Yesterday I posted a simple prayer exercise that invites you to come, simple and unadorned, before God for a few quiet moments. As part of the prayer exercise, you are invited to turn your attention to God in the quiet and just sit there, being with God.
Today, I want to acknowledge that our concept of God affects the way we experience — or even consider approaching — an exercise like this.
Let me share with you some examples.
Early in my spiritual journey, I had a concept of God as a white-haired old man who sat on a throne way up in the heavens and commanded all things wrong and right. He had a scepter in his hand and a scowl on his face. He was holy and righteous and had very high standards for humanity.
He was not a very compassionate God at all.
But I submitted to the reality of this God and became a young woman who strove to fulfill this God’s expectations. I cared about right and wrong. I cared about holiness. I tried to live an upright life. I felt exceedingly sad when I fell short.
My prayer journals during these many years of my life were filled with lamentations of wrong-doing and pleas with God to help me be better. They were also filled with a certain assumption that my own standard of holiness somehow pleased God and put him “on my side.”
I don’t recall ever sitting in silence before this God at all.
A bit later in my spiritual journey, I decided to spend a few months reading straight through the Gospels of the New Testament. I did this with the intent of getting to know Jesus and why he might matter to my life.
Through the course of immersing myself in the Gospels, I fell in love with Jesus. He was everything that white-haired Zeus in the sky was not.
He gave me a different concept of God entirely.
This Jesus was the perfect embodiment of love and compassion and kindness and mercy. He was infinitely personal. He cared about my heart. He would look me in the eyes and really listen. He spoke words of truth, but with a gentleness that both disarmed and invited.
Ultimately, through Jesus, I discovered a God who wanted to know me.
This, too, affected the way I approached God. Slowly, I began to share with God my heart. I began to listen to what God might want to say back. It grew into a real experience of relationship.
Over time, as I’ve continue to walk the path of my spiritual journey, I’ve learned that my concept of God continues to evolve as I grow in my knowledge of who God really is.
I believe this is a life-long process.
It’s also one toward which God carries infinite patience with us. Part of the mystery of God coming to earth in the form of a human is a demonstration of that patience. Jesus came to meet us where we are, rather than expecting us to meet him up where he is.
So, consider where you are.
What concept of God do you have right now? How does that concept affect the way you relate to God in prayer?