Where then does wisdom come from,
and where is understanding located?
It is hidden from the eyes of every living thing
and concealed from the birds of the sky.
Abaddon and Death say,
“We have heard news of it with our ears.”
But God understands the way to wisdom,
and He knows its location.
For He looks to the ends of the earth
and sees everything under the heavens.
— Job 28.20-24 (HCSB)
I find limestone caves absolutely captivating.
I love the way they display the power of gradual and cumulative forces to carve out something beautiful. Dissolving and depositing. Accidentally extruding baroque cathedrals. And secreting them away in the dark. For millennia.
What’s more, they stand as eloquent testimony to the formative power of the slow drip.
For their subterranean minarets and elaborate hanging monuments to erosion didn’t just appear overnight.
Mostly, they’re the product of thousands of years of constant repetition. Slowly eating away at and reconfiguring the rock. Day after day.
Occasionally staining it with a shock of ocre from some rich metallic seam above. Sometimes bleaching away the colours locked within by even older processes.
And the picture the Bible paints of human beings is no different.
I’ve come to be persuaded that the slow drip of habit and repetition is at least as significant for us as is the explosive power of a ‘decisive moment’.
This is one of the reasons why I so much appreciate my friend Andrew’s take on the Lord’s Prayer.
One of the best lessons (and gifts) of the Lord’s prayer is that prayer is not learnt by grasping abstract principles that you take away and apply.
Rather, it’s learnt by practice. By being tried on and ‘worn in’ like a pair of shoes you hope to walk in for years.
Yes — in one sense, it is a template for prayer. But the careful preservation of almost identical wording in both Matthew and Luke suggests that Jesus’ disciples saw it as a prayer to be learnt (not just learnt from).
And Matthew’s careful placement of this prayer to be learnt at the apex of the Sermon on the Mount — Jesus’ most famous announcement of his radical vision of the good life — hints at the fact that you pray your way to the good life.
You pray your way to the good life because we’re so much like limestone caves. We’re profoundly formed and shaped by the almost imperceptible forces of habit.
As our settled inclination to prioritise our reputation, kingdom and glory is dissolved and gradually realigned with God’s priorities.
Or as our seemingly rock-solid devotion to our own independence, superiority and invulnerability is worn away and slowly (painfully slowly!) replaced by an instinctual desire to walk God’s way.
By our looking to him to meet our material and spiritual needs.
By our extending the same forgiveness we enjoy.
And by our seeking his deliverance and protection from the evil within and without…