Before you dive in to the text below, start with this clip from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
This clip from The Hobbit is fantastic for many reasons, but the one so relevant to this topic here is the idea of going on an adventure. Bilbo had no intention of leaving his safe, routine, almost formulaic life. But after a crazy night of hosting some crazy dwarves (and a crazy gray wizard), Bilbo decided to throw the safe, routine, formulaic life out the window and go on an “unexpected journey.”
If you’ve ever attended a church service, then you’ve probably encountered “The Prayer.” You know the one I’m talking about. The one that the pastor says and then you repeat. The one that acknowledges, often in very general terms, that you’re a sinner and you’re tired of doing this life on your own. I’m not knocking it. Most of us have prayed “The Prayer.” I used to think that if I simply prayed “The Prayer” enough times that everything would eventually be all good.
When I got a little older and could do more things, I thought that if I did enough good things, then everything would eventually be all good. I even used to think that simply slapping the phrase “in Jesus’ name” at the end of my prayers was the magic formula to make God answer my prayers according to my will (I still don’t have that candy apple red Ferrari Saleen S7, btw).
The simple truth is, life and faith don’t have formulas for us to use to get through our days. Instead, like The Hobbit, life and faith are adventures, with unknown twists and turns that we simply can’t foresee. And throughout all of it, God desires for us to spend time with him.
What are some ways people see faith like a formula instead of an adventure? Why do you think that is?
Here’s a personal question. How often do you try to spend time with God? When, where, and how?
Let’s get a bit more personal. When you spend time with God, what is working well for you? What’s not really working?
Prayer is working really well for me right now. I grab a candle and a lighter and head into the prayer room next to the sanctuary at Bearden UMC. I’ll recite a prayer or two that I know, and then I’ll do what feels right in that moment. Sometimes I take off my shoes. Sometimes I kneel. Sometimes I just sit in silence and stare at the flickering flame. But that’s been working for me lately.
It’s not rigid, though. I don’t go into that room to pray every day. In fact, as of this posting, I haven’t gone in there to pray like that in over a week. It’s not because I don’t want to or don’t have the time. It’s because life happens. While I’m at the church, I’m often pulled into side projects and helping others out. That’s what I’m here for. But when I can make the time for it, praying in that room, with a little candle and some ancient prayers — that really does my soul some good.
Because we are followers of Jesus, we look to Jesus as the example for living life with God. Let’s read some scriptures that show some ways Jesus connected with God. As you read the following Scriptures, take notes of the things you see Jesus doing to help him connect with God.
“One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles:…”
“When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns.”
Mark 1:35, 14:32
“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”
“They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I pray.’”
Are these ways the only ways to connect with God?
Probably not. Many of us connect with God through music, art, reading the Bible, going for a walk outside, and even in silent restfulness. Jesus utilized what was available to him. He took advantage of his situation to spend meaningful, quality time with God.
Check out James 4:8:
“Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”
There’s an amazing promise in this verse. If you need help figuring out what that promise is, there’s another passage that says it differently. Check out Jeremiah 29:12-13
“Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
It’s not a formula, but it is a conditional promise. IF you seek God with everything you’ve got, THEN you will find him. God is enviously waiting for you to go after him with everything that you can muster from your heart. When you do that, he promises to reveal himself to you!