“For one is approved if, mindful of God, he endures pain while suffering unjustly.” (RSV)
“I would say that in a situation of crisis the New Testament does not immediately say, ‘Let us pray’. It always says first, ‘Let us think, let us understand the truth, and let us take a firm hold of the doctrine. Prayer may be quite useless and quite void.” (Lloyd-Jones, Martyn; “Fellowship with God”, pg.12)
How much is our anxious leap into convoluted prayers in times of crisis a confession that we have spent little time being conscience of God in the interim? I am staggered by my own often almost knee jerk response of frenzied prayer in the midst of crisis. And so, in considering the remarks of Lloyd- Jones I was taken back by the idea that prayer is nowhere the first response mechanism of the Bible. Certainly this is not to say that we shouldn’t pray in times of crisis but that the danger of knee jerk prayer is the irresponsibleness of our hearts and minds to evaluate the situation properly on spiritual terms, but rather from a purely selfish motive. This may sound completely out of character if not for an understanding of Peter’s support for such a notion. In my opening statement what I am saying is that such anxious prayers tell on us that we may have up to the point of crisis not considered any awareness of God.
Thus the crisis has only revealed our negligence of something that should be integral to our Christian walk. The passage above introduces the conditional “if” that makes approval dependent upon our being conscience of God. Often the question that plagues our minds in the midst of crisis is that of; “Why?” When crisis comes, almost immediately our minds race through the cobwebs of explanation trying to sort out and find the answer for the “Why?” And we do so because we have made little or no habit of being aware of God. The why question is both evidence of the lack of concentration of our mind upon God in the daily living of life and a slap in the face of God by the hand of selfishness and pride.
Those whom Peter is speaking of encountered crisis, sorrow, suffering unjustly but delighted the heart of God in the midst of it, (this is the idea of “For one is approved”) because the essence of their Christianity was a continual awareness of God. But this is not to say that we are somehow to approach crisis as stoics or with indifference. It is rather a sense of confidence on the Sovereignty of God in all things. This is the same principle conveyed by Isaiah; “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. (Isa. 26.3)
If we are to please God as we meander through the hills and valleys of this life, we must begin to concentrate on God. This whole idea is what James is pointing to when he warns those who boastfully say; “…today or tomorrow we will go into such a city…” (Jas. 4:13-15). Those who are conscience of God have grasped the breadth and depth of the phrase; “If the Lord will”. This was the appendix to every hope or plan that Paul anticipated. Those aware of God filter every step of life through the sovereignty of God’s will. The consciousness of God’s will govern every breath and thought. Then in the midst of crisis prayer will not be a knee jerk response to the situation but the continuation of the delightful preoccupation with Him who is majestically loveliest. We could well find ourselves out by testing how long we can maintain a session of thought that concentrates on God. How does our conscience of God score?
The Rev. Ray Druckenmiller is the Pastor at Manning Community Church.