God is Not Your Pen Pal

It was my second unanswered phone call to the dentist that day. With the office so busy, I decided to leave a voice mail. I slumped on the couch as I waited for the beep, “Hi, this is the mom of B. Richardson.” I recited my phone number and reason for calling before wrapping up the message, “Please give me a call back. In Jesus name, Amen.”

I snapped out of my daze and mumbled an embarrassed correction. The misplaced phrase made me chuckle and pause. Why did I say that? A moment’s reflection revealed some uncomfortable similarities between that voicemail and my prayers: I prattled off my needs to a silent party and got on with my day. If we’re honest, sometimes we talk with God like we’re leaving a spiritual voicemail or writing a distant Correspondent. We open our prayers with a customary “Dear Father” before elaborating on our interests and concerns. After filling sufficient space, we cinch our note in His name “Amen.” Having licked the envelope shut, we hope it survives the celestial route to the intended Recipient.

Sometimes prayer feels like a one way correspondence, yet we grossly cheapen prayer when we measure it against the “seen” things of this world. God is actively listening and responding to our prayers in real time and in real ways. Paradoxically, God sits on His celestial throne while also sitting within earshot of His beloved children. Remembering the “unseen” fellowship and interaction inherent in prayer can fill our hearts with excitement and expectation as we approach Him.

Prayer provides privileged fellowship. Not astonishingly, God does not need us. He experiences perfect community within Himself: The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit exist in perfect unison, joy and love. Since the Godhead knows no lack, we were created not to fill a void but to express an abundance and generosity[1]. Prayer showcases this generosity as an invitation to join in His Trinitarian fellowship.[2] Prayer transports us to the throne room where we humbly approach our Sovereign, good Father (Luke 11:2). Our Father delights in our visit, and encourages us to bare our hearts through praise, confession and petition. He urges us to empty all so that He may fill us with Himself. As we haltingly oblige, the Holy Spirit comes alongside us to bring coherency and purpose to our words (Rom. 8:26,27). Our beloved Brother Jesus Christ sits enthroned beside the Father petitioning Him on our behalf (Rom. 9:34). In our few moments of prayer, we are lovingly engaged by the Fullness of the Godhead. This reality should take our breath away. Like a child who thrills to be thrown to the sky again and again, we should thrill to return over and over to the One who loves and welcomes us so completely.

The privileged fellowship of prayer inherently implies interaction. We speak, but we also listen. Prayer isn’t a note in a bottle adrift at sea: no, prayer is a direct conversation to the Sovereign Creator of language and oceans. In short, prayer provides context for divine relationship building: a shared conversation knitting together Father and child, Brother and sister, Spirit and soul. We needn’t feel pressure to carry the conversation. A prayerful pause in His presence gives us space to awe at His position and perfection and recall His promises. An expectant pause gives room for the Spirit to respond with His Word stored in our hearts. In that “unseen” moment, God empowers us in Word and Spirit aligning our wills to His own. Consider His promised reactions in response to our prayers:

When we declare our hope in God, He takes pleasure in our faith.[3]

When we cry out in fear against evil, He assures us of victory. [4]

When we choose disobedience, He disciplines us as beloved children.[5]

When we confess sin, He promptly forgives our offense[6] and remembers it no more.[7]

When we tremble in anxiety, He exclaims His care[8] and promises to sustain us.[9]

When we admit our insufficiency, He gladly rests His power upon us.[10]

When we waver in temptation, He empowers us with strength to resist.[11]

When we feel strapped by guilt, He declares us righteous in Christ.[12]

When we feel lost in the dark, His Word lights our way.[13]

When we ask for wisdom, He delights to give it generously.[14]

Do you see His overwhelming response? If prayer is one-sided then God carries the load. We come empty, and He fills us. We approach fearful and unsure, without eloquence or answers, and He pours truth and power into our thirsty hearts. Astonishingly, God promises to come near those who come near Him (James 4:8). This isn’t figurative language nor rocket science just come. Reach out to Him in prayer. Believe His promises. Stop leaving sporadic, spiritual voicemails, and start engaging in real soul letting conversation. Conversations steeped in the Dialogue of His unfailing promises that extend from Eve to Sara to Mary to us. In unparalleled generosity, God promises closeness, community and care to those who seek Him.

“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” James 4:8

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16

“But for me it is good to be near God; for I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.” Psalm 73:28

Nearer, still nearer, close to Thy heart,
Draw me, my Savior—so precious Thou art!
Fold me, oh, fold me close to Thy breast;
Shelter me safe in that ‘haven of rest’.”[15]

[1] Read Quina Aragon’s children’s book Love Made to see this idea beautifully illustrated.
[2] Idea introduced on Knowing Faith Podcast.
[3] Psalm 147:11
[4] I John 4:4
[5] Heb. 12:5,6
[6] I John 1:8
[7] Heb. 8:12
[8] I Peter 5:7
[9] Ps. 55:22
[10] II Cor. 12:9
[11] I Cor. 10:13
[12] II Cor. 5:21
[13] Ps. 119:105
[14] James 1:5
[15] “Nearer, Still Nearer” by Lelia N. Morris

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