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Friday, August 05, 2005

Prayer in the Bible

The breadth and depth of prayer is shown to us from the Scriptures. Throughout the Bible story the heroes of faith have a communion with God that is intimate and real. From the very first story of Adam and Eve walking with God in the garden in the cool of the day we get a glimpse of the life of prayer. In the book of Genesis, prayer is likened to walking with God. Both Noah and Enoch were said to have "walked with God" (Genesis 5:24, 6:9). In the story of Abraham we see the great father of faith walking with God. He steps out in faith to follow God, and God establishes a covenant with him. Throughout Abraham’s story, prayer is shown to be a living relationship with God. It is established in the sacrifices of the covenant and fulfilled in the promises of the covenant. The Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it this way, "Christian prayer is a covenant relationship between God and man in Christ. It is the action of God and of man, springing forth from both the Holy Spirit and ourselves, wholly directed to the Father, in union with the human will of the Son of God made man."
In the story of Moses, other dimensions of prayer start to come alive. Moses fled to the wilderness, but God found him and called him through the burning bush (cf. Exodus 3:1-6). For Moses, prayer means not only seeking God but God seeking him. "The wonder of prayer is revealed beside the well where we come seeking water: there, Christ comes to meet every human being. It is he who first seeks us and asks us for a drink. Jesus thirsts. His asking arises from the depths of God’s desire for us." When God came to meet Moses at the burning bush, we are reminded that prayer is a gift from God. He first gives us the desire to pray, then enables us to pray. Therefore our prayer is always a response to God.
The burning bush is also an introduction to the "mystical" tradition of prayer. Within the mind there is a facility to apprehend a message from God given in a vivid and even frightening manner. When we speak of mystics in the Christian tradition, we don’t mean mystic fortune-tellers or mediums. Instead, the mystic is one who has had a close, unforgettable, and vivid experience of God’s presence. Like Moses, mystics have discovered how to listen to God as well as speak to him. Mysticism is linked with meditation, for in meditation we reflect on the Word of God and take that message to heart. Like Abraham, Moses’ meditation on God’s word took him further into an intimate relationship with God. God speaks to Moses face to face as a person speaks to a friend (cf. Exodus 33:11). It is from this intimacy with God that Moses becomes a great prayer warrior. He prays for Miriam’s healing (cf. Numbers 12:10-13), for victory over the Amalekites (cf. Exodus 17:8-13), and for God’s mercy in the face of the people’s apostasy (cf. Exodus 32)

Excerpt from: More Christianity by Dwight Longenecker

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