Our church is journeying in prayer this month. Our preaching series is “Questions of Prayer,” which aims to be honest about questions we share about prayer and give us orientation points for our praying. An optional step past Sunday morning is working through Steve Harper’s book, Talking in the Dark: Praying When Life Doesn’t Make Sense.
So far, we’ve been strongly highlighting the mystery side of prayer, and therefore of faith and of God. That’s important, I think, in order to really give ourselves permission to take the mystery side seriously. Like Steve points out in the book, “As long as we can pray our whys, we will not be paralyzed by mystery” (p. 26).
As helpful as it is to acknowledge the mystery, we need some light, some understanding. This is where revelation comes in. We don’t know everything about God and his ways, but we do know some things about his ways in the pages of Scripture as we see him interact with his people and hear him speak through the prophets. And we know his character and his saving love for us in Jesus Christ, the full revelation of who God is, “for God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him” (Col 1:19 TNIV). We acknowledge that we are incapable of knowing and understanding God fully unless he chooses to reveal himself to us. Thankfully he has done so in the Scripture and in Jesus Christ!
Steve adds, “In terms of prayer, this means we must not only pray our questions but also pray our faith. At some point we have to trust the revelation.” And our faith has more to do with trusting in who God is, instead of obsessing over understanding his ways: “The Trinity takes us into God’s heart even when we cannot understand God’s ways. The most important truth we know about God’s heart is that it is a heart of love.” (p. 27)
But, it is this faith that understands God’s heart as a heart of love that makes us wonder why God didn’t intervene in this or that tragedy, large or small. Leaning into what we do know, rather than mentally and emotionally remaining in what we don’t know, is the key. And that key involves being a student of God’s revelation in the Bible. Most importantly, it involves being a student, a disciple, of God’s Word made flesh in Jesus.
Steve writes: “The Bible keeps us from drowning in our own speculations. Revelation is what makes us pilgrims instead of wanderers. Wanderers have no map. …Pilgrims, on the other hand, walk a journey that may include darkness as well as light, but at least they have a compass” to orient them through their journey.