Help Me, Please!
I'm really bad at asking for help. Now is not the time or place to diagnose why I am that way – a combination of my wiring and my past – but it has been a recurring issue all my life. I remember once on a mission trip as I was stubbornly carrying my suitcase, my guitar case, my drum case, and my computer bag, our team leader forced us all to stop. He said, “Rob, we're not going another step until you let someone help you.” I know that, in my own heart, there's pride at work, as well as shame, fear of rejection, and a host of other things that stop me from simply saying, “I can't do this on my own. I need help.”
As we are studying what it takes to hear and read God's Word in a way that produces the results God wants for us, we've already seen that it takes some work. The Westminster Shorter Catechism tells us, “That the Word may become effectual to salvation we must attend thereunto with diligence (see this post), preparation (read more here), and prayer...” Prayer is not just a formal habit that we participate in because it's what we're supposed to do before we eat, before we sleep, before we worship, etc. Prayer (as the Catechism says elsewhere) “is an offering up of our desires unto God for things agreeable to his will.” And when we approach God's Word, whether in a sermon, a quiet time, a Bible Study, or whenever, our desire is to understand it rightly. But if we are going to understand God's Word, we need help.
Understanding God's Word is, in a sense, like mind-reading. You read minds every day, believe it or not. Every time someone speaks to you, every time you read something someone has written, you are learning something that is on their mind. But how do we read the mind of God? Is it enough to just read the words of the Bible? Yes and no. The challenge is that we can misunderstand what we read. You can read the words, put the sentences together and comprehend a story. But you may do all that and still miss what it is saying. So Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2:11 “For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.”
If we are to understand the thoughts of God expressed in his Word, we need God himself to make those thoughts clear to us. Not because the words themselves are inherently confusing, but because of a fault in us. Second Corinthians 4:4 expresses it this way: “The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” We begin blinded and unable to see, but there is a solution for that- look down a few verses at 2 Corinthians 4:6, “For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
To summarize, then, if we are to understand the thoughts of God that he has put into his Word, we need him to make us able to see and understand. This is why the Psalmist prays in Psalm 119:18 “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.”
So, if our time spent receiving God's Word is to have the right effect, we must approach it asking for help. We must pray, expressing our desire to God that he make us diligent and faithful hearers. We must pray that he would give us ears to hear and eyes to see. We pray because we can't do it on our own.
If I may recommend some things to pray for the next time you are preparing to receive God's Word, here are some ideas:
-Pray that God would make you quick to listen and slow to speak.
-Pray that you would be humble to change – your ideas, your values, your plans, etc. – in light of God's Word.
-Pray that you would not only understand what his Word teaches, but that you would rejoice in it, beholding “the wondrous things” of his Word.
-Pray that the Spirit would guide you in the proper application, that you may glorify God.
There are many other things you could pray for as you read God's Word, but with these things in mind, perhaps we are better prepared to ask for the help we need.