Prayer Vs. Bible Reading: Which is Better?

Prayer is a beautiful, amazing, powerful thing.

Prayer
Image by Chris Yarzab via Flickr

God’s Word is an even more beautiful, amazing, powerful thing.

Or is it the other way around?

Or… does it make any sense either way? I don’t think it does. I often hear people extolling one or other of these glorious things over the other one, and although I get where they are coming from, it still annoys me. Sometimes a person is particularly gifted with the blessing of being able to walk very closely with God in prayer. The same thing happens with the Bible: some people have the grace to glean volumes from Scripture in a way that is positively miraculous and incredible beyond the ‘norm.’ Sometimes both are given to the same person, but not always.

And so when someone has a gift like that, they are generally excited and grateful with boundless joy over it, and because of the glory of what they are experiencing, they strongly encourage and exhort their friends to strive for the same thing. And they won’t exhort as strongly from experience for the other, because they simply don’t have that experience. And so you end up with a natural division… with one group of people dedicating absolutely everything to prayer, and the other group of people dedicating themselves absolutely to Bible meditation and study.

There are extremes, and there are gradients all across the board, but that’s the tendency I see happening.

Is this good?

Well, you can’t deny that focusing on one is better than focusing on none. But why does this disparity occur? Why are some people gifted with an aptitude for one, and not the other?

God gives different gifts in different ways for different reasons.

Some gifts He gives equally to everyone, barring extenuating circumstances, such as rain. The rain falls on the just and on the unjust, unless there’s a drought in judgment from God, and the sun rises on the evil and the good, unless an audaciously faithful commander tells it not to in the name of God.

Some gifts He gives for seemingly no reason (in our earthly wisdom) out of His own plan and grace, such as the talents, challenges, and things that you are born with.

Some gifts He gives in fulfillment of an absolute promise, such as salvation. He promises that if you turn to Him and believe on His name, you will be saved, period, full-stop, no other option. If you seek, you find, if you knock, it will be opened, etc.

Some gifts He wants to give us, but won’t until we ask. Some of them He won’t give us until we sacrifice for it and work for it. Some He won’t give until we beg. Is that because He doesn’t want to give them to us? No, He just knows that we can do without them, and that we will be more blessed from them if we dedicate ourselves to seeking for them. He also wants to strengthen us through making us wait sometimes. Patience is a hard learned lesson.

I think it is the latter which plays most into whether or not we are blessed in prayer or the Word. Various things will make a person want to improve their walk with God in one or the other, and they will work at it and seek God in it with tenacious pleading and seeking, and God will give it to them. Sometimes God will give it for less trouble, other times for more. Sometimes He gives it for seemingly very little, perhaps because He knows you’ll need it for something. We never know.

But in any case, we do have a choice in the matter when it comes to where we are now. If one is lacking, believe you this: it will hamper the other. And you need to get it sorted.

Prayer and Bible reading are not really individual acts, or they shouldn’t be. They work in unison. In fact, the closest way I can see of looking at them is as two sides of a coin, or as breathing.

When you breathe (Go ahead, try it. Okay now stop. Just kidding! 😀 ), you breathe in… and you breathe out.

Doing just one and only that one kills you.

Doing one more than the other damages your health.

Praying and Bible study is like that. It’s a conversation.

Praying is talking things out to God: laying your burdens on Him; confessing your faults; praising Him for His goodness; thanking Him for His blessings; interceding on the behalf of others, and etcetera.

When you meditate on God’s Word, you are filling yourself with His Truth, washing yourself in His ways and testimonies, learning and being challenged, seeking exhortation and rebuke, finding answers and being guided, encouraged, equipped, and refreshed.

Do you see the pattern?

One is a form of expression – the other is a form of intake. If you do only one, you get messed up.

So try this experiment, as a kind of illustration. It isn’t the only way to pray or study your Bible, and it isn’t the best way, but it can really help improve both, I’ve found.

Open a passage of Scripture.

Start inhaling as you read.

When you come to the top of your breath, start exhaling as you begin to pray over what you just read or over something that was laid on your heart while you read.

At the bottom of your exhale, start inhaling again and switch to reading again.

(Oh, don’t try and inhale or exhale as much as you possibly can, just breathe normally.)

