How do you “catalog” your conversations with a friend? Dictionary.com defines a conversation as “the interchange through speech of information, ideas, etc; spoken communication,” with obsolete definitions or origins going to “behavior or manner of living,” and “manner of conducting oneself or act of living with another.”
I defined “prayer” in an earlier blog as “a conversation with the Creator” (see January 18, 2015). If we were to catalog our conversations with friends, we could do so in several different ways. We could list conversations about people, about places, about ideas, about events, etc. Or we could catalog them based on intimacy, i.e. conversations about the world, about our nation, about our race, about our family, about our spouses.
But recognize that in any catalog of conversations there is an element of the artificial. We do not sit down to dinner and say, “We will talk about places tonight or about our family after dinner.” Rather we simply discuss what is important to us, what is on our minds, what links us together in this conversation, based on the fact that we are together.
In the same way, any “cataloging of conversation” with God is somewhat artificial. It is less than the best way to communicate with each other. But at our level of understanding of who God is, how He interacts with us, and due to simply the differences in mode of existence there is some value in cataloging our conversations initially, similar to how we would teach a baby to communicate with adults.
Keep in mind that He is Uncreated, Spirit, Eternal, All-Knowing, All-Powerful, All-Present, and we are . . . well, NOT! Since our mode of existence is so different, when we do not understand how to communicate with this amazing God, we must realize that we are less than infantile before Him. His is a mind so vastly greater than ours that we could not communicate at all except that He understands us, and loves us! He is the designer of the universe and it is made consistent with His nature, so by definition everything about Him is good, and all His creation, as He formed it, is good. And communication begins with Him, and we are the babies trying to learn a new language.
So a father seeing his child looks on him with love, and does not expect to have a discussion on the laws of physics or the latest development in computers. The communication begins with the father or mother holding the baby in their arms and speaking to him. The Bible tells us that we are “born again” (John 3:3) when we enter into a relationship with our Creator; it compares us to “newborn babies” (I Peter 2:2) when describing our spiritual growth; James tells us “He chose to give us birth through the Word of truth” (James 1:18).
And we are told of His efforts to communicate with us from the beginning (Genesis 2 and 3). He revealed Himself through prophets, priests and leaders throughout history, trying to speak to people who wanted to do things their own way (Romans 1:18-21; Hebrews 1:1-2). But we would not listen, ever. Only a few would learn to speak with Him and follow His ways (Matthew 7:13-14; Hebrews 12:18-25).
Consider if you ever taught a baby his/her first words. How did the child learn what you were saying? Language begins with repetition, so we say over and over and over again, “Momma,” “Daddy,” and every parent’s favorite word “NO!” Sometimes it is a wonder that a child’s first word is not “NO!” but then, we may not be paying attention when the baby voices this. Our ears are attuned to hear when he/she calls for us, Momma or Dada. And what a thrill we experience when we hear this cry in a language we understand!
Well, prayer is like this. We begin by listening to His voice, over and over and over again. Listen to Him speak in the creation; listen to Him speak through the Bible; listen to Him speak through others who have been listening longer; listen for His voice in your circumstances and in events in your life. Can you hear Him talking to you? Can you hear Him whispering to guide you to a wonderful life, full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23)? Like a mother gently singing lullabies to her baby, Father is gently singing in your ear, waiting for you to begin The Imitation; to say His words back to Him, to show that you are growing in your understanding; to reveal His character in yours; to realize you are His child and bear His image.
And just as a Mom is thrilled to hear the first time a baby coos back, “Momma,” our Heavenly Father shouts down through the armies of angels, “Hey, Michael, Gabriel, all you hosts, my child is praying!” And we can imagine all Heaven falling silent to hear your first words coming through its corridors.
So how do we catalog these conversations with Father? There is praise (or worship), thanksgiving, repentance, requests, intercession, spirit-prayer, and debate. Yes, even “debate.” I’ll discuss each of these in detail next week, March 8, 2015, in Marked by Prayer: the Catalog. But for now, just pray because, “just as a happy child cannot mis-hug, the sincere heart cannot mis-pray.” (Max Lucado, in Before Amen)