Thursday, March 10, 2005

praying the theophanies

Kim’s post yesterday on praying Hannah’s prayer got me thinking about a wonderful book I own and often use. The Book of Prayers was put together by Wes and Stacey Campbell and is a collection of prayers directly from scripture divided into eight sections (Theophanies, Psalms, Prayers of Wisdom, Song of Songs, Prayers of the Prophets, Prayers of Jesus, Apostolic Prayers and Hymns of the Revelation). Each section is prefaced by a short introduction which explains the prayer style.

Praying the theophanies was a new idea to me. Wes Campbell’s introduction to this section of prayers convinced me it was a great idea. Here is a chunk of that introduction, quoted from pages 39 - 41 of the book.:

"What are the ‘theophanies’ and why begin The Book of Prayers with these selections of Scripture? These two questions must be answered at the outset as they greatly affect the way we pray. The Bible commands us to pray, to meditate, and to recitethe law to God. Of course, people of every religion pray, and they all think they are praying to God. But who is right? Which God is the true God? Where is he? What is he like? What is he doing? These are questions that any worshiper will consider when they set aside time to talk to God.

"Often when speaking on the topic of prayer, I ask a congregation to stand up so that I can give them a test. The question I give them is this: “If you know the location of at least four of the many God sightings in the Bible, and you can generally recount what the prophet saw...then stay standing.” At first people begin to look around, dumbfounded. Then slowly, with sheepish sideways glances, almost everyone begins to sit down. Rarely is there even three percent of the audience left standing. Almost no one is in the regular practice of praying the theophanies – that is ‘God sightings.’

"It’s hard to overstate the seriousness of this spiritual omission. For instance, imagine if seven of the most holy, prophetically inspired men and women of all Christendom made a pilgrimage to a mountain, where they fasted and prayed for a week for a breakthrough with God. Imagine that God actually came down in a full-blown, visible display of his glory. Imagine that these seven were overwhelmed and laid low in the awesome presence of God. Then, as soon as they were able, they came down and declared that they had seen God with their eyes and that they would be gathering at a specific time and place to tell about it. Who wouldn’t want to be there? Who wouldn’t want to read a detailed account?

"Yet we have the greatest holy men of history – men like Moses (Exodus 24 & 34), Isaiah (Isaiah 6), Daniel (Daniel 7&10), Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1&10) Peter (Matthew 17), and John (Revelation 1, 4, 19, 21) – all of whom say they saw God (or the glorified Christ) with their eyes and wrote down what they saw. How absurd is it, then, for believers who have given their whole lives to love and serve God, who say they believe in the inspiration and inerrancy of these accounts, not even to know where they are found, much less to be able to recite them in their minds and spirits.

"The word ‘theophanies’ comes from two Greek words: theos, meaning ‘God,’ and ‘phaino,’ meaning ‘to appear or show’; hence the ‘God appearances.’ It is the details of these ‘God sightings’ that let us in on what God looks like and, to some extent, on what God is doing. They describe, at different times, where he lives, who is around him, the color of his hair and eyes, what he is wearing, the many sounds of his voice etc. As such they should become our starting point in prayer because, unless we are praying to God as he has revealed himself to be, we are not really praying in the Christian sense of the word....

Therefore when you pray the theophanies, you will see just who it is that you are talking to. You will become familiar with the sights and sounds of heaven. You will have confidence that your prayers are not only being heard but that you are addressing the one Person who has all power in heaven and on earth to answer them....

"When we pray the theophanies we begin to touch his power, to hear that loud voice like many waters, to tremble in the presence of the thunders and the lightning bolts. Any person who does not at some time pray the theophanies will likely limit God. To them, God may become smaller than he really is, because the person will be praying to God as they understand him to be, not as he has revealed himself to be. After all, God is who he says he is – not who we think he is! So it is essential to begin all prayer by praying to the Person of God, and praying the theophanies will keep us from praying to an extension of our own darkened minds."


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