Anna Patty highlighted in The Age yesterday that Australians are “opening their minds to spirituality and prayer.”
McCrindle Research has found evidence that a growing number of Australians are considering prayer and reading the Bible during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This is welcome but, in some ways, not surprising. When faced we are faced with the reality of our mortality, many of us begin to ask the important questions about life and death and God. When life loses its security and certainty, we start looking for someone in whom we can place our hope.
Considering God is the most natural thing in the world. He has wired us to know him and to seek after him.
Considering God is the most natural thing in the world—not because we need a crutch to lean on, but because he has wired us to know him and to seek after him; it’s in our spiritual DNA.
He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. (Ecclesiastes 3:11)
God and the Failure of Lesser Things
In times of prosperity, health, and freedom, we too easily blinker ourselves and settle for lesser things. We tell ourselves that we have control. But when those things are stripped from us, the questions return. When our little hopes become paralysed, we suddenly find that we need something bigger to hope in.
For prayer to be the real deal it requires praying to a real God who can really hear and listen.
Let’s be honest though, we can use prayer like a placebo—a way to trick ourselves into believing that everything will work out. And that can make things worse because placebos—even if they provide temporary relief—don’t resolve the underlying issues. For prayer to be the real deal it requires praying to a real God who can really hear and listen, and who is personal and powerful.
The God Who Listens
Take, for example, the prayer Jesus taught his disciples to pray, what today is known as the Lord’s Prayer. Consider his words for a moment:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.
The God Jesus wants us to know is a person—our Father in heaven. He is not a cruel father, selfish and unsafe, he is loving and kind and good. He is a God who is in charge, who hears our requests and who is able to answer them. He is the God who provides our daily provisions and who is able to do the harder work, of forgiving us our sins.
The God Jesus wants us to know is our Father in heaven; loving and kind and good.
Jesus follows this beautiful prayer by repudiating the naturalist worldview and materialist culture which are both so familiar to us in 21st Century Australia. His words are insightful, incisive, and breathe life into weary souls. They are well worth the two minutes that it will take to read them:
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy,[d] your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
(Matthew 6:9-13, NIV)
A Bigger Vision
Jesus’ analysis shines light and grace into our world that is obsessed with temporary and superficial success. He doesn’t ignore material and temporary needs. He just says that we think too little ourselves and we have thought too little of God.
“Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?”
During this pandemic, at least some Australians are waking up to the fact that the answer to Jesus’ question is, yes.
Whether we like it or not, this pandemic has changed the world—not as profoundly as some might suggest—but the social and health ramifications will reorient many lives. The economic impact may remain for a generation or more.
If you are wanting someone to pray for/with you or you are interested in reading the Bible, please ask!
Are you one of the many Australians who is wondering about prayer and the Bible? If you are wanting someone to pray for/with you or you are interested in reading the Bible, please ask! This is something I and many other Christians love doing with other people (whether they are Christians or not).
I also belong to a local church with many people who would be very happy to help out.
At my church, we also run a course for people who are investigating Christianity called, “Making Sense of Christianity.” If you are interested please send me a message.
If you live in another part of Australia, there are other churches that would love to have the opportunity to help you too. Here is a map that might help you find one near you.
Churches may not be meeting at the moment, but what is holding us back from praying and reading the Bible? If Jesus is right, the end result isn’t delusion or some stupid spiritual placebo. Instead, as the Psalmist put it:
“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.”
First published at murraycampbell.net