Prayer a step down

No one prayed in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve spoke directly with God. No one will pray in the eternal kingdom, for God will be in the midst of the heavenly throng. Just as there will be no night, no pain, no death in the heavenly city, neither will prayer be present. So it was that after the Fall, men began to pray.

Seth also a son was born, and he called his name Enosh. At that time people began to call upon the name of the LORD. Genesis 4:26 (ESV)

For all its glory, as part of our intimate fellowship with God, prayer is a step down from that sweet and open communion intended for us in Eden.

The sentence in the latter part of the verse has been understood in various ways.

  • Some think it refers to the beginning of corporate worship. “Now the religious worship of the community of faith was organized for their corporate covenantal consecration to the name of Yahweh” (New Bible Commentary: Revised).
  • Others, like the NLT, understand it to be the inauguration of worship to the Lord’s revealed name: “At that time people first began to worship the Lord by name.”
  • The NIV Study Bible sees it as merely a contrast, which it is, between the pride of Cain’s line, seen in Lamech, and the dependence upon God present in the lineage of Seth as the seed of promise.
  • NET and other versions translate it as the beginning of worship, which may well have merit.

At least one version, though hardly a standard, understands the sentence to be a direct reference to prayer: “At that time people began to pray to the Lord” (NCV).

Here are several points to appreciate better this beginning of prayer, or calling on the name of the Lord.

  1. God noted with approval the lineage of Seth and Enosh who began to call on him.  Those who call on him in prayer and who worship him in truth, as opposed to those who, like Lamech, seek power over others, are approved.
  2. Though prayer is a step down from Eden and an inferior relationship to that which we will have with God in the eternal kingdom, it is an essential part of our life in Christ today. In order to have that full relationship with the Lord eternally, we must begin today in prayer.
  3. Prayer is about getting back to God. Once we see the results of human independence (read Gen 4), we launch ourselves upon the Lord. This is the essence of prayer. The name Enosh means “man,” perhaps with a note of fragility attached to it. Those who recognize their fragility will call on God.

People in a perfect state of divine bliss do not pray. Neither do the rebellious. But those who know their need for God call on his name until he throws open the gates of his eternal kingdom.

J. Randal Matheny

Be pithy.

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