Friday, March 18, 2005

A Meditation on Father Abraham

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about "Father Abraham." I realized something about him that I never fully appreciated before: the incredible simplicity of his faith and relationship with God. Theologians and scholars have taken apart poor Abraham and have examined every aspect of his life minute, technical detail, wringing every last drop of meaning from every single word of his story in Genesis. While it is very important to understand and appreciate what Abraham represents in terms of our knowledge of the workings of God, we lose sight of the simplicity of his relationship with the LORD.

Here is a man, despite his human failings, who had a powerful, intimate relationship with the Creator of the Universe. And what is truly amazing about Abraham is that he had and maintained this relationship despite a complete lack of the all that we deem essential to sustain our own relationship with God.

Here is a man who had no Bible (still several centuries away from the first word being written); he had no "fellowship of believers" (except for those in his own family); there were no services to attend; either church or synagogue; no accountability groups (though this might have helped him in a few instances!); no cute little bookstores to buy inspirational books. It seems that his major source for knowing and understanding God's will and purposes was God himself!

But there is one thing, one "spiritual discipline," that Abraham certainly seemed to understand and appreciate: prayer.

If there's one practical lesson we can take away from Abraham's life, it is the essential centrality of prayer in the life of a believer. One can do away with everything else, even the Bible, but prayer is as vital to relationship with God as is breathing is necessary to live.

I think of the early monastic movements, how believers in the first few centuries of the Church would move out into the desert; away from family, friends and city life; just so they could deepen their relationship with the Creator. We laugh and ridicule those early monastics for being such extremists, but their stories are still told well over a thousand years later. Perhaps they were on to something--and rather than extremism, perhaps it was a deep, powerful devotion that led them to do what they did....

But amongst those early Desert Fathers, one thing is common in all their stories: the centrality of prayer in their lives of solitude. Having given up many of the other trappings of Christianity, the discipline of prayer remained essential.

So that's what I've learned from Father Abraham.

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