Not all prayer is asking for something, but a great deal of it obviously is. When we do ask, do we pray mainly for our own physical and spiritual needs and concerns? It is certainly acceptable to pray for these things – we have Christ’s encouragement to do so – but that is only part of the picture we find in the words of Jesus and in the New Testament as a whole.
The New Testament actually gives us an insight into an important aspect of prayer that we might easily miss. See what that 80% principle is in our latest article, here.
It may not sound like a very spiritual question, but it is a serious one.
Few of us are in danger of not getting enough sleep because we participate in all night sessions of prayer and study. The problem that most Christians face is trying to pray and study effectively – rather than sleepily – at the beginning or end of the day when they usually have opportunity for these spiritual activities.
But when we are tired at the end of the day or still tired in the morning after not enough sleep, it is difficult to seek God intently. Sometimes we need to seek God in very difficult situations – perhaps in the middle of the night – but under normal circumstances, in our regular day-to-day lives, if we really want to draw closer to God we need to “rest to be at our best.”
The principle is seen in an interesting story in the Old Testament. The Book of 1 Kings tells us that before meeting with God in difficult circumstances, the prophet Elijah did not study, fast, or meditate to be in top spiritual condition; he slept – and the account tells us he slept not once, but three times:
Elijah … went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again. The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. There he went into a cave and spent the night" (1 Kings 19:3-9).
Notice a couple of things about this unusual story. Elijah was on his way to meet with God at Horeb, the “Mountain of God,” but the account mentions specifically the sleep he took on the way – at least two naps and, presumably, a night’s sleep in the cave. Then God spoke to Elijah and the prophet entered into a conversation with him.
Fast forward to the New Testament and we find Jesus sleeping in the back of the boat before calming the storm (Matthew 8:24). This is not to say that Jesus had to rest before performing a miracle, but that he knew the value of rest even when conditions were difficult. That is why we find him telling his disciples to “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest” (Mark 6:31), and the word translated “rest” in this verse can mean sleep as well as relaxation (as in Matthew 26:45, Mark 14:41).
Now the exhortation is to get “some rest” or “rest awhile,” as some translations have it, not to rest or sleep all day or in times when we urgently need to be seeking God (Matthew 26:40-41). But again, we are talking about our normal day-to-day activities and what is effective and what is not when it comes to spending time with God.
The truth is, none of us can perform at our best spiritually on an ongoing basis when we are not getting the rest we need. The Book of Psalms tells us: “In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat— for he grants sleep to those he loves” (Psalm 127:2). We can apply this principle to spiritual food also. The point the psalm is making is that God gives sleep to his people, those he loves, for a purpose – not just to be able to do another day’s work, but to help us most effectively seek and walk with him. David also put it this way: “I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me” (Psalm 3:5 ESV).
Sleep is a gift that we need for our spiritual lives as well as for our physical well-being – we just have to decide to accept the gift.
Should you always tell the truth? If you don’t know what the Bible says on this topic, you may be surprised! But first, let me state clearly that the Bible makes it very clear we should not lie (read Proverbs 12:22 and John 8:44, for example, if you have any doubt about that). This blog post is not advocating lying or practicing a lifestyle of deception, in any way, shape or form.
But the fact that we should not lie does not mean that we always need to tell the truth we know – as in telling all the truth. Many new Christians, and even those who have been in the Way for many years, have not thought this through. Some, in their desire to do what is right, unnecessarily harm themselves and others by a lack of understanding in this area when saying more than necessary can have unfortunate or even serious consequences. The old World War II conundrum of Nazis at the door looking for people sheltering Jewish families comes immediately to mind, but there are many lesser instances of this kind of situation.
The point is, we clearly cannot always vocalize the truth, or all of it, without hurting or even endangering others. I think many of us confuse biblical responsibility in this area with courtroom protocol. The legal injunction to tell “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth” is firmly fixed in most people’s minds regarding the subject of telling the truth and that colors our thinking in other areas. Naturally, in any legal situation, if we give our word that we will tell the whole truth that is what we should do, but life is not a courtroom; the necessity of voicing everything we know is not usually an issue.
But there are times when it is simply better to refrain from speaking the truth if the truth does not need to be spoken or might have consequences in which someone is harmed. This principle is clearly supported by at least one example in the Bible.
In 1 Samuel we read that after Israel’s first king, Saul, sinned and disqualified himself from kingship, God told his servant Samuel to go to Bethlehem to anoint David, one of the sons of Jesse, as the new king. Samuel was naturally worried about the repercussions of doing this: “But Samuel said, 'How can I go? If Saul hears about it, he will kill me'” (1 Samuel 16:2).
