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Who Do You Pray To?by Duane Mabee on December 31, 2020
Do we pray to a God Who doesn’t exist? My question isn’t about the existence of the true God. It’s about the reality of the god we have conjured up in our minds and then pray to.
Timothy Keller wrote:
Without immersion in God’s words, our prayer may not only be limited and shallow but also untethered from reality. We may be responding not to the real God but to what we wish God and life to be like. Indeed, if left to themselves our hearts will tend to create a God Who doesn’t exist.
He goes on to say that we want a God Who is loving and forgiving but not holy and transcendent and it shows in the way we pray. Our prayers are generally devoid of both repentance and the joy of being forgiven. “Without prayer that answers the God of the Bible,” Keller says, “we will only be talking to ourselves.”
How well we know God shapes our prayer life. When we see God as He really is, like Moses and Isaiah did, we will pray as though He is God, and we are not. We will recognize our complete dependence on Him rather than pray in ways that end up telling God what to do. We will speak to Him with humility born out of the recognition of our own sinfulness and with gratitude for our forgiveness.
When we don’t know God as He really is, we recreate Him in our image. We imagine a god who looks and acts the way we want him to. That’s sad on many levels. Keller mentions one. When God becomes a grandfatherly type, who winks at our indiscretions and overlooks our rebellion and sin, we lose the wonder of knowing a God Who loves us enough to pay the steep penalty for our sin, and the joy of knowing what it means to be forgiven and accepted when we shouldn’t be. Yet many believers refuse to acknowledge their sin trying to maintain their reputation and impress God and other people. That robs them of the joy of being loved and forgiven.
Your understanding of Who God is shapes your prayer life. It determines whether you will pray, and how you pray.
What’s your view of God? Is it the high view presented in the Bible? Is the God you know pure, holy, almighty, sovereign, gracious, forgiving, loving, just and righteous? Does He know about everything you are and do, and will He hold you accountable? Or does he act like you, think like you, and value what you value – so when you pray you are just talking to yourself?
I encourage you to get to know God as He is. Pay attention to what Moses saw in Exodus 34:6-7. Study what Isaiah learned about God in Isaiah 6:1-8. What is God like and how did they respond? Is the God you pray to like the God Moses and Isaiah knew? How does it show in the way you pray?