This article was written by Frank Viola and was published in his exclusive Unfiltered update list which goes out every week to his email subscribers. If you enjoy this update, you can get these Unfiltered updates by signing up here. It’s FREE.
Before you have an apoplectic fit, let me clear the table by saying emphatically:
1. I consider the Bible to be God’s revelation, fully authoritative, fully inspired, and fully reliable. For that reason, I read the Scriptures regularly. I mediate on them, seek the Lord through them, and study them. And to the both of you who have read my newer books [cough], I expound the Bible, quote it, cite it, teach it, and seek to unveil it in those books.
2. I’m also a person of prayer. I pray daily in one form or another. (As I’ve shared elsewhere, there are different kinds of prayer mentioned in Scripture: supplication, intercession, thanksgiving, fellowship, etc.) For the Jesus-follower, prayer is like breathing.
Are we clear now?
Good (wipes forehead).
The title of this update doesn’t suggest that prayer and Bible-reading are ineffective.
I endorse and practice both.
While the Scriptures are critically important, they aren’t the 4th member of the Trinity. As Len Sweet and I argued in Jesus: A Theography, the Bible is a roadmap and compass that escorts us to a Person, the Lord Jesus Christ.
That said, “read your Bible and pray” is the canned answer that Christians casually offer when the following thorny questions are asked:
Question: “Galatians 2:20 says to live by Christ. How do I do that, exactly?”
Pat Answer: “Just pray and read your Bible.”
Question: “Jesus said that His sheep hear His voice. How do I hear the voice of the Lord for myself?”
Canned Answer: “Come now (pats head of the questioner). Read your Bible and pray.”
Question: “Paul said that God’s children are led by the Holy Spirit. How do I know if and when I’m being led by the Spirit?”
Thoughtless Answer: “Silly you, that’s easy. Pray and read your Bible.”
To these critical questions, “read your Bible and pray” is not adequate.
Why? Because it’s not practical or specific enough.
And the proof is in the pudding.
Every person who has asked me the above questions prayed (a lot) and read their Bibles (often).
More striking, when I was a young believer, I had these very questions burning a hole through my shirt. And I had those questions while I was praying and reading my Bible intensely.
Yet despite that, when it came to practical application, I didn’t know zilch from peas on those subjects.
Like it or not, “read-your-Bible-and-pray” has become an empty promise that’s left many believers disillusioned or living in denial.
The subjects of hearing the Lord, following the Holy Spirit, and living by the indwelling life of Christ are a universe unto themselves.
And the truly helpful answers on how one hears the Lord, follows the Spirit, and lives by the Lord’s life are as big as the ocean. (So I take a dim view on the canned answers that Christians regularly give to them.)
However, I want to leave you with a small dent in that universe by giving you two practical thoughts to consider. And better, to begin practicing in your own life. (There are countless more such practical thoughts, but this is an update not a book or a course, so I’m keeping it to just two.)
And hey, this subject really is a universe. I’ve been on this journey for a long time and I’m still in school, learning. Just like you.
Practical Thought #1.
I think Paul can solve part of this problem for us. He writes,
But the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. Rom 8:6, NIV
When determining if the Lord is leading you, look for the sense of life and peace within. The effect of His speaking will often be rest, peace, quiet joy, and reassurance.
In the opposite manner, whenever we step out of God’s will, we will have a sense of death within us. Our spirits will also be troubled and disturbed.
Regarding the sense of life, there will be an accompanying energy or enthusiasm when the Lord speaks to us. Life is energy. The Greek word for enthusiasm means “possessed by God.” It refers to a strong excitement or emotion that compels one to act.
So the Lord’s leading is accompanied by life and peace. But it will also be in concert with Matthew 7:12 — “treat others the way you want to be treated,” which fulfills the entire Scripture.
Practical Thought #2.
Because Christ lives in you by the Spirit, you have a new consciousness beyond your fallen human consciousness. In addition, you have been given five spiritual senses that match your physical senses. I discuss this in an audio I’m giving you today. The audio is part of my course, Living by the Indwelling Life of Christ, which only opens three times a year.
Your brother in the costly but glorious quest,
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