Prayer and Study
Topic: Biblical Verse: 2 Timothy 3:14–3:17
Third Week of Lent
2 Timothy 3:14-17
"Prayer and Study"
Where are you? Where do you stand in your journey of learning? What path of studies have you followed to this point in your life? I've brought along a little light reading for the sermon today, for us to go through together: a picture book, a study Bible, a commentary, the current "Portals of Prayer," and, for good measure, an English dictionary. Just a few reference items as we explore God's Word!
Learning is a progression. We build up a foundation and go from there. Among the first things that we learn when we begin school are letters and numbers: symbols that make up the building blocks of our grammar. We have to begin with the fundamentals in order to progress to more sophisticated concepts. We graduate to primers, learning how the letters form words, and the numbers, bigger numbers. From here we head to tougher textbooks. Look at the disciplines of mathematics, science, literature, languages. In each of these, one must start with a firm foundation, gaining a mastery of the basics in order to ascend to the highest heights. In the secular world, we see this pattern in play most all the time. But when it comes to our life with God, our spiritual learning and study of His Word, what do we see? Where are we?
Here at St. John's, we progress through a series of what we call "stepping stones," classes for our young to grow in their acquaintance with God's Word. From the earliest times that children are in our nursery or starting out in Sunday School, we bring them before the Scriptures. Quite often, we use tools like this picture book to tell the stories of the Bible, communicating basic concepts. As we grow more knowledgeable, we'll start to use words more than pictures. More complicated concepts come onto the scene. Sin. Grace. Savior. We continue with the "Bible and Me" class, where we show the students how to begin to study the Bible with their family. When we advance to confirmation class level, the time comes for the students to take responsibility for their continued education in God's Word, while reflecting on how it shapes the Christian life. Beyond confirmation, as adults in the church, opportunities abound for study!
So, where are you? Where are you in your practice of this spiritual discipline of study? Oftentimes, the "busyness" that we live in presents a challenge. That's something that we've encountered time and time again here at St. John's. You might have head it said that "the devil is in the details." But I tell you, the devil is in the distractions! We make excuses for why we are not active in the study of God's Word, gathered together with other Christians around Scripture. Where are you on Sunday morning during the Adult Education hour? Where are you in the morning, when you wake? Where are you in the evening, before you go to bed? Where are you in the study of God's Word?
We've been blessed with an abundance of study resources. Here in our congregation, people gather together for Bible study on Wednesday mornings, learning more about the real world in which people lived during Biblical times. On Sunday mornings between worship services, you can come and learn in one of several "tracks" of classes. You might participate in one of the many small group "huddles" around St. John's, or maybe you have an outside study, both of which allow you to meet with other Christians in the study of God's Word. As Christians in America, we don't fear the same persecution that others do in many corners of the globe, and any number of publishing houses print Christian study guides and workbooks. In addition to devotional guides like "Portals of Prayer" and "Today's Light," we have resources like study Bibles, where you can spend time in Scripture - in the morning, in the evening, just you and the Word. Exploring. Growing. Becoming equipped for life as a disciple of Jesus the Messiah.
All this talk of study - what's the point? How is "study" not just an academic exercise, but a spiritual discipline? You see, the Bible is not a textbook. It is the living, breathing Word of God. That in which Paul exhorts Timothy to continue. It is more than just "head knowledge." A person could read through the entire Bible without believing in Jesus as Christ, the Son of God. Many people have. Many people look at the Bible only as literature, something to experience intellectually, but nothing more.
We are called to more than that, because God is at work in His Word! All Scripture, as Paul writes to Timothy, is God-breathed. It is effective and powerful. Through the working of the Holy Sprit, we are not just reading the words. We are not just mentally processing what's on the page. We are, in fact, changed. Paul wrote that Timothy had been "acquainted with" - "knowing," in our translation in today's bulletin - the holy Scriptures since his youth. God meets us in His Word. He introduces us to Himself and invites us to get acquainted. This is why we bring children before the Word from the time that they are very young. This is why we gather together in study now, in classes here at church, in small group huddles, in personal time with Scripture. The God Who became flesh for us, died for us on the cross, and rose from the dead for us calls us to know Him better.
How might you go about putting into practice a personal regimen of study? One of the things that Pastor Meehan pointed out on Ash Wednesday, as we began our exploration of spiritual disciplines, was the sense of a discipline being something at which we work over time. Like a fitness regimen, or preparation for an expedition, the discipline of study requires planning and effort.
As with the other spiritual disciplines we've touched upon, study must be grounded in prayer. Set aside time for prayer before study, for study is also conversation with God. We look for Him to teach us, to speak to us in our lives. Even if you were to know the whole text of Scripture, every time you go back in study, God can teach you something new. Set aside a dedicated time for study in the morning or evening - mark it on your calendar. One day each week, or daily. Use a guide. If you want something more robust than the "Portals of Prayer," you can try "Today's Light" to read through the entire Bible in two years' time. The church office can connect you with these resources, so that you might have a devotion to focus your Bible study, like the "Why Pray?" book that we've been reading during Lent. All these resources come together to help; however, it is God who does the building! He takes the blocks and puts them one upon another.
What might you expect as you begin to exercise this discipline of study? You will experience challenge. The devil does not want you to grow. He may place distractions before you in ways you'd not previously imagined. But God is stronger than the devil, and He gives you the power to resist the distractions. And as Paul writes, we can expect to be enriched by study. God equips us for service together in the Church, in His Kingdom.
So where are you? As the days fly past during this time of Lent, and beyond, I invite you, as Paul invited Timothy: Be in the Word.
More in Lent 2007 - Praying Disciples
April 5, 2007Prayer and Service
March 28, 2007Prayer and Submission
March 18, 2007Praying Disciples: Growing in Faith Through Prayer and Celebration