Yes indeed, God WILL come down to our level...but ask yourself a simple question;
How long do you intend to remain at that level?
Okay, here's the simple answer, my friend: I have no clue.
When I refer to said level, I mean as puny, tiny, miniscule humans. As the mist in a rain storm of the universe. That kind of level. How can I go to another level other than Human? I could probably have some surgery to become Mr. Roboto, if that's the type of level you are referring to. Otherwise, I'll honestly say I don't think that simple question is a smart one to ask. If we are asking that question about the level of being a human, we are basically going to ask ourselves the simple question of: When am I going to die?
I don't know about you, but I don't want to ask myself that question all the time. I try not to think about when I'm going to die. Right now I've got plenty to do trying to focus on how I can enhance my life in the right direction for God and try to become closer to my Best Buddy, the LORD, rather than wondering if I'll die soon.
The question I'm asking is this;
are you content to have God stoop to your level of intimacy and and ability to relate spiritually, simply because He is willing to do so?
Or are you willing to make your own effort to have a deeper/higher level of relationship with Him.
Are you content to relate to the King of Creation as your "best buddy" like an ignorant infant...or do you want more? Are you willing to have your minute understanding of the awesomeness of His nature changed in favor of spiritual growth, in spite of the fact that it may be unsettling, challenging and even frightening at times?
Yes God will meet us where we are and allow us to relate to Him in spite of our gross limitations, but when will we stop using that as an excuse for spiritual complacency and outright laziness.
People keep insisting that God will allow us to relate to Him on a limited level, but no one has actually responded to the points I have made above or demonstrated that this is actually a healthy way to relate to Him. God will still love us if we do stupid things, but that is no justification for our stupidity. Parents do not stop relating to their children because they lack maturity, but at some point the child IS expected to grow up a little.
I am not saying that God will ignore or berate us for approaching Him with indiscretion or a lack appropriate humility and respect…I’m asking if that is truly what He desires from us, I’m suggesting that precisely BECAUSE He loves us so much, He wants far more from us. God is not offended by our irreverence, but He surely wants to give us more of Himself than we are currently capable of receiving.
I never said I wanted to stay on that intimate level where God will come down for me. If you go back and read my most recent post before this, it said I had plenty to do trying to enhance my life in the right direction. That's complacency? Man, I must be lazy. I'm not giving excuses so I can slack off, my Friend. I'm simply stating what I believe about God coming down to our personal level, so when we CAN'T make that higher level all the time, it's okay, because God still loves us, and we just have to keep trying harder. By no means am I trying to say I can be lazy because God will come for me. But there are those times when most humans can't reach the level that they want to be at, or should be at, and they need to realize that God still loves them either way, just keep trying, and don't give up.
And, just for the record,
"Are you content to relate to the King of Creation as your "best buddy" like an ignorant infant"
I have to argue the fact of your judging anyone who can relate to the Best Buddy idea is wrong. You have no right to call anyone an ignorant infant because they see the LORD as their Best Buddy, among other things. Just because you thinks it's ignorantly childish to have that idea of having God as a Best Buddy, among the other wonderful parts we believe, doesn't mean it's your way or the highway. Keep an open mind. Some people like to think differently. They don't like conforming to one belief all the time, so let them believe it if it will help them. And before you argue that their belief may be wrong, just look at it from a different perspective. If you can't do that, then just don't argue that it's wrong. Just let it be.
It was my intention to address these issues from a hypothetical perspective, I in no way desire to place my own opinion above another’s or berate anyone for not being on a higher spiritual level than the currently are. If I gave a negative impression I sincerely apologize.
The focus of my argument, in hopes of spurring us all on to greater heights as family in the Lord, is to address what I see as a potentially dangerous trend in attitude toward God. As previously stated; how we approach Him is of great significance…to us and our potential to relate to God on a truly intimate level, as opposed to a fallaciously intimate level based more in ignorance and self-delusion. I am merely suggesting that true intimacy with God requires more than a big smile and the best of intentions.
The scriptures themselves repeatedly speak of approaching God with reverence and fear, and by fear it means reverence and respect coupled with awe…not terror or concern that He may squash us like insolent bugs. If we treat fire with a lack of respect we risk being severely burned, not because fire is malevolent but because it is intense and powerful. God will not deliberately burn us, but He has placed certain causal consequences in operation that require a certain degree of common sense on our part.
