15th March 2009
Prayer as Honesty
Relationships depend on what those involved know about each other. If you have a relationship with someone there are things in your life that you know but they don’t, there are things you both know, there are things neither of you know, and there may be things in your life the other person knows but you don’t. The closer the relationship, the more honesty and openness there is – you don’t hide things from each other, so there is more in your life that you both know.
Our relationship with God has a similar dynamic. As far as God is concerned, he already knows everything about us, and therefore there is no point in us hiding anything. Nevertheless, we still try to hide things from God – it’s been our nature since Adam hid in the garden! However, the closeness of our relationship still depends on how open we are prepared to be with God, and also how open he is with us.
God’s openness with us is what revelation is all about. God is invisible, spiritual, and there is no hope of us knowing anything about him unless it is revealed one way or another. Some of God’s nature is revealed in creation and history; but everyone can see those, and have come to different conclusions about what God is like. We need more than that – and so we have special revelation in the form of Scripture, and especially in the form of Jesus Christ. However, even those revelations are not very personal; so God has done more – he has sent his Holy Spirit to lead us into his truth, and to disclose to us God’s nature, his ways and his will, in such a way that it is possible for us to have a personal relationship with him that can grow closer and closer.
The other side of the coin is that we need to be open with God. That involves having the courage to share with God our innermost thoughts and plans, and also to admit to God that we fall far short of the mark and even that sometimes we deliberately ignore him. We do not like admitting failure or wrong doing – we feel it diminishes us. But the reality is the opposite – we are more diminished by pretending to be other than what we are, especially since God knows the truth! And we are diminished by not being open with God, because we miss out on the relationship that openness makes possible. God is not put off by our failures and sins – Jesus has already died for us, and God wants us to have eternal life within his family!
Isaiah learnt something of all this. He had a vision of God’s glory at a critical time in the nation’s history. But rather than fill him with joy and excitement, the vision filled him with fear – to see God in all his glory was too much. Isaiah was only too aware of how far short he and his people fell. And it is still true that a sight of the glory of God, with all his love and purity and beauty, can make us feel exposed and shown up. (Was that why we crucified Jesus?)
Isaiah then learnt more. He found that God accepted him. He was forgiven! Notice how the altar was involved – there can be no forgiveness without sacrifice, no relationship with God except through the cross of Christ, that sacrifice to which all others point.
That was not all. Isaiah was forgiven; but his people needed their relationship with God restored. That was God’s plan; and, as always, God’s plan involved God’s man or woman. Openness with God includes being open to his purposes. And to his call.
1) What do you know about God that encourages or discourages you from being open to him?
2) ‘Here am I! Send me!’ Can you say that? If so, say it!