I have thought a lot about Prayer this month. It’s been a primary focus for me. I have done a lot of reading, a lot of thinking, and quite a bit of conversing with God. Prayer is such a mysterious and intangible power. I mean think for a minute about the nature of it. Finite and limited human beings attempting to communicate with an infinite and unlimited God. The same God who created and sustains the universe. The divine Creator that knows all, is above all, creates all, sustains all, and is all. In this mysterious interchange between the human and divine, there is miraculously a reciprocity and connection. Humanity and God experience intimacy, community, and connection from this profoundly curious communication. It seems like such a ridiculous and impossible thing when you try to put the experience into words. There are many that try to explain it, verbalize it, and contextualize it. And yet, with all of the knowledge, education, theology, and intelligence, the experience of it still remains a profound mystery.
I know a few things for sure. The things I know are known through this mysterious exchange between myself and God. I can’t prove them really. I could not stand up in a court of law and give evidence and physical proof of the things I know. It is my experience that has shown me the things I know to be true. One of my favorite descriptions of this mysterious experience was written by David, King of Israel,
He brought me into a spacious place. He rescued me because He delighted in me.
Now, David was not talking about prayer. He was talking about a literal and physical rescue from the caves he was hiding in to save his own life from people trying to kill him. But, I read those words and experience them differently. If I could have penned those words, they would perfectly describe the mysterious communication between God and I. When I pray, my spirit feels like it has been brought into a “spacious place”. I might even be outside, in the most spacious place, and yet somehow my spirit feels an expansion of experience and space. As I fumble and stumble through my weak attempt at trying to form the words to communicate what I am thinking and feeling to God, He somehow is so delighted in my attempt. He steps in and rescues me from myself because of His delight. He begins this mysterious exchange of thoughts, words, feelings, and impressions that I can only describe as a conversation with the Divine. He doesn’t speak audibly, I’ve never heard His actual voice. Although, when I do some day, I suspect it will sound strangely familiar.
One of the things that I know about prayer is that God loves to respond to us. Just like a parent to their child, He loves to hear what we have to say, laugh with us, cry with us, celebrate with us, and spend time with us. He has been given a bad reputation by some who have struggled in this mysterious exchange called prayer. The truth is that many have experienced empty exchanges with the Divine. They see Him as an absent parent who will not respond to their angry demands, desperate pleas, or sincere needs. Jesus explained it this way,
Don’t bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need. This is not a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we’re in. If your little boy asks for a serving of fish, do you scare him with a live snake on his plate? If your little girl asks for an egg, do you trick her with a spider? As bad as you are, you wouldn’t think of such a thing—you’re at least decent to your own children. And don’t you think the Father who conceived you in love will give the Holy Spirit when you ask him?
I’ve heard this concept and principle many times, but recently something interesting jumped out to me. The gift God wants to give His children is not a fish or an egg. It is not something practical and tangible. It is not the thing we are looking for Him to fix, the situation we want to be rescued from, the desire or need that we want Him to meet. The gift He wants to give us when we ask is the Holy Spirit. The mysterious nature of our communication with God begins to take shape when we realize the Holy Spirit is actively involved in it. Even in our weakest attempts, we can probably construct in our imagination an idea about God. Maybe your imagination sees Him as a long white bearded fellow on a throne in heaven. Maybe your imagination imagines Him as a strong and powerful man with robes like the ocean, able to move the ocean just by His breath. But when we try to imagine the nature, the makeup, the image of the Holy Spirit, what do we imagine? My own creative imagination finds itself stumped at the thought. I think this is why the idea of “spacious places” works for my ability to communicate what happens when the Holy Spirit enters this mysterious exchange called prayer. I will leave with three final words today…