We are involved in spiritual warfare on every side. The responses reviewed in the previous article indicate that many of us feel the battle acutely and are aware of the struggle.

Our Father, ever providing for our needs, has given us access to a formidable armoury wherewith to face our foe. Our weapons, however, are not carnal.

Our shield is to be one of faith, and faith, fed and fanned into flame by the Word of God, will enable us to fend off the fiery darts of wickedness.

Feet shod with the gospel of peace should have us walking with purpose and meaning through our period of probation, enabling us to nimbly avoid the pitfalls which hinder our walk; and in our hand at all times is to be the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, sharp and effective in skilful, well trained hands1.

Added to those weapons of spiritual warfare is the immensely powerful gift of prayer. Our heavenly Father hears and responds to the prayers of His saints. Given this, why would we not be found regularly laying our position before Him and drawing strength from prayer for the daily strife?

The survey asked questions in relation to Bible reading and prayer.

Do you manage to read the Bible each day?

Yes                                                          23%

Most days                                               35%

Sporadically                                           31%

No                                                          11%

 

If ‘no’ or ‘sporadically’, what are the main reasons?

My life isn’t organised enough             46%

Don’t feel motivated                             36%

Not enough time in the day                  14%

Don’t think it’s necessary                     4%

Once again it is clear from these responses how  significant the effective use of time is. Of those who  do the readings every day, or most days, 63% of them  follow the daily Bible reading plan.

To further analyse our usage of time in relation  to this issue, the question was asked: When are the  Bible readings done?

 

What time of the day do you do them?

In the evening                                       33%

Just before bed                                     18%

No set time                                           15%

No response                                          15%

Morning                                                  0%

Evenly spread throughout the day          8%

Lunchtime                                              1%

 

Where do you do them?

In bed                                                   33%

Wherever—  no set place                     28%

In the lounge room                              21%

At a desk                                                9%

Dining room table                                  6%

On public transport                                3%

 

Who do you read with?

Silently by yourself                             43%

With another member of  the family   34%

No response                                        13%

With friends                                          5%

Aloud to yourself                                  5%

We would certainly expect in a large diverse  community to find a variety of daily routines and  therefore responses to these questions.

There are indications in these results that some  families are still doing the readings together in the  evening. However there is also the clear indication  that many are leaving the reading of God’s Word till  the last activity of the day; indeed many are reading  in bed, and silently on their own. There is no doubt  that for some this would be a very effective and  meaningful part of the day, and yet it’s quite likely,  too, that for others it probably represents an effort to  assuage a conscience which knows such an important  activity should not have been left till last.

Regular Personal Bible Study

As a community often described in our history as  ‘people of the Book’, how often do we make a habit  of deliberate, regular Bible study?

Personal Bible Study: Do you make time for it?

Sometimes                                        58%

Never                                                22%

Yes                                                    19%

No response                                        1%

In Australia there are indications that those who  are younger are less likely to be making time for  personal Bible study.

 

 Personal Bible Study: Do you make time for it?

Australia-centric results)

17–20 year olds                                7% said yes

21–30 year olds                             14% said yes

31–50 year olds                             19% said yes

51–60 year olds                               39% said yes

This would indicate that few young brothers  and sisters set aside time to look specifically at a  section of Scripture.

If our community lacks individuals who spend  their personal time seeking to understand the  Word this will be detrimental to all. Knowing and  understanding the Word of our God is what provides  knowledge of right and wrong, and the ability to  discern His will. If we have not that ability, where  will we as individuals and as a community end up?

 

Making Time for Prayer

On the subject of prayer, the question was asked:  Do you make time for it?

 

Prayer: Do you make time for it?

Always                                             53%

Sometimes                                       35%

Rarely                                                7%

No Response                                      3%

Never                                                 2%

Is it fervent and consistent was the next question,  and possibly more to the point of whether or not  making time for it is significant.

 

Prayer: Is it fervent and consistent?

Yes                                                  46%

No                                                  45%

No response                                      9%

  Prayer: Do you feel it is effectual?

 Yes                                                52%

I don’t really know                       39%

No                                                   5%

No response                                    4%

Could it really be that only 53% make time for  prayer? Is it true that only half again do so fervently  and consistently? Do 39% of us wonder whether  our prayers are effectual? If we are not sure that our  prayers are even effective, might not this affect the  fervency and consistency of our prayers?

There are many issues that arise out of a  consideration of the above results, and quite  possibly many of these issues need to be addressed  in our ecclesias. Clearly there is a need for  discussion of some aspects of our daily walk. It  seems we need concerted reiteration of some issues  like the importance of daily reading, how to study  the Bible and why it is important.