This isn’t Eastern mysticism or “empty your mind” meditation. It is simply a way of learning the synergistic and symbiotic relationship of praying and Bible reading. And it works.

I’ve seen many very neat blessings come out of this in my own devotions, and I’d like to see what you think when you try it. So don’t forget to come back and comment. 🙂

Mastering the Art of Singletasking

Pomodoro Timer
Image via Wikipedia

Multitasking is a common buzzword right now. And it is both decried as having a viciant and virulent effect on our capability to function with facility, and as being the prime panacea of production. Which is right?

Well, honestly, I don’t think either are right. I think multitasking has its place, and I think it has a great amount of value. But I don’t think it is always the most efficient way to do things, and do think there are many things which require something else: singletasking.

Now, I honestly haven’t really heard anyone talking about singletasking by that term… people generally use words like ‘focus’ and ‘dedication’ and whatnot. Singletasking involves those, but I prefer the term ‘singletask’ because it emphasizes the precisely unique and advantageous nature of itself: it is doing a single task, and nothing else.

And it is quite a bit harder to do, and far more productive, than most people in our multitasking generation realizes.

Being a person who routinely listens to music (sometimes multiple tracks simultaneously), while chatting with upwards of 3-4 people, while reading streams on the internet, while writing up blog posts and emails, I can testify to the possibility of effectively accomplishing much in a short amount of time via multitasking, and to the amount of effort it takes to actually do it instead of fragmenting and spewing inanity across a dozen tasks at once (not the kind of multitasking you are wanting, I’m sure).

And so to someone of my multitasking prowess, it might come as a natural axiom that the fewer things you do, the easier it is to do them. I mean, adding more makes it harder, so taking some away would make it easier, right?

Not quite.

The effort it takes to focus on one thing, and one thing only, for any period of time, is mentally exhausting if one is not used to it. And getting used to it takes a great deal of training.

But is it worth it?

Absolutely.

Just as worth it as learning to multitask. They are two skills, both of which one must be comfortable in to be a master in dealing with tasks (hmm… a taskmaster?) — into diligence. There are other skills which go into it, but these two form a large part of the foundation. I’ll talk more later about the other things I think go into it.

So how do you master this art? Here are a few things I’ve learned which have helped me learn.

1. Pray for two minutes doing absolutely nothing but praising God. Thank Him, praise Him, glorify Him. Write it out, say it out loud, or pray it in your head, but just keep going until it’s done (a timer helps, though if you’re on a roll, by all means, keep going!). Focus. Be still. If something else comes into your head, acknowledge it, and then think of another thing to glorify God about. Don’t fight thoughts… it puts focus on them and that’s not praising God. Just praise. Let go, and praise. This is one of the best exercises I know of for learning singletasking, because not only is it tremendously effective, but it also can radically transform your prayer life and deepen your relationship with God. And which is more important? Right. Best multitasking ever. 😉

2. Use a Pomodoro timer. Pomodoro timers are an idea created by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s, and I’ve been using them to good effect recently. You can learn more about them on Wikipedia, but the principle is simple: set a timer for a specific length of time (25 minutes is traditional) and then focus on doing one thing during that whole 25 minutes. Don’t stop until the timer dings (again, if you’re on a roll, keep going if you want to). And then set it for 5 minutes (or something else that works good for you: it’s your rhythm) and do something else, relax, multitask, check your email, whatever. Then do the whole thing again. It really helps you get down to business and get a lot accomplished.

3. Meditate on Scripture. This isn’t really a timed one like the above two challenges, but it can be if you like working that way. Basically, start working on a piece of Scripture, and using the tactics described in the praying challenge above, keep working on it. Focus, muse, think, study, meditate. Look up other passages related to it, look at the context, read the whole book around it, write notes, pray over it, learn from it, apply it to your life. But mainly, get interested in it. The Bible is absolutely fascinating… and powerful. No other book is like it. And again… this one is really a sneaky way to multitask, because while you’re learning to singletask, you are also drawing closer to God and learning more of Him. Which is just awesome.

I am still learning a lot about this subject, and integrating it into my life. And learning to singletask is certainly one of the greatest challenges I’ve faced in this journey. So I’d be more than grateful for input and things you’ve learned which have helped you to singletask in your own lives.

So use the comments section liberally, and check back for replies! I reply to every comment, and I love it when dialogues get started. 😉