If we’re not praying, maybe it’s time to ask ourselves what we really believe about prayer. About God. It’s been said that if we truly valued prayer highly, we would set aside time everyday for it. A fundamental issue relating to the practice and understanding of prayer is our prevailing images of God.
“The issue of prayer is not prayer; the issue of prayer is God.” -Abraham Heschel
How one thinks about prayer and practices prayer depends a great deal on one’s view of the God to whom one prays. And even more, it is not enough to say you believe in God. What really matters is the kind of God you believe in. A.W. Tozer said that the most important thing about a person is what enters their mind when they think of God. Here are some common views of God, especially in relation to prayer:
- “Uninvolved Overseer”–God is sitting on the front porch of heaven watching the world go by. In the words of one believer, “God is an absentee landlord. Calls are seldom returned, and nothing much gets done.”
- “Absolute Monarch”–God is totally controlling all things, micromanaging the world. You quickly see the problem here. If God is controlling every single thing, wouldn’t we be forced to say they He is doing a very poor job? Not everything that happens, such as murder and rape, is God’s will.
- “Weaver” or “Seamstress”–This is a healthier view of God, steering between the two extremes just mentioned. Here, God is weaving our prayers into His quilting work in the world (Psalm 139:13, Daniel 10:13).
- “Radically Transcendent”–So above and beyond the world that every prayer is a roaming cell phone call that cuts in and out. God is “out there” somewhere far away.
- “Buddy-Buddy”–Takes no critical stance, speaks no prophetic word, and is never “in your face.” There’s never any challenge about your behavior.
- “Superman”–Hears the prayers of those in trouble and, like a speeding bullet, is able to accomplish anything and everything, coming to immediate rescue. This view takes in no constraints or restraints of any kind, so the only issue falls back on the sincerity or faithfulness of those who pray. The attention is back to you and away from God. You. See how damaging? Turns into that “Genie-in-a-bottle” prayer. Also, if this were true of God, we’d have no martyrs.
- “King or Queen of England”–Not much power, but shows a sympathetic presence, and once in a while sponsors some elegant liturgical occasions.
What is your view of God? Do you think God cares about your day-to-day? Or is He too busy? Does He involve Himself in your real life now?
We do what we value most. Examine your values. Examine your view of God. It will shed much light on your prayer life.