Someone once said, “if you’re going to begin something, it’s best to start at the beginning.” Ahhhh, wisdom - the mysteries and treasures you hold. As far as prayer goes, there are a few definitions and different words used throughout Scripture that would be worth everyone’s time to sift through. But for the purposes of forward motion, let’s just say overall that “prayer” is to “communicate with God”.
If we go by that definition, the first recorded instance of flesh man praying to God is an interesting and telling tale indeed. We know the story - Eve takes the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and shares it with her husband, and bam, the one law God put in place is broken, and sin in flesh is born. What’s Adam’s response to such an action? Does he seek reconciliation? Does he pursue redemption?
“And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, ‘Where are you?’ And he said, ‘I heard Your voice in the garden and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.’ - Genesis 3:10
Does anyone else remember the broken lamp fiasco of 1982? My dad had a standing rule when I was a kid. I still remember the words verbatim - “No ball in the house!” Curiously enough, I now have the same rule for my German Shepherd. To her credit (and my shame), she listens oodles better than I ever did. Needless to say, I played ball in the house and broke a lamp. And just like any self-respecting adolescent (go with me on this. I’m consoling myself with speculative normalcy), I calmly and collectedly swept up the broken shards, mopped up the slivers, dumped the whole thing in its very own garbage bag, and threw it in my neighbor’s trash bin. There - problem solved.
So I understand Adam’s initial response. He behaved like a scared child - “Oh no! Dad’s gonna be mad! Come on, Eve, let’s hide over here!!” And I guess what I’m saying is, have things really changed all that much? Because the “prayer” didn’t stop there. And true to the nature of guilty children - and I use the word “children” loosely - the initial hiding was followed by the next self-preserving line of defense: the shift.
“And He (God) said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded you that you should not eat?’” - Genesis 3:11
“Chris, why are you in your room with the door closed? Where’s your mother’s nice glass lamp? Did you play ball in the house?” I always hated these questions. I knew they were coming eventually, but I hated them just the same.
“And the man said, ‘The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree and I did eat.’ Genesis 3:12
“Okay, first of all, Dad, I didn’t bring the ball inside, Scott (my brother) did. It was sitting in his mitt on the dining room table. And I figured Scott must know something I don’t, so if he can have a ball inside, it must mean I can too. And as far as the lamp goes, I think it should be on a higher shelf, because, it was honestly just a matter of time. That was just bad placement,” I pleaded.
So first Adam hides, hoping beyond reason that he’ll get away with breaking that one little rule. Then, when he’s caught, the next part of his prayer is, “It wasn’t me!! It was Eve!!” Oy! This study makes me ache. And so what does God do? He chases the root.
“And the LORD God said to the woman, ‘What is this that you have done?”
“Scott, did you bring a ball into the house?”
“And the woman said, ‘The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.’ - Genesis 3:13
“Yeah, dad. But it was only for a few minutes. Tom really wanted to see my new baseball cards and he was really excited about it, and we were going to go right back out, but then...” For the record, this isn’t really what my brother said. He, like my German Shepherd, is infinitely better at following the rules than I am - or perhaps just better at not getting caught when he breaks them. So let’s just say this story is two me’s haggling back and forth over blame. “He made me! She made me! I was totally hornswoggled!!” And on it goes (as an afterthought, does anyone know exactly where the word “hornswoggled” came from? Am I alone on this?).
At any rate, the point is, the nature of man was firstly an attempt to hide the sin, and secondly to blame someone else for it. And this pretty much constituted the whole of the first recorded prayer. It was compiled of a nice blend of avoidance, and escapism. Aren’t we proud we’ve changed so much since then?
How many of us hang onto things we know we need to repent for because we don’t want to have “that” conversation with Him? How many of us shift blame to someone else to make ourselves feel like we’ve done nothing wrong? How many things do we reason in our own minds and hearts to try and convince ourselves that we’re righteous - perhaps without even knowing it?
It’s humorous to me that God called out to Adam and said, “Where are you?”, when I’m quite certain God knew exactly where he was. And when He asked him what he had done, He most assuredly already knew the answer. Yet man, in his infinite wisdom, thought sure he could hide from God, and get away with petty semantics. Was the serpent the root of the issue? Yes, he was. Did Eve offer the fruit to Adam? Yes she did. Did Adam accept it willingly? Yes. The blame here didn’t rest on one pair of shoulders. It rested on all shoulders. Everyone was contributory; everyone played their part. Though the serpent did it with full knowledge of what he was doing - making his particular case one of greater severity. But that’s a different subject for a different time.
So what can we take from this first instance of prayer? Go to God. Don’t make Him come looking for you. Lay yourself out before Him in all your sinful depravity. It’s really the best thing you can do. If Adam would’ve gone immediately to God and said, “This is what I did, Father, and I am so terribly sorry. Can you forgive me?”, is it possible the punishment might’ve come out differently? Would you, as a parent, not react very differently to your child coming to you in sincere apology, rather than having to seek them out and sort through all that hem-hawing?
And why wouldn’t you go to Him? For one thing, He already knows. And for another, you might just find, in being honest with Him, you begin to be more honest with yourself. He’s there for you. He’s waiting. You’re His child. He loves you. Don’t avoid the one Being in all the universe Who can cleanse you through and through. It truly is for your own good. And your eternity depends on it.
What else? Both Adam and Eve were ultimately honest with God when He pinned them down about what they had done. But they had to begin with explaining why it was someone else’s fault. It was the “Yes, I did this, BUT,” defense. As a rule of thumb, here’s something to live by: DON’T LISTEN TO MAN. When God’s Word comes in conflict with the advice or petition of man, side with the Word of God 100% of the time. Yeah, that seems like a good place to start.