I am suggesting that there is an inherent danger to our potential for spiritual growth and genuine intimacy in approaching God in a flippant manner. You are absolutely correct in asserting that we will always find ourselves in varying degrees of immaturity relative to God, but who determines when it is too difficult to move further forward? Is it us or God? The danger of complacency and laziness arises when WE try to determine these things for ourselves rather than allowing God to challenge us to our true potential. If we sit in judgment of our own spiritual capabilities we will inevitably take the easier road. The very fact that so many of us desire to defend our right to call God our “buddy” is, in my humble opinion, a telling indicator as to why Christianity today seems to reside in such a spiritual void of infancy.
Talking to God as a friend can indeed be a positive thing, and I am not arguing against that…rather I am suggesting that this approach must be coupled with reverence and awe as well…not in place of it.
It is my assertion that one of the key factors in the miraculous survival of the Jewish people, in spite of their long periods devoid of a physical homeland, the countless attempts to annihilate and oppress them, and their innate desire to survive at any cost…is precisely related to their extreme reverence for God. An observant Jew will not even shred a piece of paper with God’s name on it, let alone refer to Him in common rhetoric. We stand to learn a lot from God’s chosen nation.
In defense of your own statements, the great rabbi known as the Baal Shem Tov also recommended communicating with God in a more conversational manner, but this was in no way the only element of his recommended approach to the creator. This is where I fear many of us as Christians often go astray; we too easily forget who we are really speaking to when we do this, and end up forsaking such reverence as would actually draw us even closer to Him.
Do we desire to relate to Him as a “buddy” because we have already attained such intimacy as to feel comfortable with Him? I hope I am never arrogant enough to presume as much. I hope I am never too comfortable relating to Him for fear of losing any degree of reverence for Him.
Do we desire Him as a “buddy” because the alternative is despair? I doubt He would ever wish that upon us. But it is imperative that we constantly examine our own motives to ensure that we are indeed NOT simply seeking an easier road. That would inevitably rob us of great spiritual treasures.
With love and respect, s.h.
Last edited by seekinghokmah on Mon Jun 18, 2007 9:38 pm; edited 1 time in total
Ok, well I just got back from a camping trip so I will try to cover all the thoughts that ran through my head as I was catching up.
When people talk about how they feared the Lord most of the time (as in not every time) they were saying that they had a deep respect for God. They were in awe of His awesome power. That is a good thing to have. But there are a lot of people who take that too far. God is this Powerful Dictator who sits on his pedestal and throws lightning down on you if you do something wrong (ok, that's probably a slight exaggeration). But, Jesus came to earth. God was here! He came to our level. We couldn’t go to a higher level because of who we were and so God came to our level because he could. When he was here he taught people how to better their relationships with God and each other. He also said that we should try to be like Him. He had a "Best Buddy" relationship with God. The bible doesn't tell us flat out in a verse that God and Jesus were best pals. It didn't have to because you can tell. While Jesus taught us to not put ourselves above God he taught us that God didn't mind reaching down to where we were. If we are supposed to strive to be like Jesus, shouldn't we have those relationships He had? And it didn't stop with Jesus. His followers were like that in the early church.
We have to get past the Reverence and awe and into the relationship. Don't get me wrong you should never, ever, forget that God is so much more awesome and worthy that we are. But God was saying something to us when Jesus came. He was saying that He wanted to reach down to us and bring us closer to Him. If we get caught up in God's awesomeness we loose sight of our purpose, to have a relationship with God. That relationship isn't that God sits on his throne and looks down as we bow in front of him 24/7. His desire is for us to be next to Him and walk with Him as a friend and let Him guide us.
Basically, God wanted to come down to us so that he could walk beside us, as a friend. If we get hung up in how great God then we miss the rest of the story. We end up putting God back on a pedestal that He tried to get off of. Yes God is awesome, and great, and all those other words that can't even begin to describe Him. But He is so much more than that. You can't talk to a Friend like he is a King and have the best relationship there is. But if you talk to the King like he is your Friend, then you will be walking through your life with the Best Friend you've ever had. What could be better than that?
