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 both unsurprising and welcoming. When faced with the reality of our mortality many people 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; 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)
In times of prosperity, health, and freedom, we too easily blind ourselves and settle for lesser things. Why need God if I can control my future? When these things are stripped from us, questions about life’s meaning remain and the issue of hope becomes paralysed.
I am encouraged to hear that Aussies are reconsidering the question of God, and the value of prayer and Bible reading.
Let’s be honest though, prayer can act like a placebo, serving to trick my consciousness into believing everything will work out. Placebos can sometimes provide temporary relief but they don’t resolve the underlying issues for which we turned to them in the first place. 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.
Take for example, what 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.”
This God is personal. Jesus says he is 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.
Jesus follows this beautiful prayer by repudiating the naturalist worldview and materialist culture which is familiar to us living in 21st Century Australia. His words are insightful, incisive, and breathe life into weary souls. They are well worth the 2 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 labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor 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.”
Jesus’ analysis sheds light and grace into our world that is obsessed with materialism and superficial success. He doesn’t ignore material and temporary needs. Rather, Jesus observes 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 for sometime and the economic costs will remain for a generation or more.
Are you one of the many Australians who are wondering about prayer and the Bible?
If you are wanting someone to pray for/with you or you are interested in reading the Bible, ask. This is something I 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 Mentone Baptist 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 Melbourne (so not in Kingston or Bayside Councils) or in another part of the country, I’m I can try to suggest a church for you to connect with.
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.”