Is there humor in the Bible? I suppose it depends on what we mean. It is safe to say that the Scriptures do not contain funny stories. However, certain occurrences are recorded in such a way that they strike us as funny, or at least ironic.
One such incident is in Acts 12. Peter is imprisoned, and Luke tells us that “earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.” When he is miraculously released, he goes to the house “where many were gathered together and were praying.” Instead of reacting to the news with praise for answered prayer, their response is disbelief. They were concerned enough to pray, but funnily enough, they didn’t expect an answer.
If we’re honest, we can see ourselves in that picture. We are aware of our need and faithful in prayer and yet, deep down, doubtful about an answer.
The prayers of the apostle Paul have both challenged and helped me. Much of what I am learning is contained in one of the books we’re offering this month. Having exhorted his readers to pray, Paul then asks for prayer for himself. His specific request is “Pray for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the Gospel.” That is not an expression of false humility but a cry from his heart. Paul has been praying for his fellow believers in Ephesus, and now he wants them to pray for him! I wonder if you pray for your pastor. Do you ask God to “keep him kept”? Do you pray for him on Saturday evening and as he enters the pulpit on Sunday morning? Do you pray as he preaches, that he might do so with clarity and conviction and compassion; that he might be himself and forget himself? Charles Spurgeon was convinced that he could preach the same sermons to greater effect if only his people might pray for him. On one occasion when asked why his preaching was apparently so effective, Spurgeon replied, “My people pray for me.”
We find ourselves at a moment in history when nothing other than an outpouring of the Spirit of God in revival can remedy our situation. I hear people saying, “We have never seen this kind of thing before.” It reminds me of another incident in Mark’s Gospel. The disciples who rejoiced in their power over demonic forces were unable to handle the request of a father to cast a demon out of his son. When they asked Jesus why they were unable, he replied, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer” (Mark 9:29).
The disciples are a picture of a powerless church that finds that all its methodology and strategic thinking cannot deal with this kind of demonic activity. Shall we not then take seriously the word of Christ and the pattern of the early church and ask God in believing prayer to shower us with divine enabling so that we can take our stand against “Our Ancient Foe”?
From time to time, I turn to the Book of Common Prayer. This is the collect for the fourth Sunday after Easter:
O Almighty God,
who alone can order the unruly wills and affections of sinful men;
grant to your people that they may love what you command,
and desire what you promise;
that so, among the many changes of the world,
our hearts may be surely fixed,
where true joys are to be found;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
It remains for me to thank you for praying for me and for the entire team here at Truth For Life. We have had a number of visitors in the last month and will look forward to further visits during the summer.
With my love in the Lord Jesus,
Topics: Letters From Alistair Begg