Being in awe of God and mistaking Him for a tyrannical power monger are two very different things; I never advocated the latter and specifically said so. I am afraid you are misinterpreting what I am trying to say…whether it is my poor communication skills or that you are not reading my posts very carefully I don’t know…but I don’t think you are seeing my point.
In my latest post I clearly stated that I am not contradicting the idea that we can have a close walk with God, rather I tried to point out that that close walk is itself diminished and limited to a naïve childishness when not coupled with a deep sense of awe…at the same time. To have either one alone, without the other, is a grave error…so in reality we are both advocating two sides of the same coin except that I am trying to provoke you look more closely at the other side.
You have successfully reminded me of the importance of retaining a sense of closeness to the Lord through the humanity of the Messiah, something truly not to be missed, and I thank you for that. I only wish that I too could successfully convey the benefit of increasing our sense of respect, and perhaps even a little healthy trepidation, in how we approach Him. The old saying that “familiarity breeds contempt” is an enduring phrase precisely because it carries so much truth. Far too often we allow ourselves to take lightly the things we aught to have afforded the greatest respect, for sin is truly crouching at the door of the light hearted.
May God bless us both in our search for deeper wisdom.
I hope your camping trip was an enjoyable escape.
Perhaps it would be helpful to look at this topic philosophically for just a moment.
Our first problem is that God cannot be understood by using the terms and concepts which have naturally developed within what is now pretty much a culture shaped by the entire Western Civilization. Not because it's western, of course, but because it is simply not centered in a common and deep Christian experience. Just consider the various concepts of the word "love" that we have to contend with.
Our concepts of things like awe, respect, friendship, what a buddy is, or an authority, a judge, and so on ... all of these have been solidified through a long series of experiences and relationships that we've had with other humans -- not with God directly. So we have friends, but not many friends who are also our primary authority. We have met people we are in awe of, but not many of these were also exceedingly kind and attentive to us, as well as intimately familiar with our innermost thoughts and feelings. Some of us have stood before a judge and known (or at least sensed) a kind of fear because of the power to remit punishment upon the accused, but few have felt this also knowing that the judge had laid down his life and given up his right to command and demand respect ... all for the purpose of preventing the accused from having had to stand there in judgment in the first place.
So there is a problem which those of us who have felt the rod of God's correction for many years now tend to see in the viewpoints of younger, albeit zealous and earnest Christians. And that is that they get caught up in a reactionary kind of eagerness to zero in on what the truth is about God. The reaction is too often an overreaction that sees the wrongness in such ideas as God as a "tyrannical power-monger" and attempts to put a nail in that wrongness by consistently asserting the opposite characteristic ... that he is our "friend" and "buddy".
The trick to getting this right is to go carefully, and assert all of the things that are true about God, in equal amounts (conceptually), without reacting to any one of them by quickly jumping on all the baggage that our human relationships have associated with those things which aren't true about God. So we say "Yes, He is our ultimate judge who has the right to convict and punish us for our sins." But we avoid the temptation of feeling like we need to assert to all listening "... but that doesn't mean He doesn't love us!" Such reactions tend to get repeated by certain folks with every opportunity -- to make sure they are not being handed the flawed and human form of judgment, which often does come with tyranny and a lack of love. After a history of overreacting this way, people tend to settle comfortably in their concept of God which is highly-focused on God's friendliness and brotherly affections for us. But this bias in thought and speech about the nature of our relationship with God is more of a coping mechanism than it is the truth.
If we look at the Apostle Paul as an example, we see lots of focus on God's intimacy as well as lots of focus on His holiness. But the central theme which Paul seems very biased about is adoration, I would say. Whether intimate friend or intimidating authority ... God is foremost worthy of our adoration. And this is what we see the angels in heaven focusing on as well. I think we would do well to do the same.
In summary, I think that we have to understand the underlying problem that makes discussing just what is the nature of our relationship with God so difficult. When we understand this, we can spend less time arguing about which characteristic should be focused on. I think everyone contributing to this topic so far agrees that we need a balanced view of God, and that applies as much to His level of intimacy as it does to any of the other myriad qualities of our relationship with Him. What has been happening in this discussion so far is that one person says they think it's great that we think of God as our "best buddy", then another warns that we must also not forget that He is our awesome Creator and judge. Those on the first side of the fence defend their position by asserting that God is not all of those power-hungry, ego-centric things that some folks make Him out to be but rather loving, friendly, etc., to which the other responds by reminding us about how much care is needed to avoid taking this "friendliness" thing too far. And on it goes ...
