Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Starting Point of Prayer

Your Starting Point Matters ~ Dr. Ray Pritchard
Ray Pritchard
I have learned that where you start makes all the difference in thinking about sickness, suffering and death. If you start with the accident or with the sickness or with death itself, you will never come to the right answer. I know many people whose faith has been badly shaken and even destroyed by the tragedies of life. I know that feeling myself. If you start at the tragedy and try to reason your way back to God, you won’t make it. You’ll fall off the ladder somewhere. None of us is smart enough to reason from a tragedy back to God. If you start with yourself, you'll end with yourself, and you won't be any better off.

The only hope is to start at the other end, with what we know to be true about God. The theologians call this the First Principles. In the time of trouble, start with God. Ponder his character. Meditate on his attributes. Think about who God is.

God is holy.
God is righteous.
God is just.
God is gracious.
God is merciful.
God is love.
God is all-knowing.
God is all-wise.
God is present everywhere.
His ways are perfect.
His plans are beyond finding out.
He works all things together for our good and his glory.
He loved us so much that he sent his Son to die for us.
He sent the Holy Spirit to indwell us.
He forgives our sin through the blood of Jesus.
He seals us with the Holy Spirit.
He fills us with the Spirit.
He promises to conform us to the image of his Son.
He will never leave us.
He disciplines us when we stray.
He loves us with an everlasting love.
His plans for us are good.
He makes no mistakes.

Make a list like that. Write it down. Say it aloud. Repeat it in prayer. Tattoo the truth on your grieving heart. Start with what you know to be true about God. If you remember who he is and why he sent his Son to the earth, and his wisdom, power, goodness and love, if you start there, you can slowly make your way back to the tragedy itself. I have walked that road myself many times. This is not some sort of magic trick that will make the pain go away (it won’t) or answer all your questions (it won’t do that either), but starting with God provides the only possible framework for answering the questions we all have.

We need a God so big, so great, so powerful, so wise, so vast, so eternal, that he can encompass the sudden death of one of his children. Some people talk as if the tragedies of life are accidents in the universe. As if God turned his head away and something bad happened while God wasn’t looking. As if God tried to stop it but couldn’t. A God like that is no God at all. I cannot worship an impotent, puny, manmade God who abdicates the throne of the universe and leaves us alone in our despair. That is not the God of the Bible.

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