Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.
May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.
- 1 Thessalonians 5:17-24
For those who know me as a Presbyterian, I was sprinkled when I was about five-months old. I was totally immersed by the Holy Spirit when I was seventeen years old, just not with water. I have not been dunked in water as a religious rite – bullies trying to drown me is a different subject. So, this is not about any style of baptism, but about totally immersing ourselves in God’s word and in prayer.
I wrote the following two paragraphs as background for the inspiration for my new Thursday morning posts, a Bible Study. I wrote it a couple of days ago. After I wrote it, it seemed to be a topic all on its own.
I drove to Tennessee recently to pick up my wife after months of her babysitting the grandchildren. It was eleven hours of driving. I had been listening to the audio Bible, the Breathe Bible – just the New Testament, but excellent! It is a dramatized Bible using the New Living Translation (NLT). Kevin Sorbo is the voice of God. Josh Lucas is Jesus. Wintley Phipps is Peter. Kurt Naebig is Paul. And many others, including a few of my favorites. The CDs have background music and background sound effects, all adding to setting the stage. Since I had already listened to a few of the CDs, almost completing the Gospels, during my devotional time at home before I left, I was able to nearly finish the New Testament, having started into the book of Revelation as I arrived at my destination.
Maybe I was exhausted, but the last full CD that I listened to nearly brought me to tears. Then again, I had started the trip with John’s version of the Last Supper and crucifixion, and I had been totally immersed by this point. This is an experience that should be considered for anyone serious about getting closer to Jesus, 8-10-12 hours of listening to nothing but the Scriptures. The last CD that I listened to, until we finished on the return trip, was on 1 Peter (mid book) to the first three chapters of Revelation. The two Peter epistles (aided by Wintley Phipps’ voice) got me to thinking about what Peter had been saying. Then, the three John letters convicted me of things where I could have done better. I would hear something and think, “I need to write a post on that!” But I was driving. All the display said was “Track 9 – 2 minutes remaining” or something like that, whatever that meant. And I could not write what I saw down, as I was driving. It could have been track 8 – 1:35 minutes remaining, for all I can remember. Also, the Corinthian epistles got my creative juices flowing. I’m thinking that was in Kentucky somewhere.
Okay, not many of us can get in the car and drive 12 hours so that you can be completely immersed in Scripture. When you try it at home, something will interrupt you. I could have had Satan “harsh my buzz” on my long journey by creating an auto accident and resultant traffic jam, but God protected my journey. Maybe praying for that very thing well before dawn that morning had something to do with it.
So, I had a unique experience that not many will be able to do today. Satan has created too many distractions, but God also speaks in distractions every once in a while.
Yes, God can distract us. He keeps us from temptation on occasion. He distracts us with something better.
So, you might not take an extended drive in the country just to listen to an audio Bible for 12 hours, but have you ever participated in a prayer vigil? For those who have never heard of such a thing, a prayer vigil is an organized group of people to keep a continuous prayer going, usually focused on a specific subject, for an extended period of time. I have been involved in a couple of these and the prayer time was 24 hours each time. Each volunteer prayed for an hour. There was always two people praying at any one time, but one rotated off at the hour and the other at the half-hour, and others might drift in and out as additional prayer partners not on the schedule.
It is very hard getting people to volunteer between the hours of midnight and 4:00am – just giving you a warning if you wish to try it. On one of those occasions, the organizer and his wife took about three hours each of the graveyard shift, unable to get anyone else.
But having had this experience a couple of times, it is hard to pray for an hour. Just think of how many hours Martin Luther prayed on a normal day, and then he prayed an additional four hours when he was going to have a busy day – at least according to an old quote. That is amazing, but why do we bring nine pages of prayer requests with us to a prayer vigil and after ten minutes, we have run out of things to say? Then you stare at the cross and you think, what do I do with the next 50 minutes? Repeat my list six times?
I have written about praying until you pray. It is the process of exhausting your prayer list, then exhausting everything that you can think of, even praying for the wild bunny rabbits in the backyard and the chipmunks who are burrowing underneath your back porch, and then… That is when God talks to you in your helpless silence due to having nothing else to say. A preacher, a long time ago, called it “Pray ‘til you pray” and I read about it in an A. W. Tozer book. This old preacher gave us the answer to reach total immersion in prayer about one hundred years ago, but we might have to turn off some electronic devices to pull it off.
I applaud all who listen to an audio Bible on the way to and from work. I had a commute that was nearly an hour long each way in the 1980s and I did that – on cassette tapes (if you don’t know what a cassette tape is, ask your grandmother). But even then, you don’t get that deep immersion unless it is several hours. For me, it happened after about ten hours, but then I may have this extremely hard head that needs to be softened first. If God really has something to say to you, it might happen in five minutes.
For prayer, it does not take that long. You might be very well prepared and run out of things to say in 10-15 minutes. But do not give up. Keep praying, until you pray.
We each need some sort of total immersion. We each need that moment in our lives where we have a two-way conversation with God. We believe in a living God, who inspired people to write the living Word of God. The Bible is living in that when you honestly and seriously dig into the word, believing that God will speak to you, God will speak through something written over a thousand years ago, thousands for the most part, and it applies to the problem you are having right now.
We can pray the salvation prayer and really mean it, but it becomes more real in our lives when we take that extra step of commitment.
Are you ready for the endurance test?
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.