He is both: awesome judge and best buddy. He is none of those wrong things people make Him out to be: neither overbearing tyrant nor tag-along "yes-man" who just wants to please. We are all clear on this, I think. The question is one of expression. Do we think of Him more centrally and singularly as that "best buddy"? If we do we have to ask ourselves why that is our predominant perspective. Are we just trying to convince ourselves in reaction to not liking other things we've been told to believe? Likewise, if we are focusing on how fearful we should be and how unapproachable God is because of our low state in comparison, then the same question comes to bear: why this predominant focus? Are we in this case overreacting to a fear of being "too familiar" with God?
The initial topic post simply focused on the fact that, for one person, prayer with God was not just constant but was about the most minute details of choices to be made in life. From there the focus turned to our level of intimacy with God and our need to grow in our "unspoken" following of the desires of God (i.e., without the conversational thought associated with prayer). Now the question should be: do we talk about God and think about Him in a way that truly reflects that balance of Him as Lord, Savior, judge, mentor, and friend. We now agree about the need for balance in principle ... but do our thoughts, actions, and speech actually reflect that balance?
...personally, I always liked the Father analogy for God. To me, my father (as in my physical, human father, not the reference to God) has always been both a figure of respect and love. He hasn't ever been a tyrant over my life, nor has he simply agreed to everything I've ever wanted (I can remember arguing for months about whether or not I'd have the right to drive... [funny thing is, in hindsight, I'm not NEARLY as enthused about that as I used to be]). Anyhow, the point is, I believe God's pretty much similar to that example. God's not going to beat you down just because He's God...that'd go against God being love. At the same time, God's not going to give you whatever you want just because you say "In Jesus' name" at the end of your prayers. God tends to provide what is BEST for us overall, whether that happens to be what we want or something entirely different. It's important to remember that God is God, and, quite frankly, despite many current attitudes...we are not.
That said, I believe prayer with God should be intimate, although I also believe that it can be overdone. That's not to say that "constant prayer" is a bad thing, but rather that submitting everything to prayer is equal to claiming that God's not capable of giving His creation the ability to make decisions within the instructions He has given us. For example, while some things are very clear in Scripture (i.e. thou shalt not kill, etc.), others are left open and decided upon differently by followers of Christ (i.e. "I kissed dating goodbye" vs. "courting" vs. "dating").
Using that latter example, consider how prayer could be overdone. If, for example, a young man (let's call him John for simplicity's sake) is interested in a young woman (let's call her Jane), is it wrong for them to seek God's will concerning each other? (In this case, let us presume that the interest is mutual.) Of course it isn't. John might ask God to help guide him so as to not fall into sin, and Jane might ask the same. They might go on a few outings (dates, if you will) and find that this interest develops further. Time may lead to John considering a life with Jane, and they may ask God if this is indeed His will. Prayer, in this circumstance, is in relationship to God.
On the flip side, let's say another John and Jane approached this differently. John is interested in Jane, and so he wants to seek God's approval on this. To make sure that he's not doing the wrong thing, John calls over his prayer and support group. Each of them proceeds to pray over John, John's apartment, John's current outfit, John's relationship to God, and John's phone. As John picks up the phone, they each lay on hands and pray blessings over the conversation. Meanwhile, as the phone rings at Jane's place, her prayer group is also over, blessing her phone, her livingroom, her decisions, and asking God to have John let the phone ring 4 times, hang up, and call again, should it be God's will that John and Jane go out together. If this test is passed, then perhaps things can progress to the next stage, which, in this circumstance...is COFFEE! In this circumstance, I'd say that John and Jane need to be locked in a psych ward, as they obviously are incompetent. (Seriously, this would constitute an overuse of prayer, if you get my drift.)
Further, it's important to remember HOW to pray. There are multiple variations of this, and not all of these are correct. For example, consider the Lord's prayer (for younger Christians...the prayer where Jesus said 'pray like this'). This is a great layout for a prayer. It praises God, thanks Him for providing, and asks Him for that which only He can provide. However, when one prays "100 'Our Fathers'" and considers this communicating with God, they are mistaken. When this is done, the "prayer" is not a prayer at all, but rather mindless repeating of memorized words. Do you really think God's interested in that? If so, re-read the New Testament...note what Jesus had to say about those who repeat themselves mindlessly, thinking they are heard...
