I was recently reading an article on experimental prayer—the kind in which you put God to the test by telling Him you will do this if He will do that. I knew I was in opposition, but I read on. A preacher-psychologist (qualified and well-known in both fields) added his own comment on answers through Bible texts in these words:
"I therefore tried the experiment of asking God to guide me in opening the New Testament at random to a passage which would convey to me something of inspiration, counsel or warning or guidance. Over a period I have had three successes in eighteen tries. Judging from this I suspect that petitionary prayer is not all that it is cracked up to be."—J. G. McKENzrz in British Weekly, March 1, 1962.
It is amazing that people expect quick answers to prayer by magical methods—promise boxes with texts all hopeful and deliberately chosen for the random searcher, casting lots, opening the Bible haphazardly, et cetera. Can we thus make the Bible a magic computer or, to change metaphors, a lucky dip? Is this devotion or presumption?
Charles Spurgeon had no time for such practices. He would tell humorously of the random opener of the Bible who got this: "[Judas] went and hanged himself." Disconsolately closing the Bible he tried once more and read: "Go, and do thou likewise"!
To every man his method; but let us not be mechanical operators in such a sacred area.
H. W. L.
MAN OR PLAN
During the war many phrases were coined describing various military operations. Among them were the words—"according to plan." Our universe and all about us gives evidence of careful thought and planning. Indeed, little in our world that is constructive is achieved without prior thought. The sanity of a man who would dare advocate the anarchy of chance action might well be questioned.
Conversely, is there not a clear and present danger that the church become "plan-bound"? Gentlemen, if plans would finish the work, we would have long since been in the kingdom.
The fabled General McClellan of Civil War fame was famous as a headquarters tactician. His weakness lay in the execution of his brilliant schemes. Were our present plight reduced to parliamentary jargon, we are down to the substitute to the substitute motion, with few people supplying meaningful motion.
Brethren, long have we resolved. Let us rise up and execute. And for this we need a new man—not another plan.
E. E. C.
"STATE OF THE UNION
Annually the President of the United States delivers a message to Congress and the nation on "the state of the Union." In it he cites the progress made during the past twelve months in domestic and foreign affairs. He also warns of the dangers ahead, pinpointing problems in finance, diplomacy, and social areas. He also brings remedial recommendations in the hope that the Congress will implement most if not all of them. Considering the whole picture in his speech of January, 1963, the President pronounced that the "state of the Union" is good.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church, from Washington, D.C., to its remotest outpost, is one vast union. Ours is a unity of spirit, doctrine, and purpose. If you doubt it, visit our believers in the isolated areas and you will discern a "pulse beat" as strong as any. This is the mystery—that the extremity should contain the same vitality as the heart. Like the mythical serpent that can "unjoint" himself while retaining life in each separated body part, the church is endowed with this supernatural power. This has been proved again and again in our history.
In Ethiopia, when war necessitated the evacuation of missionary personnel, the church continued to flourish. The same is true in New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. Each division of the church body has life within itself, and within this decade believers have given up their lives rather than give up the faith.
To be sure, we are not now, nor were we ever, "rich, and increased with goods"; we cannot say we "have need of nothing." And there have been times when the church in all ages has manifested blindness, poverty, and indeed miserable wretchedness. But in the over-all, considering our progress, possibilities, and problems, the "state of the union" is good. The gospel is being preached; souls are being converted; the sick are being healed; our youth are being educated; our liberties are being defended; and our literature encircles the globe like a belt of light. By meditating on the negative we can unfit ourselves for the task of proclaiming the "good news." Feed on the poison of other men's faults, and a strange inertia will paralyze your own best efforts. Critic or contributor—which will you be? Whatever your decision, remember that elsewhere the work goes on!
E. E. C.