself first to you and your glory. Out of that, may I give myself to your causes around me. If I do anything that is not based on faith in you, it is sin. So, father, I pray that you would give me the faith to live every day and perform every action in faith that you reward those who seek you.

6 So we urged Titus that, just as he had begun, so he should also complete this grace to you. 7 Now as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all diligence, and in your love for us—excel also in this grace.

Father, give me more faith; fill me with faith to move mountains. Give me the words to encourage others, teach others, lead others to know you better and to see your glory. May I have the commitment to you to keep my promises and live out the faith you give me, for faith without works is dead. And father, fill me with your love that I might show it to the world. Help me translate the grace you have shown me into grace toward everyone around me.

8 I am not saying this as a command. Rather, by means of the diligence of others, I am testing the genuineness of your love.

Father, as your child, I am not bound by the law. But, you give me opportunities to demonstrate my faith and love. My actions would not be grace if they were not based on your grace. I do not act out of obedience to law, but obedience to faith and love. I do not act out of external compulsion for from your spirit compelling me form within. Father, may I have true love for you; may I first love you with all my heart, all my mind, all me strength and all my soul; and may I then love my neighbor as myself.

9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ: although He was rich, for your sake He became poor, so that by His poverty you might become rich.

I have been so amazingly blessed. While I was a sinner, Christ died for me. He did not consider equality with you something to be grasped, but instead, took on the form of a mere, ordinary man. Although he was king, he became a servant. He became poor so that through him I could have an inheritance beyond measure--eternity with him in heaven. Help me always remember this rich blessing so that I would know my treasure is in heaven. Help me live my life as Jesus did, living for your glory by living in faith of your power and goodness.

10 Now I am giving an opinion on this because it is profitable for you, who a year ago began not only to do something but also to desire it. 11 But now finish the task as well, that just as there was eagerness to desire it, so there may also be a completion from what you have. 12 For if the eagerness is there, it is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have.

Thank you for being a God who asks of each individual according to what you have given that individual. May I always remember I will stand before you one day to account for my own life. May I live with the type of eagerness and action shown by the Macedonians.

13 It is not that there may be relief for others and hardship for you, but it is a question of equality — 14 at the present time your surplus is [available] for their need, so that their abundance may also become [available] for your need, that there may be equality.
15 As it has been written:
The person who gathered much did not have too much, and the person who gathered little did not have too little.

Father, once again I see eternal truths in how you dealt with the Hebrews coming out of Egypt. You fed them and cared for them as the roamed the desert. You gave them their daily bread so that each person had just what they needed. Help me remember that I should live in faith that you will provide my daily bread, and you will provide just what I need to fulfill your purposes in my life. May I be a faithful steward of what you entrust with me so that I may be worthy of being trusted with more. Help me to use what you give me, everything, to glorify you. May I not be like the man who had so much he felt he needed nothing more than larger barns to hold his wealth. May I be more like Paul who funded so much of his own ministry so that he would not be a burden on anyone and his personal needs would never be a stumbling block for the evangelism of the world.

May I live in a way that pleases you. Amen.

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