Summary: It’s better to err on the side of God’s awesomeness than to get too familiar.
When You Pray
September 11, 2004
Keeping ourselves going is a major pursuit of our lives, and in the quest of that we eat, and drink. We sleep. We visit people. We do a number of activities. For us, as Christians, we pray. This is a fundamental activity for our keeping ourselves going in our lives.
Jesus assumed praying for our lives. When he taught fundamental truths to his disciples, he said to them, “And when you pray….”, which expression declares this as a normal activity for the life of the Christian disciple, then or now.
So, we pray! We can understand that, and practice that, and we do pray. Jesus instructed that we’d pray to our Father in heaven, so we do that…or, at least, attempt to do that.
The author of the book of Hebrews made an interesting comment about this process:
Heb.11.6- if we come to God, we have to believe that he is and that he is actively involved in our lives. This is fundamental. What we understand, or know, in this regard, deeply affects what we do when we pray. How we perceive God to be will affect how we pray, what words we’ll use when we pray, what seriousness we tie to praying, and what we’ll admit or discuss in praying. This is fundamental. The knowing and the believing about active and caring involvement in our lives is important.
Jesus left us with two great commandments, and the first has to do with our relationship with God- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Matt.22.37- we’re to love God with all. That’s a lot, of course. ‘All’ doesn’t leave much room for anything left over. This is the first great commandment. In the OT, the people were told how to do this, so they never had to deal with ‘all’ like we do- they really couldn’t love God, or serve God, with ‘all’ as we’re called to do or are able to do. However, what God told them is helpful and instructive to us; it’s a bit of ‘all’, but not all of ‘all’, as we can understand, or be capable of now in the era of the new relationship with God available through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus.
Exodus 20- the ancient nation was given the centre of their legal system. It included the Ten Commandments. Two of the commandments had to do with their not misrepresenting God. There was a commandment about images- v.4-6. Israel was forbidden certain things. They were to be incredibly careful about how they imaged God. They had to be careful in this regard, because God was/is so much greater than anything that can be used to image or represent him. This was an area they had to be so very careful in. So do we need to be careful how we imagine God to be. Then they had a commandment that forbade any wrong use of God- v.7. They had to be careful how they spoke about God, so they didn’t take God too lightly. They had to be careful not to image God, to others or themselves, inappropriately, by what they said about God or how they spoke about God. Sadly, this is not what we see being followed today, even among Christians- there is not, often, adequate care taken about using God’s name, Jesus’ name, and the words applying to the ‘holy’. However, for the ancients, this care was vital, even as not having images of God was important to them.
When it comes to God’s being, it’s important that we draw understanding of God from scripture alone. We, as many Christian churches, highly value scripture. Scripture forms the basis for what we understand about God. It’s interesting that Jesus is called ‘the Word’, and that we have such an abundance of ‘word’ from which to draw what we know about God. This is appropriate. Experiences may supplement scripture, or may enhance what we learn through scripture, but won’t be different from scripture. We’re told that God gives us all we need for life and godliness, and he does much of this through what we learn from scripture.
We come to God through prayer, and in doing so, we must think, accurately, of the One we come to in that praying. We come to God through worship, and in doing so, we must think accurately of the One we come to worship. We must believe that He is and that He is actively involved in our lives. This is fundamental. If we aren’t certain of this, at our core, we miss the basic assurance with which we are meant to live, and upon which faith and hope are founded. It is vital to properly ‘image’ God, therefore, as a Christian individual or as a Christian church.