Friday, December 15, 2017

A Prayer for Second-Best

If you follow these posts consecutively, you might be picking up that I have begun following Biblical accounts of man’s interactions with God. It might be good to make a couple points before we proceed.

We can only examine what the Bible records. Adam, Cain, and now Abram perhaps had many conversations with God. We must stick to the ones God chose to include in the written revelation. Also, Adam’s “really bad prayer” and Cain’s “really sad prayer” perhaps were not consciously prayers with God - perhaps more excuses, or arguments. But it seems to me, whenever we talk to God, whether reverent or not, we are in fact praying, though we may be doing it very badly. We also find that there are big gaps in recorded prayers. We have none from Enoch, though he walked with God. We have none from Noah, though a righteous man. I’m sure they prayed. But we can only go by the book. “Nothing more.” And we will be accountable unless we also adopt the route “nothing less."

So now we come to the Genesis giant, no, the Biblical giant, Abraham. God has already spoken to Abram on, by my count, four occasions, though we have no recorded replies. Here in Genesis 15, God says “Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; Your reward shall be very great.” (Genesis 15:1 NAS95) Perhaps we could say that God is promising to be both Abram’a protection and his provision. The protection part has already been proven (Gen 14). But the provision part - and the part of that part that really matters - the provision of a son, Abram can’t see how that’s going to happen.

Abram said, “O Lord GOD, what will You give me, since I am childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” Abraham is here praying according to the facts on the ground, the ones that he can see. He has looked in the mirror and seen the reflection of a very old man. He has looked across the dinner table at a wife of similar condition. The days of hope are over. So what is left? A second-best solution. Just Eliezer, whose name means “my God is a help.” Yet Abraham at this point seems to have embraced that old line, “God helps those who help themselves.” 

Abraham is having a crisis of imagination - specifically, the ability to conceive and fathom possibilities that are only open to God. That is the very point here. Abraham cannot help himself. Only God can. And his prayer, and ours, begins to open our eyes to that truth, and to the experience of something that is better than second-best. 

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