I’d like to invite you into an experience I had earlier this week… would you allow me a moment to set the stage? As you enter the living room where we’re gathered, you notice the warm lighting and inviting couches and chairs that circle the perimeter. A soft taupe carpet tickles your toes as you sit down beside me on the floor and survey the room. One girl curled up on the side of the couch, eyes closed, lips moving, but no sound coming from them – another young woman sits on the other end in a similar posture with tears streaming down her cheeks. Beside her, a young man sits in a chair, his head in a pillow and across from them a man sits on an ottoman, head bowed deep to his knees with his hands wrapped around the back. His wife kneels beside him, facing the ottoman with an open Bible in front of her. Another couple sits on the loveseat and another in a set of chairs, quietly praying with eyes tightly shut. One young man has taken up the center of the room and is laying prostrate with hands stretched out before him. Your eyes flit to my husband who sits beside me on the floor with his head bowed and arms wrapped around his knees as he draws his legs up to his chest.
I take a deep breath and quietly begin to strum my guitar as the man on the ottoman, our leader, leads us in a quiet prayer. For the next twenty minutes, we sing out with shaky voices and reverent spirits to the Great I Am.
What you’ve stumbled upon here is our LifeGroup meeting from this past week and before you get any crazy ideas that this is a typical night for our group – let me point out the chocolate cake crumbs that give evidence to the dessert we just devoured in honor of two birthdays. Our group time typically consists of large amounts of laughter and coffee and sometimes ends with an exuberant game of Banana-grams or Dutch Blitz! But today, we have just started working through a study based on Francis Chan’s book, “Crazy Love.”
Without getting into too many details (because I want you to read it for yourself), let me say that I highly recommend this book to anyone who needs a renewal of their first Love and a push to live their lives as followers of Christ in a more effective and passionate way. We’ve only made it through the Introduction and first Chapter when you join our group and it’s evident that this study has the power and potential to be life-changing. In the short section of the book we’ve covered so far, Chan has challenged our preconceived ideas of God and our tendency as Believers to fit Him into a “box” who we think He is and what we believe He should do for us. Chan’s words are simple reminders of truths we’ve learned in church, at home, and through our own reading of Scripture, but they are presented in a new light and I’m convicted that I don’t approach the Throne Room of God with the right heart-attitude.
The study prompts an examination of the way we pray – taking us through an exercise of merely looking at the words we use in opening the communication lines with God and how that reflects our heart. I often fall into the trap of “ritualistic” prayers – I always open with “Dear God,” as if I’m addressing a form letter and move almost immediately into my petitions of “Please help my husband find a better job,” or “I’m so tired this morning – I need fill-in-the-blank,” or even “Well, You know what I need and I trust You’ll meet me there.” There is nothing wrong with these prayers, but they shouldn’t be a steady diet in my talking to my Creator, Savior, and Father. Let me back up…in talking with Him – not to Him…this is a two-way street!
Our discussion for the evening has delved into the meaning behind the various names of God and how a better understanding of His attributes can radically change our prayer life. The more we examine the pictures of God as found in Scripture the clearer the image becomes of who we are actually addressing when we pray.
When you write a letter to a company – you address it: “Dear Sir or Madame,” or “To Whom it May Concern” because you’re not really familiar with who you’re writing to and what kind of person they are – if you were intimately connected with them, your opening lines and the content of your letter would hold a much more personal tone.
In the same manner, by knowing Him better, our communication with Him will become deeper and more intimate. The scene I described for you earlier is a result of our taking the time to recognize who He is and merely respond appropriately.
He is the Creator of all life and Scripture tells us that all things were created for His purpose, not ours.
He is completely and perfectly set-apart in His holiness and it is only by the saving grace found in relationship with His Son, Jesus that we are even able to approach His Throne.
He is LORD and as such is in complete control of everything we have – including our spouses, our children, our finances, our home, our jobs, our passions.
He is King and as royalty is deserving of our reverence and awe at even being admitted an audience in His Court.
He is Father and graciously guides and directs our paths with passionate love and an all-knowing will.
I challenge you this week to join me in truly examining who God is and see how that affects your one-on-one time with Him! What attributes and/or names of God grab your heart the most – when you pray, how does that “image” you hold of Him affect your communication?