February 25, 2011

Prayer: To whom are you praying?

To Whom are you Praying?
Prayer is such personnel things that it has been hard for me begin writing an article attempting to define or explain or even instruct someone on the subject. We are confronted with a huge variation in prayer types and practices. There are very formal prayers associated with Church rituals such as communion or marriage or funerals. There are free form prayers offered by ministers and worship leaders; silent prayers, prayers in music and prayers offered by individuals. Prayers by individuals may be long or short, rote or free form. There seem to be as many methods and forms of prayer as there are people making the prayer. And there seems to be no end to the books written to explain prayer and offer suggestions for a “meaningful prayer life”.

But with all these variations, one thing seems to be constant; the person to whom you are addressing the prayer. Many prayers start off addressed to God or to Jesus and then in the body of the prayer, the addressee changes to the other.  “Our Heavenly Father, we thank you for all blessings and Jesus we especially ask you to watch over my brother. In Jesus name we pray”.  While I am aware of the Trinity and the unity of God in three persons, I find myself confused when I lapse into this duality in my prayer life.  Part of my confusion is probably tied to the Bible referring to God as the Father and Jesus as the Son and to the Holy Spirit as yet another person.  I suspect my human mind has not been able to think outside the box on the idea that God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit are the same and praying to one is praying to all three.

In my mind and in my prayer life, God is the person to whom I pray. I am reluctant to call God a “person”,
but for convenience of communication, I will refer to God as a person and as a male person, neither of which I suspect is true.

How we see God determines how we approach prayer.  The Judge in a court of law is addressed differently from a Mayor or a Congress person or your mother or your brother or a friend.  Certainly addressing God requires a little thought to the nature of God, your position in relation to Him and your attitude toward Him.

If you see God as the all powerful Creator of the Universe and of all living creatures, if you see Him as the all powerful, all knowing Master, you will approach Him in all humility with eyes down and voice reverent and pleas simple.  Your opening remarks will reflect this idea, “Oh, Majestic Gracious Master of the Universe, we come to you as your humble and faithful servants...”  We see and experience God as powerful and unapproachable except on bended knee. While we are encouraged to praise Him and thank Him and make requests of Him, we are remained to do so in a somewhat prescribed and time tested format.

Frankly, I understand this concept of God. It is impossible not to think of God without being aware of His majesty and power.  If we are honest with ourselves, it is hard to understand how this almost inconceivable God could be aware of such a small part of His creation. I am like the Psalmist, “What is mankind that you are mindful of them.....”? (Psalm 8:3-5) There are a great many other matters to occupy God’s thoughts.  And there are the millions of others who are also vying for His attention. Who am I that He could or would  desire to hear my prayer out of all the noise that must surround the Throne of the Almighty?  With this concept of God, I can not imagine anyone being so bold as to stand in His presence and demand anything or ask for something trivial.  I can not imagine how anyone could even pretend to be of such value as to demand any attention from God. I do not know how anyone could but be in awe of this God!

And yet... the images of God that resonate with me the most are the images of God the Father.   At an even more personal level, God is Abba Daddy! God is personal, my loving parent, my best friend, and my confident. My prayers tend to reflect that understanding of God.  

So when I pray to God, I tend to talk to Him in a very personal way, much as I would with you.  My goal in this conversation with God is not to bring a laundry list of praises, thanksgivings or requests.  Although these are important parts of our relationship, they are not the most important.  The most important aspect of my prayer life is getting to know God.  It is much like dating.  While there are underlying objectives from both, the real objective is to get to know each other.  Couples do this with questions and answers and by sharing their feelings.  I want to know more about God and to understand Him more.  As the friendship develops, all the other, secondary things fall into place.

My brother and I do not see each other often. When we do get together, time melts away and we resume where we left off.  He knows me and I know him.  It would not be unusual for us to sit for long periods of time just enjoying the presence of each other.  Occasionally, one of us will jump in, “Thought about retiring yet?” “How are the kids?”  We know what is on each other’s minds. And, to the extent it were possible, we would fulfill each others dreams without hesitation. We know and love each other.

Now that is where I want to be with God.  I desire to know God and for Him to know me. I want to be so tuned to God that I don’t have to wait for Him to appear to me in a burning bush to tell me what to do.  I want to be able to say, “God, I’m tired.” Or “God, why is the world did that happen?” or “God, I am upset with you now”.  One of my favorite scenes in the movies comes from “The Apostle” when Robert Duval’s character is in his room and you hear him arguing with God and becoming angry with God. In my relationship with God, I want to be able to be myself.  I want to be angry, or happy, or sad or elated, knowing full well that God loves me no matter. And conversely, I want God to have these same emotions with me understanding I love Him regardless.

So the bottom line is, I pray to God my Abba.  But, I am quick to admit, this does not have to be your approach to God.  The important lesson to take is this, know to whom you are praying. 

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