Friday, November 01, 2013

Are You There, God? It’s Me, Jeff.

My latest piece for Godly ...

I think that there are times we misunderstand how God works. And by “we” I of course mean “me.”

Sometimes I imagine God listening to everyone at once like Mel Gibson in What Women Want going through the park and doubling over from all the information at once.

Then again, maybe He stares at a screen full of prayer requests and thinking, “Wow, it’s like everyone on the planet just asked me to give them lives on Candy Crush.”

Or, we hope that the Lord can even find us, like He is Professor X of the X-Men with a pasta strainer on his head trying to focus on one special person out of nine billion.

Have you ever been praying and you start to say something but stop because you don’t want God to hear?

You know, as if the eternal Lord Almighty, the great I AM shouldn’t know what you are thinking because He might take you up on it?

The truth is, God knows what is in your head. He wants to hear you speak from the heart.

I thought of that while reading an Open Windows daily devotional guide that I keep in my gym bag to read after my workout.

I am thankful that God can understand me through the noise in my head, especially when I’m reading in the locker room and meditating while I am still cognizant of the 70s, 80 and 90s rock playing in the speakers overhead.

As a result I end up praying something like, “Lord, please forgive me for my dirty deeds done dirt cheap” or “God, give me comfort because here I go, again on my own,” or when I face temptations, “Heavenly Father, please give me the eye of the tiger to rise up to the challenge of my rival.”

If you’re a big fan of the apostle Paul you’re aware of how he told the Thessalonians to “pray without ceasing,” (1 Thess. 5:17) so another option is to pray in the car, but not if there’s actually, you know, traffic.

Behind the wheel and on the road I am like the General Patton of driving, albeit without the cursing. I’m always strategizing and anticipating the other drivers’ next moves, so rush hour is not a good time to pray.

“Oh, Lord, please forgive my trespasses … and this guy jumping in front of me because he couldn’t bother to read the signs and see that his lane was ending …”

Then again, at 3 a.m. when I’m on my way to work? Awesomely peaceful prayer time while driving, blasting KLOVE on the radio to hear the same Casting Crowns song for the 5,000th time.

(Disclaimer: I am a fan of Casting Crowns. I would just like to hear a little more variety on KLOVE. Would it kill them to play a Steven Curtis Chapman song from the 90s?)

A friend of mine – we’ll call him “Daniel,” because that’s his name – advocates “95/5″ time. That means for every five percent of prayer time that you do the talking, spend the other 95 percent listening.

It does take practice to quiet your mind. In total silence it’s even more difficult to turn my brain into a calm, receptive pillow for catching God’s words.

(Mmmmm … pillow … sleep … wonderful sleep …)

See? I’m easily distracted.

But even if I reverse that with 95 percent of the time I spend talking, rambling or even half-asleep, when I go about my day I feel 100 percent better already.

At the end of the day I listen to podcasts of sermons by my favorite pastors while going to sleep, and there’s no better way to drift off than in learning more about the Word.

I used to listen to sports/talk radio when going to bed, and I would have trouble falling asleep and potentially miffed if the conversation focused on anything negative about the Red Sox or Memphis Tigers basketball.

“Carry some quiet around inside thee,” the well-known Quaker, George Fox would say. “Be still and cool in thy own mind and spirit, from thy own thoughts, and then thou wilt feel the principle of God to turn thy mind to the Lord from whence cometh life.”

I think what Mr. Fox is getting at, whence you mayest to shut up thou wilt hear God and then cometh good times.

There’s a story that Early African converts to Christianity were earnest and regular in private devotions. Each one reportedly had a separate spot in the thicket where he would pour out his heart to God. Over time the paths to these places became well worn. As a result, if one of these believers began to neglect prayer, it was soon apparent to the others. They would kindly remind the negligent one, “Brother, the grass grows on your path.”

Just as Adam and Eve learned after eating the forbidden fruit and trying to use some well-placed leaves to hide their nakedness, God can see and hear you no matter where you are on your path, so pray like you know He’s listening!

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