Now notice God’s reply to Samuel in the same verse – his instruction on how to handle this situation: “The LORD said, 'Take a heifer with you and say, “I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.” Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what to do. You are to anoint for me the one I indicate.’” Here it is God Himself telling Samuel that rather than speaking the whole truth about why he was going to Bethlehem, Samuel should simply speak something equally true, but not the part of the truth that might get him killed.
There is a clear lesson in this story that we should always speak the truth when we do speak, but when people may be hurt or endangered by what we say, the truth, or all of it, does not always need to be spoken. It is also a clear example of what Christ meant in saying that we should be “wise as serpents and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16).
, We all need courage at some time – if not regularly – in our lives. So it is not suprising that the Bible contains many stories of courage exhibited by its heroes.
Some of those stories, such as the account of the young David fighting the giant Goliath, come quickly to mind. But there are dozens more examples throughout the pages of Scripture where individuals stepped forward and fought against huge odds or difficult situations – often alone and without the support of others. There are lessons every Christain should learn from these stories, and our new article gives three that we should take to heart. You can read it here.
The Book of 1 Kings tells us that near the beginning of his reign, King Solomon had his own brother Adonijah executed (1 Kings 2:13-25). Solomon is praised for his godliness at this point of his life (1 Kings 3:3). Why would he do such a thing?
Adonijah was the fourth son of King David and an elder brother to Solomon, who inherited David’s throne according to his father’s wishes. But after the death of his own elder brothers, Amnon and Absalom, Adonijah considered himself the heir to the throne (1 Kings 1:5).
When David was near death, Adonijah invited his younger brothers (except Solomon) and many of the chief officials of the kingdom to a sacrificial feast to announce his intention to take the throne. But the prophet Nathan warned David through Bathsheba, Solomon's mother, and David gave orders that Solomon immediately be proclaimed king.
At this point Adonijah asked for mercy from Solomon – who pardoned him on condition that he showed himself worthy in his behavior (1 Kings 1:50-53). But not long after this, Solomon executed Adonijah over an incident that might seem difficult to understand. Adonijah went to Solomon’s mother, Bathsheba, and persuaded her to ask the king on his behalf for permission to marry a young woman named Abishag. Bathsheba agreed and asked Solomon, who reacted strongly and ordered Adonijah’s death.
But there is more to the story than meets the eye. Abishag was not just any young woman. She was the virgin who had been selected from David’s harem to sleep alongside the aged king (without any sexual intimacy) to help keep him warm at night due to his poor circulation (1 Kings 1:1-4). But in the cultures of the ancient Near East, a king’s wives and concubines were considered part of the royal household inherited by the next king (2 Samuel 12:8).
The Greek historian Herodotus records this fact in saying that among the Persians a new king inherited the previous king's harem and that to possess a king’s wife was as good as having title to the throne. In Israel, this had in fact been one of Adonijah’s older brother Absalom’s tactics when he attempted to take the throne of David (2 Samuel 16:22). So Adonijah knew that since the young woman Abishag was part of David’s harem, if he were to marry her it would strengthen his claim to the throne considerably.
That is why Solomon reacted so strongly – and why he told his mother Bathsheba “…Why do you request Abishag the Shunammite for Adonijah? You might as well request the kingdom for him …” (1 Kings 2:22). Solomon knew that this was no simple request, and that the devious Adonijah was clearly continuing his attempts to take over the throne. The Book of 1 Kings also shows that Solomon was aware that Adonijah was being supported by one of the military commanders, Joab, and by one of the chief priests, Abiathar – which is why the king also told his mother: “You might as well request the kingdom for him [Adonijah] and for Abiathar the priest and Joab son of Zeruiah!” (1 Kings 2:22).
Solomon's mother, Bathsheba, was used as an unwitting accomplice in Adonijah's scheming, but the Scriptures record that Solomon saw through the plot and acted decisively when it became apparent that his brother continued his plotting to take the throne. Sadly, this incident may have brought to a final fulfillment the curse King David had called down upon himself years earlier when he responded to the prophet Nathan's story of a man who stole his neighbor’s lamb. That story was actually a parable representing David’s stealing of the wife of the faithful soldier Uriah, and the king (not realizing he spoke of himself) had replied that the guilty man must pay fourfold for his sin (2 Samuel 12:1-6). It is perhaps not coincidence that David’s four eldest sons, ending with Adonijah, met untimely deaths. But in any event, it is clear that although he was granted mercy by Solomon, Adonijah continued to scheme to build power to take over the throne for himself – and in this way caused his own demise.