Another fallacy comes in the "prayer of Jabez" mindset. While some may honestly be led to pray for a blessing in a given circumstance, this is too often led to become a prosperity Gospel of sorts...and thus is, once again, not truly communicating with God. Consider how you would react if a loved one had nothing to say to you but "give me, give me, give me." It'd get old, wouldn't it? ...how about affording God the same respect you'd like?
Similar to the "prayer of Jabez" mindset is the "in Jesus' name" setting. Jesus said that whatever is asked for in His name shall be done, and so several (supposed) Christians assume that slapping on a couple words to the end of their prayers means they will be answered with the answer they feel they deserve. Is it not obvious that God is God, and that God's will is God's, not our own? This very mindset contradicts God's will, implying that we can subject Him to our will. IOW, it's saying that we are God...and that simply is not the case.
Finally, and this is one which I have been guilty of for some time, is the idea that prayer should always be about forgiveness. Don't get me wrong...I do believe that we all need forgiveness. In fact, Scripture makes it pretty clear that everybody's sinned, and that all sin needs forgiveness. However, being raised in a very fundamentalist church (not to insult fundamentalist churches, they have some great things going for them) I started my walk in faith believing that if I somehow slipped up and sinned, forgot to pray for forgiveness, and died...I was going straight to hell. This mindset is DANGEROUS! First, it suggests that Christ's sacrifice isn't good enough. Second, it suggests that we are saved by works, as opposed to grace. Finally, it suggests that God loves us only if we live up to an impossible standard. I will begin by stating that I believe salvation is permanent. If you sincerely devote your life to Christ, you ARE going to heaven. No slip-up you can do will send you straight to hell...and you cannot, as per the meaning of the word, "lose" your salvation. I used to advocate the idea that one could choose to reject their salvation, but I have since come to believe that no person who has truly subjected themselves to Christ can turn away without crawling right back. However, I will leave that argument open, as I simply do not know fully about those particular circumstances. I also believe that Christ's sacrifice on the cross is permanent, enough to cover every sin that every person in the world has ever committed, is currently committing, and will ever commit. As for the second suggesting made by this mindset, I would find it important to note that Scripture also makes it clear that salvation is a gift, not a reward. We are offered salvation at no cost to us; all we must do is turn our lives back. As the Apostle Paul writes, "we are saved by grace through faith, this not of ourselves. It is the gift of God, so that no one should boast." The final point is easily rejected by Scripture, and as Christ Himself put it, His purpose for coming was that "God so loved the world" in a world where everybody was short of the standard. These considerations in mind, I would argue that forgiveness in prayer, while not wrong to ask for, is at best an incomplete mindset. We can ask for forgiveness...but we have to realize that if we follow Christ, God's already forgiven us about two thousand years ago. I could imagine God looking at the Christian saying "please forgive me" and laughing, saying "don't you realize I already did that?" In the Old Testament, Malachi speaks out against these double standards, saying God doesn't want the sacrifices given to Him by His people, because their hearts are not following Him. In the Psalms, it is written, "I don't need your sacrifices of flesh and blood. What I want from you is your true thanks; I want your promises fulfilled. I want you to trust Me in your times of trouble, so I can rescue you, and you can give Me glory" (Ps. 50:13-15 TLB). Another version reads "Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats? Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me." (NIV). Yet another reads "Will I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats? Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most High: And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me" (KJV). If it isn't obvious, each time the point given is not the works, but rather the faith behind them. Jesus gave the example of two who donated money to God once, a rich man and a poor woman. The rich man donated large amounts of money, albeit grudgingly. The poor woman, on the other hand, donated but two small coins, her entire savings, quite cheerfully. Jesus stated, quite blatantly, that the woman gave more than that man ever had. The disciples were baffled by this, as the man gave a larger physical amount. The church today generally interprets this as the woman giving more because it was all she had (i.e. she gave 100% whereas the man gave less). However, I would argue that both of these interpretations are wrong. God doesn't need money. Do you think that God lives on coinage or paper bills? Seriously? I would argue that the woman gave more not because she gave all she had, but because