Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Talking to God

Aaron Halvorson said (of my article Getting Closer to God):

That's good stuff. After reading it I thought that most of it should have been incredibly obvious to someone who has been a Christian nearly their entire life. It is unfortunate how much common sense is lost sitting in a church pew every Sunday. I always thought that a formula such as praying to God 5 times a day wasn't the answer to getting closer to God, but I have never thought of it in these incredibly simple terms.

I know that sounds stupid. But I have read the entire Bible and never came to the conclusion "God Likes to Talk." I've never heard that in a sermon either. It's both incredibly simple and incredibly profound.

I've spent a lot of time wondering why God doesn't seem to talk to me and not enough time realizing He probably actually wants to.


I think it's an 'incredibly simple' concept (as you mentioned) that most people tend to overlook. God does want to talk to us. As a matter of fact, God likes to talk to us. And He definitely listens. Some scriptures:

And the LORD said unto Moses, Come up to me into the mount...(Exo 24:12(a))
For thus hath the LORD spoken unto me...(Isa 31:4(a))
And the LORD heard the voice of your words, when ye spake unto me; and the LORD said unto me, I have heard the voice of the words of this people, which they have spoken unto thee: they have well said all that they have spoken. (Deu 5:28)

You know, there was a time in the Christian's life when openly and regularly 'talking' to God was the norm, rather than the exception. Early church fathers emphasized the need to pray unceasingly (1 Thessalonians 5:17), regularly come to God with confessions, requests and devotion. When did we lose that?

God says that many times He does not answer our prayers because we pray for selfish reasons, so that we can satisfy our own selfish desires. Jam 4:3 says, "Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts." That's a pretty harsh assessment of us, but I think it is pretty accurate (who among us wouldn't want a brand new car or big, beautiful home?).

However, despite all this, I believe that God welcomes our conversation. The best way to think of His relationship with us is to imagine if you are a father who has a son (easy if this actually applies to you).

You love your son. You've seen him come from his mother's womb and watched him grow. You love him so much, you provided for him, changed his dirty diapers, patiently consoled him when he cried and held his hand on the first day of school. As a child, he repays your efforts mostly with demands for more, taxes your patience, takes all of your free time, and takes a good portion of your money and strength. But you still love him. You know that he is a child and, as he grows, he will come to appreciate what you've done for him. You don't expect him to know the level of sacrifice and commitment you've given to him - which you gave willingly - and you are pleased to see him continually grow and mature. As a teenager, he becomes somewhat rebellious, doing things you don't want him to do, associating with people you don't like and getting further away from the values you placed in him. You worry about him, try to talk to him as he scowls at you, ignores you and goes stubbornly on his way.

As your child becomes a man, he starts his own family, has his own career and moves far away from you. After a few years, maybe, just maybe, as a maturing adult, he finally values all you have done for him and decides you really did love him after all (though you didn't get him that sports car he wanted for his 18th birthday). He decides to cultivate a relationship with you (or at least isn't so resistant to your efforts), calls sometimes, brings his family by and your relationship finally develops to the point where you speak regularly, he asks your advice and freely shares his heart's concerns.

That son represents our attitude towards God. As 'baby' Christians, we make incessant demands and tax God with our desires, our need for attention and our very unreasonableness. As we grow older, we 'need' Him less (we think), become more independent and headstrong and test the boundaries of our faith. We question who God is, what He is about and why He has to have sovereignty over our lives. We 'move away' to distant spiritual shores as we pursue our own passions and our own, selfish, desires. At some point along our spiritual journey, we finally, finally, finally 'get' what God has done for us. We recall how He supported us in all our endeavors, helped us to meet our husbands or wives (or got us out of a really, really bad marriage), remember the jobs He got us, how we never overly suffered or got down too low. We especially remember the hard times and how He sustained us until we could find our security and peace.

And then we begin to cultivate our relationship with Him. We talk to Him voluntarily, instead of by demand, begin to share our thoughts with Him and even seek His advice.

And this is what He really wants! He doesn't mind your requests, helping you deal with your problems or assisting you in getting that next job, but what He really wants is you. An honest, open-hearted, genuine relationship with you. A voluntary relationship with you. Not an on command appearance on Easter Sunday or Christmas, but a full-time, loving, worshiping, healthy, whole relationship with you. Just like that father wants with his son. The Bible abounds with scriptures about our Father - how if our natural fathers give good gifts, our Heavenly father gives even better, about how He loves us, about how He will provide for us, give us peace, protect our sanity - yet we look on our relationship with Him as an obligation, as a burden and, finally, as something that is more trouble than it's worth.

We are so wrong! If only we realized the depth of love our Father has for us, we would be running to Him instead of running away. Just think again of the example of the father and son above. That father probably had years of great advice he could have given the son, financial help he could have offered, resources and blessings that the son couldn't even imagine - if his son had only asked. Or even been around for casual conversations - because don't most 'big' revelations come between two people when they are talking about the weather or school or, whatever? That's how God is - the more we talk to Him, the more we understand Him. The closer we are to Him, the more He tells us. And the more time we spend with Him, the more we are open to receive His love, His blessings, His advice and be a recipient of His many gifts. God can't tell you too much about anything if your conversation is limited to five minutes a day (if it's even that much). He needs more of your time, more of your attention and more of your love. Having conversations with God is as much for you as it is for Him.

God loves you. And He wants to talk.

So what are you gonna do about it?