Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Prayers of the Bible, Part One--Job

A couple of years ago I read a book that spoke of the importance of using both Scripture and prayer in developing spiritually and of how powerful the two of them are together. I've decided to start a series here along those lines, by looking at prayer in Scripture. This may take awhile...in fact I anticipate it taking all year long, as my desire is to identify (to the best of my ability) places in Scripture where we have actual prayers recorded. (I foresee myself spending a lot of time in Psalms this year.). To be honest, I'm not sure what, exactly, I hope to gain from this study, and I have no idea what conclusions, if any, I'll be able to draw. But if nothing else, I think the exercise will do me some good. I'm afraid some of these posts may be lengthy, but as I've said, dear readers, this blog is primarily for me anyway, as a place for me to write out loud whatever it is that I'm learning. If you're up for it, though, feel free to join me in this walk through prayers (and pray-ers) of the Bible. First up, actually, is perhaps one of the most surprising pray-ers, with perhaps some of the most shockingly honest prayers in all of Scripture. Readers, meet Job, the man who lost literally everything. We'll look at some of his thoughts and reactions, which go on for the better part of some 40 chapters. There are many thoughts that Job expresses that could be construed as prayers, so I've tried to limit this to the places where Job addresses God directly. But first, I do think it's noteworthy that the first words we hear from Job after losing everything but his health (but it'll be soon to follow) are words of praise, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord."--Job 1:21 After a few chapters worth of conversation with his friends, it is in chapter 10 that Job gives the complaint that he would give to God. It consists of Job asking: --Let me know why You contend with me. --Is it right for You to treat me this way? --God, can't you see what's happened? Job claims that the Lord knows he is not guilty. In words somewhat similar to David's Psalm 139, Job acknowledges that the Lord created him and has cared for him all these years. "Why destroy me now?" he asks. Job wonders why God even let him live at all, if only to be brought to the ruin he is in now. A few chapters later, Job claims that he has prepared his case, and he is seemingly more frustrated. He says things such as: --Remove Your hand from me. --Call to me and I'll answer--or I'll speak and You answer. --Why do You treat me like an enemy? --You are the Judge of men--You set his limits. --Give a guy a break in his few short years here. --Set a limit for me, and remember it! In chapter 17, Job is upset because no one, not even his friends, understands his plight. He says to the Lord: --Lay down a pledge for me Yourself. --Be my guarantor. --You have kept them from understanding. By the time we get to chapter 30, Job is basically done arguing his innocence with his friends, and he is just in despair with his current state, as opposed to the way things used to be. He says: --I cry, but You don't answer. --You have become cruel to me. I'll be honest about the fact that the book of Job is one of my least favorite Scriptures to read, but I gotta admit that it does have one of the awesomest scenes in all of Scripture, as Job does finally get his audience with God. However, it's important to note what he does not get, which is an answer to his questions. Though I primarily intend this study to be of people's prayers to God, I feel like in Job's exceptional case, God's response is noteworthy. In chapter 38 of the book, God shows up and asks, --Who is asking me such foolish questions? --Job, get up and get dressed. I'll ask the questions now. --'I AM' will ask the questions and you'll give the answers, understood? --Where were you when I created everything? --Do you know how anything that I made works? --Can you control the environment around you? --Job, don't you know anything?
(Questions taken from the McClanahan Paraphrase) After God shows up with His series of questions for Job, Job is eerily silent. He has nothing more to say, except, "I now repent in dust and ashes." Perhaps this is just me, but the flow of the tone of Job's thoughts that I notice as they progress is seemingly natural. At first he is questioning what is happening. Then he is frustrated and angry. Then he is just in despair. And Job is able to share every last bit of that with his Creator. And you know what? God is okay with that! That, to me, is the beauty of Job's prayers. He pours out his heart to his God and in the end, God acknowledges that Job has done nothing wrong in doing so. May we all be so willing to pour out our hearts to God in prayer.

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