It seems we would benefit from realistic, open  discussion about how best to manage our time  effectively and balance the demands of ecclesial  family life. Perhaps more discussion identifying  temptations and combating them is also needed.

Could it also be that we need to seriously discuss  ways of simplifying our lives and the very real  sacrifices needed to be able to do this?

There is no ‘one size fits all’ response to some  of these dilemmas about daily routine and usage  of our time, but there are wonderful examples of  faithful lives which demonstrate the principles for  us to consider and act upon.

 

The Abrahamic Way

In Genesis 22 we are faced with a scene of great  pathos and emotion. To comprehend the feelings  of Abraham at this moment of his life is almost  beyond us and certainly outside the realm of our  personal experience.

We imagine jangling nerves, sweat on the brow,  the exhaustion of three sleepless nights and the  mounting pressure…

We expect as we read the narrative to find  insights into Abraham’s mind and faith, and we  do… but who would expect that a little word in  verse 9 would open such a window to this man’s  relationship with God?

When alerted to the word, it positively leaps off  the page, taking our breath away with its staggering  implications.

“And they came to the place which God had  told him of; and Abraham built an altar there,  and laid the wood IN ORDER, and bound Isaac  his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood”  (Genesis 22:9).

We are invited here to note a facet of Abraham’s  character and worship that is staggering given the  circumstances.

We are encouraged to imagine a man who is  about to sacrifice his son, carefully ensuring that  the wood is neatly arranged in order.

Despite the enormous emotional strain and  pressure within, Abraham was not going to perform  even this task in a slipshod haphazard manner.

We could almost imagine another man hastily  throwing the sticks on ‘any old how’ and ‘getting  it over with’—but not Abraham. Everything about  this man’s relationship with God was orderly and  careful. He revered Him, he honoured Him. He  worshipped God decently and in order.2

If our daily life is the altar of sacrifice to God3,  are we careful to lay the “wood” on in order?

In one frank discussion I had with a friend  we agreed that quite often the following words  characterize our daily life: ‘last minute’, ‘rushed’,  ‘haphazard’.

This is not the Abrahamic way.

One might protest: “our life is hardly the life of  a man living in a tent with 318 servants and all the  time in the world at his disposal.”

It may not be, but it is “in the steps of that faith”  that we are to walk4.

 

A Man Greatly Beloved

“It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom an  hundred and twenty princes, which should be over  the whole kingdom; and over these three presidents;  of whom Daniel was first… ” (Daniel 6:1–2).

We can only imagine the magnitude of Daniel’s  responsibilities in the realm of Darius.

It might be suggested that being as powerful  as he was, Daniel was able to delegate most of his  responsibilities, leaving him with considerable time  to pursue his own desires.

It is quite clear when we study Daniel 6  however, that he was not in the habit of shirking  his daily responsibilities.

If he was, it would surely have been something his enemies would have picked up with glee.  However, upon scrutinising him for some time they  found no flaw.

The net renders verse 4: “… the supervisors  and satraps were trying to find some pretext against  Daniel in connection with administrative matters.  But they were unable to find any such damaging  evidence, because he was trustworthy and guilty  of no negligence or corruption…”

We know eventually that the only case that was  made against Daniel arose out of his consistent  prayer life.

At a young age Daniel had been cast into very different, hostile circumstances. He had dealt with  the confusion and disorder that his life had been  plunged into, and now in his old age he is still living  life purposefully and deliberately.

He had established for himself set routines that  nothing had changed nor would change. Daniel  was praying, fervently, consistently and with full  belief that his prayer was being heard. This is not all he was doing. We find that Daniel was particular  about something else: “In the first year of his reign  I, Daniel, came to understand from the sacred  books…” (Daniel 9:2)

Bible study was a habit for Daniel. Within the  challenges of his immensely busy schedule, he  also set time aside for the reading and study of  God’s Word.

Daniel lived life deliberately. In the midst of a  spiritually hostile environment which threatened to  envelop him, Daniel continued to conduct his life  decently and in order.

Despite enormous pressure such as we could  scarcely comprehend, Abraham maintained order  and purpose in his worship.

Our daily life often seems to be taking its cue from the commotion and confusion of this present  world, and as individuals and as a community we need to fight back. In order to do so effectively we need to embrace “the weapons of our warfare” with which we have been provided.[1]

[1] 2 Did Paul have Abraham in mind in 1 Corinthians 14:40?