she gave, in faith, what she had set aside in her heart. Her focus was not on a number or a percentage to give, but rather on giving back to God in faith that He would continue to provide. I believe this same situation applies to the church today. There are those in the Church today who give 10%, 20%, even 90-99% of their time and/or money to God, grudgingly expecting Him to return it, often tenfold. I would argue that, from God's perspective, each of these people actually gave God absolutely nothing. On the flip side, there are families who give less than the "tithing" 10%, less than 5%, even (usually due to inability to afford any more), but give what they do in thanks to God, and I would argue that these give more than the aforementioned. Back on topic, the point is...it's about faith. God doesn't want money or time or (dare I say "prayer"?) anything else nearly as much as He wants hearts genuinely seeking Him, faithfully chasing Him. (Note: I never said "don't give God these things"...just "get your priorities straight.") Rather than worry about sin, because we've all done it, and we'll all likely do it again before we either a.) die or b.) watch Christ come back... focus instead on living for God now, focus on the freedom you have to chase Him with everything you have. (Note: this isn't a license to sin...if you take it as such, I would suggest seriously re-evaluating your motives, and asking yourself if you are actually seeking God. If you're not, you pretty much have three choices: 1.) Get straight with God. This is the recommended solution, although many will not take this. 2.) Stop lying about it. You're clearly not following him. Most won't do this, as they are secure in their lies. 3.) Keep lying about it. This is by all means NOT the recommended solution, as your mainly just cheating yourself.
Sorry to go on for so long, but I feel this is important. Any comments are welcome.
...I just realized that while I spent some time speaking about how NOT to pray, I never mentioned how TO pray...
I'd cover this now, but I have a test to work on...so, I'll try to finish this up later today...and I promise to [barring extreme circumstances] finish this by the end of the week.
Arythmael, Thank you for lending your seasoned perspective and observations…as always you have helped to restore a sense of balance to the conversation. You have succinctly expressed what I knew in my mind but failed to put into words. I sense that we are all essentially agreed on the key points, and simply focusing on aspects more focal to our individual experiences and influences. I too can easily find myself over compensating for attitudes and actions in my own environment that I have seen cause harm. It would truly grieve me to find that my efforts had merely nudged someone to become unbalanced in the opposite direction…it is that essential balance we each require if we are to move forward rather than side to side. It is necessary, as you mentioned, to examine the motives and influences that drive our attitude toward God and prayer lest we make the error of relegating God to the unapproachable void (when He has given no less than His own son to bridge that very gap), or diminishing Him to a “Disney-esque” figure who panders to our whims and emotions. I pray that our concern over one error will not prevent us from adequately considering the other.
Poet, I must say that it is truly a joy to witness how much you have grown in maturity and ability to express yourself in the short time I have known you through this forum. Well said indeed!
You have done a wonderful job of demonstrating in approachable terms what an unbalanced approach to prayer can look like…I’m still laughing over the dating analogy, great story And I am very much looking forward to reading your perspective on the positive application of prayer, long or short I expect it to be a good read…hope you have the prayer group huddled around as you take your test LOL, though I trust you had the sense to study a bit as well.
The Lords prayer, as you mentioned, is a perfect example for what I think we are all trying to achieve. Modeled after the Amidah (standing prayer), it demonstrates a gradual focus on increasing awareness of God’s immanence while never losing the sense that we are dealing with the King of all Kings. The prayer begins with God’s will in the kingdom of heaven and ends with surrendering the kingdom of self…diminishing the sense of distance while increasing the sense of submission and respect. We must not forget who He is, and can benefit greatly from examining his overwhelming greatness, but are also reminded that He is not just stuck on a throne…He is right beside us in battle, even acting as our shield. Neither does He forget us in times of peace, since the purpose of the battle is to achieve just that!
Now, as promised, how TO pray (as opposed to how not to)
1.) Prayer should be simple.
I'm not saying complex, long-worded, thought-out prayer is a bad thing. In fact, it's a great thing, if genuine. However, for many people, in order to be genuine, simplicity is needed. This doesn't mean pray "God, God, God, Amen"... rather, this means simply talk to God. That's what prayer is anyhow, right?
2.) Prayer should be personal.
