Studying apologetics requires a lot of concentration, preparation, and effective prayer.
The first step when dealing with God, and especially learning more about who He is and why you believe in Him is to pray to Him.
It all starts with effective prayer
Quite literally, prayer to God is the first thing a Christian does acknowledging that they are a sinner, and in need of a savior to bridge the gap to Heaven.
Too often, “Christians” stop their prayer life there. Christians often think it is okay to declare that Christ is Lord once, and be done with it. Like it is enough to sign an eternal fire insurance policy and never bother to check what premiums we need to pay to keep the policy up to date.
I’ve heard my whole life, “Once saved, always saved.” I still believe this is true, but James 2:17 says “Faith without works is dead”. Faith is an active thing, not a passive creed.
Communication with God
Christians have a unique ability. We can actually communicate with the creator of the universe, and he wants to have a relationship with us! The first line of communication is effective prayer.
I’ll admit, at first it is strange to pour your heart out to a seemingly invisible God who you aren’t sure is listening and doesn’t seem to respond. The more you practice though, the easier it becomes to share your hopes and fears, loves and hates, and all your innermost secrets through effective prayer.
Eventually, you will learn to listen to God. He rarely speaks audibly, but I have heard his words through reading scripture, being silent in meditation, and through friends and family who unknowingly carry his message to me.
I don’t know how to effectively pray
That’s ok! Rest assured I didn’t either. Effective prayer seemed foreign to me. I remember the first time I prayed in a group as a teenager.
I had gone to church camp with my aunt’s church. After arriving and unloading all our stuff, we met in the common room. After some skits they had prepared, and a quick message, the leaders asked who would pray for the group.
I wish the story was that I volunteered and said the most glorious and effective prayer. The fact is that I was not only new to prayer, but the whole group thing was foreign to me. As I shrank behind the group, I heard one person say “Let the new kid do it.” Then they all said my name and I felt trapped. I had to say something.
I remember stammering out a quick prayer and everyone telling me how good I did. I didn’t believe them, but I did appreciate it. Over time, I learned to let go of my apprehension and just talk to God. Now, I pray once a week in public for the small group I lead.
There’s no magic to it. Jesus does give us an example of how to pray in Matthew 6, but remember that it is an example and not to become your every prayer. The longer you do it and the more comfortable you become, it will get easier. 1 Thessalonians 5:7 commands us to pray without ceasing. I would guess that would give anyone plenty of practice.
I have yet to pray without ceasing, but I will continue to work toward it. To be effective at Christian apologetics, I must have an active prayer life.
For more resources on prayer, I recommend visiting desiringgod.org. They have a number of articles about all aspects of prayer.
What is effective prayer?
The longer you pray and read the Bible, the easier it is to discern how you should pray and what constitutes effective prayer.
My prayer life started with me just talking to God, but prayer became much more effective when I learned to listen for and pay attention to answers for my prayers.
Reading the Bible opened a new method of praying effective prayers. Now, instead of offering my selfish thoughts and desires, I now knew what God wanted me to pray for. In fact, J.D. Greear talks about praying God's promises back to him.
Effective Prayer to Understand The Bible
Effective prayer also helps us to understand the next step of preparation to begin studying apologetics. Asking the Holy Spirit for understanding and clarity in the verses you study will help immensely.
According to desiringgod.org, there are four things we should pray for before we study the Bible.
The four items to pray for
First, we should pray for open eyes. It is possible to read the same verse repeatedly and get something different from it each time. We should ask God to guide us to the knowledge he wants us to have from his word.
Next, we should pray for mercy. Staying humble and acknowledging that you are in need of God's mercy allows you to approach the Word with a clear mind and heart for God's people and his message.
Then, pray to be a doer of His Word. Jesus didn't call people to merely study God's Word. He called for them to live His Message out through their own lives. The Bible is a living document, and it is the Holy Spirit that moves the readers to find the message He wants them to have. Those lessons must be put to use to be of any benefit.
Finally, pray that He open your eyes to Jesus. The story of the Bible is a story of Jesus, and He is woven throughout all of the books of the Bible. As being a Christian is to be like Christ, you should be looking for Jesus in all scripture.
The Next Step to preparing for apologetics
Join me for the next lesson which will be reading the Bible. The scriptures are God's living document to us. It is a love story for humans, explaining God's love for His creation.
We should not look at effective prayer as a chore to slog through, but as a letter we've been waiting a long time for from a trusted and valued friend.
Will you read this letter, or will you toss it aside? Leave me a comment below and let me know!