So, I am sat here, with my damn phone in my hand, and thinking, “I wish I could send a text message to God.  Just to, you know, check in.  Let him know how things are.”.

Of course, the implied continuation of that thought is, ” .. and get a quick reply”.  That’s the thing with phones and apps and messaging and internet and data and connections .. we are getting used to being able to get in touch with someone in a heartbeat.  Seen something funny?  Send a text.  At an amazing gig?  Send a video clip.  Feeling down?  Post a status update.  The insane level of connectivity these days means we (I) can get our ego stroked within minutes or even seconds.  To be honest, sometimes I wish it was like that with God.

Mug - 32x32  “Hey God, did you see that cat fall into the bin?”

God 32x29  “Sure did, Al! Cracked me up too! LOL. :-D”

or ..

Mug - 32x32  “Whoa, God!  Are you seeing this?  These guys rock!”

  “Back stage pass dude.  Way ahead of you! ;-)”

or ..

Mug - 32x32  “I .. I think need a hug.”

God 32x29  “Aww.  I’m making waffles.  Come on over.”

Actually, me feeling blue and God saying “Come on over” may not be the best or safest example, but you get my drift, yeah?  But, now I put it like that .. it does seem kind of ridiculous.  As if God is really that accessible or available that I can get a personal reply from him so quickly.  Anyway, God using smileys?  If my kids say that I’m to old for smileys, I’m sure God definitely is.

In comparison to how fast we can get replies to text messages, prayer can sometimes seem a slow and, dare I say it, empty experience.  More than a few times my prayers have either felt to be just bouncing around near the ceiling or vanishing off into the sky somewhere, never to be heard from again.  That’s how it can feel, anyway.

But then, haven’t we all had those moments when we are texting with someone and all of a sudden there is break in the flow of messages, and you are like, “Hello? You there?”.  More often than not it is that someone suddenly came to the door or the boss walked in.  Sometimes people who you are sure are glued to their phone just never seem to reply to you.  So .. well .. sounds a bit like a prayer life sometimes.  You know that there is a God and that He wants to hear from us, but when you “pick up the phone”, it just seems to ring and ring but no-one picks up …

But .. haven’t there also been those ‘other’ times.  Those times when you’ve hardly got started on a prayer and suddenly the air around you is thick with a presence which wasn’t there a moment ago.  Or you are asking for something and before you know it, you bump into someone who is bringing you exactly what you were praying for.  It’s almost as if God knew what you needed before you even asked for it1,2.  How spooky is that?

God has promised never to leave those of us who have received His spirit.  We don’t have to wait for Him to turn up when we pray because He never left.  We just sometimes don’t feel Him there.  There is difference between what we feel and what is actually real.  Even in this physical world our feelings often cloud what is real.  In the spiritual realm the problem is all more complicated.  Many times3 there is a complete lack of tangible feedback from our prayers and we find ourselves putting out “feelers”.  Was that inner whisper God or just me?  If God would just reply to my text messages, I could see in black and white something from Him.

The smart-arses out there will now chime in with “Yeah, but He has.  It’s called the Bible.  Duh .. “, but that’s missing my point.  People are somehow created with the need to connect, and it is said that in our hearts is a God shaped hole, which only God can fill.  It just seems unfair that when reaching to God to have the hole filled, it feels like it stays empty.

___________

We are set for microwave, but God prefers to marinate4.

The issue is not that God is distant, unhearing, uncaring or even non-existent.  The issue is our expectations.  Modern culture has conditioned us to expect answers immediately and gratification instantly.  God just doesn’t work like that.  To reduce Him to a BFFL (yes, He is but .. ) or some kind of cuddly genie in a spring loaded lamp is never going to work.  He.  Is.  God.  Sovereign.  Holy.

Dutch Sheets in his book, “Intercessory Prayer” wrote the quote above.  I’ve not read the book so I’ve no idea of the context, but it pretty much sums the tension between our modern culture and God’s way of doing things.  We want to dial in a minute for a quick reheat, and then eat.  God seems to prefer marinating, letting the flavours evolve and develop a richness over time.  We misunderstand His apparent lack of [instant] action as neglect, when nothing could be further from the truth.

If we can read in the bible that He has engraved our names on His hands, that He has promised His own spirit to us so that we don’t become spiritual orphans, that He promised never to leave us or abandon us, that those who trust in Him will have strength renewed and fly like eagles – then this is stuff we can take to the bank.  If we feel it or not.  Because feelings do not always reflect what is real.

The feelings, these moods, come and go like the tides.  When the tides are in for a time we cannot see the permanent features of the shore and forget what it looks like.  We might roughly remember where the solid rocks are, where the pool with the cool seaweed is, where the soft sand is that is good for lying on.  But for a time, we can’t place them exactly until the tide goes out and we can again walk out to them.  The same when we feel overwhelmed by emotion and try to reach out to Jesus to grasp the hem of his coat.  We know He is there, just for that moment we can’t find Him.  I think King David got this feeling too when he wrote the following song.

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.  When can I go and meet with God?  My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”.  These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One, with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng.

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God.

My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.  Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.  By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me.

A prayer to the God of my life.  I say to God my Rock, “Why have you forgotten me?  Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?”.   My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, “Where is your God?”.

Why, my soul, are you downcast?  Why so disturbed within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God.

(Psalm 42)

Things are pretty bad for King David.  As far things go, it seems that he has been abandoned by God.  Everyone is picking on him and teasing him.  “Where’s you God?”.  He feels physical pain from his distress and soaked in his own tears.  Stark contrast to the festivals of past times.  In the last line, King David speaks gently to his own soul, encouraging himself that soon he will again praise his Saviour and God.

In the times when God seems far away and the answer to prayer is slower in coming, hang on to the memory of the what you know God has done, and what He has promised to do.  Times which we ourselves have seen and lived through, and those recorded by others who have walked the same path.  God hasn’t left us.  He promised not to.  God hasn’t stopped loving us.  He can’t.  Just gotta keep on believing.

If only we could reach out with a text message and get an instant reply on our phone.  But we can’t.  Just like texting a friend, sometimes the response comes quickly, sometimes slowly.  But one thing I do know, one thing I do have faith in, is that the message is always received and noticed.  God always hears our prayers.  Always.  Just gotta keep faith in God.

Faith.  It’s the magic sauce which holds everything together.

___________

References

God 32x29  <- From “God, the Devil and Bob” TV Show.

1 – Yes, I have the spiritual gift of sarcasm. 😉
2 – Matthew 6:8
3 – There are still a good number of times when the cause/effect loop of prayer is so strong, that even the strongest sceptic will raise an eye-brow and admit, “Well, maybe .. ”
4 – “Intercessory Prayer”, Dutch Sheets

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