I am convinced that for a Christian to be spiritually healthy and effective, there must be a balance between prayer and Bible reading. If one or the other is over emphasized, or if one or the other is neglected, that person or church group will stray from the mission that God has given the church.
A group which emphasizes prayer at the expense of Bible reading will be lively but can get into error such as the so-called “Toronto Blessing” movement. A group which emphasizes Bible study at the expense of prayer will have a cold, dead orthodoxy which does a better job of keeping people away than attracting them.
To illustrate the extremes, I will borrow from the original Star Trek television series.
Spock Christianity – Bible Study without Prayer
The overemphasis of Bible reading, or the neglect of prayer, I label “Spock Christianity.” Spock was the character that was from the planet Vulcan where there were no emotions. Emotion was considered irrational and life was to be guided by logic alone.
Spock Christians seek to be guided by Scripture. They know their Bibles and have good understanding of Biblical precepts and how the Bible should impact the world around them. This is all praiseworthy.
The problem with Spock Christianity is that it morphs the group or individual into a strong believer that tends to be cold and unloving. It is through prayer that we become honest before God about our own shortcomings. Without prayer it is easy to fall into the trap of doctrinal litmus tests to see who is in and who is not.
Bones Christianity – Prayer without Bible Study
Bones was the doctor on the Enterprise. He had a tendency to react emotionally, having frequent outbursts which annoyed Spock, the logician.
Bones Christians are very tuned into prayer and supernatural manifestations. They are looking for the Spirit’s leading and want very much to follow that leading.
The problem with Bones Christians is that neglect of Bible reading and study allows them to be lead astray by ascribing to the Holy Spirit things that are clearly not Biblical. The Apostle Paul directly addressed Bones Christians in 1 Corinthians chapters 12-14. Bones Christians can be loving and inclusive but the danger is that what is included may not be Biblical.
Toward a Balance – Paul Christianity
In Philippians 4:9, the Apostle Paul tells his readers, “The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do.” Paul was confident that his example is one that is safe to follow.
The Apostle makes frequent references to his prayers on behalf of believers. Paul writes to the Corinthians that he prayed in tongues “more than you all” (1 Corinthians 14:18). Paul was an intimate of Jesus Christ th.rough prayer. Paul was of the opinion that prayer is an important part of the Christian experience
Yet, the Apostle knew when and how to call out those who were entertaining doctrinal error. Paul confronted those whose teaching strayed from Scripture. Paul also praised those who were diligent in comparing his teaching to Scripture. Paul also presented Scripture as the guide for belief and practice.
Without Bible study there is no basis for confrontation of error. Without prayer, the confrontation will be cold and unloving. For the church (which is made up of individual believers) to be effective in her mission, there must be a balance like we see in the Apostle Paul.
It is possible to be emotionally engaged and right.