“Prayer is when you talk to God. Meditation is when you’re listening. Playing the piano allows you to do both at the same time.” ~Kelsey Grammar
“Prayer is an act of love; words are not needed. Even if sickness distracts from thoughts, all that is needed is the will to love” ~Saint Teresa of Avila
Originally posted on Facebook, February 5, 2008
In a sermon I heard this past Sunday, the preacher made an excellent point. He said that prayer is “us talking to God.” Typically, we are asking for something for ourselves or someone else. The point he was trying to emphasize in his sermon was the need to continually look to God’s Word (aka the “Holy Bible”) for direction. It brings up the question: How many of us actually have a conversation with God?
Before I go to sleep, I typically just lay in my bed and talk to God. I usually do a few organized prayers, ones I learned as a child, such as:
Father in heaven,
Hear my prayer,
Keep me in thy loving care,
Be my guide in all I do,
Bless all those who love me too.
Who art in heaven,
Hallowed by thy name,
Thy kingdom come,
Thy Will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven,
Give us this day our daily bread,
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us,
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
These two prayers have beautiful, succinct, and meaningful words. I try to make sure that I am thinking about the meaning of each prayer and who I am speaking to when I say each. It is easy to rhythmically recite them brainlessly after having said them so many times (i.e. Nicene or Apostles Creed).
I also allow my mind to drift into the past day, sharing with God all the things that had occurred, bringing up questions that I am unable to answer myself; hoping for Him to bring some clarity to the matters for me. And I have heard God respond to me many times. Sometimes, though, He needs to bludgeon me before I finally realize He is speaking to me.
Growing up in a family where attending Mass, even Holy Days of Obligation, was considered mandatory, I was introduced to Christ at a young age. My understanding of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit were that of a child. Looking back, I believe that was a good thing for me. I comprehended God’s power, feared being in His disfavor, yet desired His love. I listened intently to the scripture readings on Sunday, and took them literally, as a child does. I wanted to be involved. First, as a choir boy, and then as an altar boy. At one point in my life, I had thought of the priesthood. I wanted to be CLOSER to Him. Just as important, I wanted to learn about Him.
Has anyone else noticed, as we age, we are more susceptible to lighten the weight of His words in scripture? Often, I hear others say these expectations are not realistic and that Jesus was making a point. Or, people put EXTRA emphasis on the Lord’s love and mercy. It seems to me, that God meant EVERYTHING He said…both the need to strive for standards of perfection when following His Way/Worshipping Him AND the need for His love and mercy. I don’t believe the love and mercy God gives us was intended for us to put all our weight upon; rather, it is there for us when we sin, or take a misstep. The older I get, the more I think He wants us to be resilient in LOVING Him; demonstrated through our obedience to His rules…even those we don’t yet understand. Extending that love allows us to be a reflection of Him to others…and therefore worship Him further.
Ask yourself, have you premeditated a sinful action, knowing that it may not be good, but God would forgive you? Have you rationalized with yourself, “Hey, if you look at it this way, it’s okay.” Then, after doing the deed, being repentant for it…but you knew you would be from the start?
While I absolutely agree with the preacher who spoke on Sunday (God talks to us through the Bible), I believe that God is not limited in how He can communicate with us (My God has NO LIMITS). The following are some ways that I have heard God speak to me:
- The Word (Bible)
- My Conscience
- His action in the lives of others (not always Christians)
- His action in my life, even when I am reluctant
- His Words through the mouths of others (not always Christians)
- Unfathomable coincidences (ask me about Grad school someday)
And no, I do not take every random occurrence or insightful thing shared with me from others as God speaking to me. As I have matured (hopefully) in my faith, it has become easier to delineate the difference, my conscience, my heart, and His Word working as a validity test. And like the preacher said Sunday, when I fail to read the bible, I tend to stray in various aspects of my Faith…and my conscience is not as well in tune with His desires.
Many of us talk about having relationship with our Creator, but given that many of us have difficulties establishing healthy relationships with one another…do we have a healthy relationship with Him?
When thinking of what constitutes a healthy relationship, I think of a pyramid, the base of which is LOVE. As a friend mentioned the other day, Love is more a choice, not just a feeling. We decide to love God. We decide to Love people. It is a commitment to be resolute. Blocks of this pyramid; characteristics that all gain their foundation from Love are (in no specific order):
- Patience (not waiting to confront—there should be urgency in making relationships right—but enduring the pain when resolution is unavailable)
- Dependence (the healthy definition of the word)
There are areas where I could definitely work, and I am trying. For instance, God is beating me over the head right now to be patient and understanding. By doing such, it forces me to trust Him; being dependent on Him. I have also become better at having “conversations” and not “monologues” with Him.
And because those people in our lives will often let us down (no matter how wonderful these people can be), I think it is really hard for us to trust God at times. Being human, we associate human characteristics to Him…even though, when God roamed earth being fully God, yet fully man, He NEVER let us down. Where we as people are inconsistent, He is a constant…
…and ironically, maybe that is why we tend to ramble to God, rather than have a conversation. We often know what He is going to say, given His consistency. With each other, if one person fails to effectively communicate with the other, there will be challenges…because even the most consistent of us have our inconsistencies. We have moods, external influences, temptations, etc. that drive us to occasionally act differently in similar situations. But again, even the assumptions we can make may vary, so therein, lies our need to continually listen for God when we speak to Him. Plus, everyone wants to be heard. Especially, our Lord, the One who ALWAYS has something WORTH saying 😛