Prayer is the language of the King. Prayer is the conversation that is spoken in His Kingdom. We are called to live in this Kingdom by communion in conversation with Him. Many are attracted to this conversation, few move into the intimacy of the conversation.
In order to move from a casual conversation to an intimate exchange we must develop a deeper trust in the Lord. For many this journey is blocked by negative attitudes towards God. Attitudes that they developed early in life, maybe even from childhood.
If God is seen as an angry father figure, a suspicious police officer, or a harsh judge, it is very difficult to have an interest in pursuing a deeper relationship with Him in prayer.
Negative attitudes and images of God are generally implanted in us as the fruit of our early religious exposure to God. Generations of believers have lived in fear of the Lord rather than in Love with Him.
I realized many years ago that I had been raised to believe that external actions were far more important that what was happening internally. As long as your external behaviors met the approval of the leaders they never seemed to care what was happening on the inside. Internally there were lots of folks who were doing all the right things for the wrong motives.
Secondly, I thought that if I did good things that God would reward me. I could earn God’s favor and blessings by performing well. This image led me to the idea that getting into heaven was far more important than loving God and loving my neighbor as myself.
These images of God produced subconscious attitudes that made it nearly impossible for me to trust God enough to move beyond a surface prayer conversation. Prayer was reduced to confessing sin or asking for help.
It has taken a complete undoing of those early images to come into a new understanding of the very nature of God. Today instead of worrying about guarantees for the future life, I understand the need to trust God and believe that if I love and serve God and my neighbor in this life God will take care of the future.
Trust that comes from a more truthful view of God has allowed my prayer live to move from a shallow exchange into one of intimacy. Intimacy that now fuels all of life. Pray has literally become the very breath of my life.
I watch my grandchildren as they struggle to communicate. Only as they develop the skill of language are they able to grow into a deeper relationship with the community they know as family. The same is true for God’s family. We must grow in our language of prayer.
Finally, I have discovered that the only place where God is truly found is here and now in this present moment. Since God is “eternal” he is not to be found in the past or the future, but right here in this space we call life. In the midst of the community of the forgiven.
In this community of friends of God we will be able to uncover and face these limiting attitudes towards God. As we discard them the Holy Spirit will empower us to move into a more intimate relationship with God. Maybe, just maybe we will be able to accept His invitation of friendship.