Once again, I'm not saying that praying with others is a bad thing. In fact, it's a great thing, in the right context. As Christ said, "If two come together in My name..." However, all too often people focus on praying in groups trying to look like a 'Good Christian.' I believe a good measurement is personal prayer time. For every minute you spend praying in public, spend at least one more minute praying alone. This ensures your focus remains on God rather than others in this world.
3.) Prayer should be genuine.
This might seem obvious, so let me take it to another level. Prayer should say things even if you think God doesn't want to hear them. Are you mad at God? Tell Him. Disappointed? Tell Him. Let God know ALL your concerns, even if you feel they may hurt/anger Him. God wants ALL your heart, not just the part that follows the path He designed. Indeed, I would argue that it is better to pray "God, I hate You right now. Why did You do/allow x, y z?" than "God, I'm happy with everything You've done for me" if in fact the former is in your heart. Understand that God's already forgiven you for having negative feelings towards Him (if in fact He held it against you, I don't know) and that the first step towards overcoming pain/grief/anguish is to get it out. Therefore, if you have a problem with God, get it out to Him. Now, on a basic level, this includes honesty about struggles you have. Besides, it's not like God doesn't already know? So, let it out. How can you rely on God if you don't trust Him with your pain and fears...or if you can't even trust Him enough to tell Him when you're angry with Him?
4.) Prayer should be out of desire
I am downright sick of people praying at each meal or when they go to bed simply because they feel they "have to." I hereby argue, if you are going to talk to God, do not do so as part of a system. Rather, talk to God when you feel the need to, the desire to, the will to. This will lead to more genuine prayers, more personal prayers, and I believe it's fair to say...more effective prayers.
5.) Prayer should be
First, let me clarify...there is no rest to that sentence. "Prayer should be" is enough, and perhaps the most important point in everything I've said so far. My pastor has this saying that I simply love: "More prayer...is better than less prayer." Therefore, if you cannot hold to anything else I've said, try just...praying more. Tell yourself "I'm going to talk to God more today than I did yesterday. Let's see, yesterday...10 seconds...today I'm spending 11!" Remember that God is the source of our lives, as well as the one Being in this universe who wants the absolute best for them. So, if you love God, pray more.
Wrapping these points up...
Pray more. It's a good thing. Obviously, allow this prayer to come from desire, as opposed to a system. This will help with genuine prayer. Tell God everything on your mind...even if that means simply telling Him that you can't stand Him. Let prayer be personal, as opposed to public. This will bring you closer to God. Finally, unless it's in your nature to talk in a long-winded manner all the time...keep prayer simple. God wants YOU, not your words. On a side note...perhaps an extra, if you will: prayer doesn't always mean talking. Sometimes prayer is simply committing your time to listening to God, or even merely meditating (which is just a fancy word for concentrating) on Him.
seekinghokmah wrote (View Post): › Arythmael, Thank you for lending your seasoned perspective and observations…as always you have helped to restore a sense of balance to the conversation. You have succinctly expressed what I knew in my mind but failed to put into words. I sense that we are all essentially agreed on the key points, and simply focusing on aspects more focal to our individual experiences and influences. I too can easily find myself over compensating for attitudes and actions in my own environment that I have seen cause harm. It would truly grieve me to find that my efforts had merely nudged someone to become unbalanced in the opposite direction…it is that essential balance we each require if we are to move forward rather than side to side. It is necessary, as you mentioned, to examine the motives and influences that drive our attitude toward God and prayer lest we make the error of relegating God to the unapproachable void (when He has given no less than His own son to bridge that very gap), or diminishing Him to a “Disney-esque” figure who panders to our whims and emotions. I pray that our concern over one error will not prevent us from adequately considering the other.
Thanks for your kind words and encouragement, seekinghokmah.
I think your intention in trying to restore a balanced view was correct. I only added the explicit mention of the concept of balance as being the overall goal which I don't think everyone listening quite understood was there in your mind all along. Don't worry ahead of time that your efforts may drive folks to overreact in the opposite direction. If you see it happening, respond to it then ... for their edification. As I've said before somewhere on this forum, when Christians debate among themselves, their first line of "attack" should be an earnest effort to discover what is right about what the other is saying ... and only then go on to help them make up the difference in understanding what is not yet right about it.
Your contributions here are exemplary. I am so glad that you are making the time to share your thoughts and wisdom.
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