In my Bible reading right now I’m using a method that I’ve really liked over the years. I divide the text into five sections: history, (Genesis-Job), poetry (Psalms-Song of Solomon), prophecy (Isaiah-Malachi), Gospels & Acts (Matthew-Acts), and Epistles & Revelation (Romans-Revelation). If the goal is to read through the Bible in a year, you read two chapters of history, one chapter of poetry, one chapter of prophecy, and one chapter of either Gospels or Epistles five days a week. That leaves you with some breathing space for missed days through the year. Whether you keep a schedule or not, I like reading from different sections simultaneously because I don’t feel like I’m in just one view of God’s word for a long time. The other thing I like is sometimes what I read in one section makes what I read in another richer and deeper; it’s amazing how often they can go together. You might think one Spirit wrote the entire Book! Duh!
Today I read about part of Joseph’s story. He’d been hated by his brothers and sold into slavery. He was bought by Potiphar, and God favored him so well that everything he did prospered. Potiphar put him in charge of all his affairs, but he was still a slave. Unjustly accused, he was sent to prison where, again, God’s favor rested on him, and he eventually managed the entire prison without oversight. But he was still a prisoner. I don’t know how many years Joseph spent as a slave and then a prisoner before God delivered him into a position of being ruler in the land, second only to Pharaoh, but I am sure that Joseph did a lot of praying in those years.
Jumping ahead to my reading in Matthew, Jesus often encountered people who were in desperate need. Sometimes the need wasn’t immediately obvious, but most often their plight was crystal clear. They were crying out to Him because they were blind, or lame, or deaf, or ill, or demon-possessed. Sometimes the crowd objected to the interruption of their cries, but Jesus never did. Yet when He spoke with them He would often ask, “What do you want from Me?” Really? Jesus, isn’t it obvious? I’m blind, or lame, or…. What do You think I want?
These readings reflect some truth to me about prayer. God knows what I need before I ever ask, yet He wants me to ask. He wants me to realize that what I need can ONLY be provided by Him. As I begin to pray, very often I know exactly what I want. I would suppose that many of Joseph’s prayers began with, “Please, Lord, set me free from this slavery or prison!” But as I spend time speaking back and forth with God, He often shows me my deeper need and desire. Perhaps Joseph’s prayers would change to, “Please, Lord, use me as a slave or prisoner. Help me to walk with integrity in this place. I trust Your ways and timing.” I know my prayers can go from what I thought I wanted to what I really need and the far deeper desires of my heart for His glory to be shown through me, Jon, and our family.
What holds you in captivity? What do you want from Him? You must ask. Never be afraid to ask your Father for the desires of your heart, and also be willing for Him to refine those desires over time into His own. He will never let you go unheard, unanswered, or uncared-for. His timing is perfect.
Genesis 39-40; Matthew 20:29-34; Matthew 6:32-33; Matthew 7:7-8