There’s a word, a concept, that is largely lost in todays world. In fact, you probably won’t even use the word unless you’re a lawyer. The word is covenant, a covenant being a contract, a binding pledge between two parties. As said, whilst in our day it is a term largely used by legal people, the concept goes way back and you’ll find it being used in the very first book of the Bible as people make covenant with each other. Usually a greater with a lesser where it would look something like “you bring me annual tribute and I will provide you protection”. Like, you do thus and so, and I will do this and that.
It was a relational thing which has been largely lost today. That said a marriage is a covenant between two people who give vows to each other.
Relationship was the key to covenant, so much so that when people made covenant they would cut their palms and let their blood mingle saying “now we are of one blood” or something like that. A blood relationship now existed.
When reading so called ‘Holy’ writings we are often caught in a tension between the portrayal of a mighty fearful deity and a deity who is the loving, ever present, god, often referred to in parental terms, mother, father. This tells us that whilst we are far from equals we are held in a position of possible deep intimacy by an immense power that is always for us. It’s precisely this knowledge wherein we exist that sits behind prayer, prayer being a function and expression of relationship. It reveals the level of intimacy and potential that exists between the parties. For the person who understands the concept of divine involvement in terms of parental language there exists boundless possibilities.
There are some great relational encounters recorded in holy writings. Moses has several. Isaiah having run away, talks to Jahweh in the cave. Arjuna in his chariot before battle talking with Krishna. Very human conversations filled with emotion, filled with questions, filled with naked honesty. And why not, because if the Divine is omniscient, God knows.
So here’s where I’ve come to in my attempt to understand prayer. It’s simple and yes, I’m back to “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”. Jesus himself said “Unless you become as a child” and that’s it. It’s the heart felt conversation being held into seeming space, the void, as far as the apparent seems to go. It’s seeing nothing and believing that God is present. I guess we’d call that faith? And in doing so we actively deny what our mind is telling us and we start to engage at a different level. That’s what I’ve been saying in the “Go deep or go home” letters, isn’t it? We believe that God is love’s potential reaching out to us.
I guess talking into the void is initially weird but this is a feeling that we need to overcome and we need to learn persistence. But then it is not the void. That’s an illusion. God is all about and ever present. Omnipresent. We may well need to deny our feelings for a while but not continually because feelings are important in the realm of prayer. God speaks through feelings as much as anything else. That’s kind of useful if you’re a person who doesn’t talk much. But God has multiple ways of speaking and it is only us who limit the conversation.
So Pogue, talk out as if there is a physical presence. Persist. Do it in a private place initially where you will not be distracted. Learn to engage your thoughts in prayer so you can pray silently and not appear crazy. That said, you could just put an earpiece in and walk about talking to nothing. Everybody seems to do it! Totally acceptable.
Like all things, you practice it you get better. And, you spend time doing it you get to know God, you get to build relationship and as you build relationship it becomes more and more natural. Relationship, good relationship is an investment of time and a gradual revealing of who we are to the other. So God knows already but there is a need for us to become and realise we’ve become open. And when the channel’s open…things flow both ways. Prayer is a relational thing and anything less really isn’t prayer, it’s just petition and pleading 🥺
Have a go.
Yours, off to my private place,