Last evening someone mentioned how infrequently we seem to experience what was called ‘burning bush moments’ with God. This was said in the context of a discussion about how people hear from God and how God speaks with and to them. There are usually a range of responses to such a declarative statement about the nature of God’s communication. Several weeks ago, someone had said in something of the same context, “God doesn’t speak to me. I have never heard him. He answers my prayers and I read about him in the Bible but he doesn’t speak to me.” Another said last evening, “God speaks through our senses and urges. That’s God speaking. I’m sure of it.” There is always the comment, as there was a few weeks back, “It’s the Holy Spirit at work. The Spirit is doing God’s bidding. The Spirit actively is at work in us. It’s the Spirit who moves and acts in our hearts and minds.” And finally, a good friend has told me and others on multiple occasions, “God has spoken to me. With words. He spoke to me!”
It would appear that we all have different ways of hearing from God. Maybe we are all talking about the same thing or maybe we are all talking about something different. I’m not sure and I’m not meaning to address this here right now. Perhaps – when discussing how God communicates with us – we are compelled to speak in general terms because we all have different experiences when working our respective relationships with God. We all have different understandings and backgrounds.
However, I want to shift the focus of this article away from whether God literally has a mind to speak directly with us or not toward what, to me, is more profoundly fundamental. My thesis is this – if I am in a prayerful relationship with God in my time then both providentially and as predestined, God eternally acts on my faithfulness by protecting and sparing me from an otherwise malicious universe. And in so doing, God is in contact with me in any way that he chooses to make contact, as he determines appropriate.
In other words, if I have a prayerful relationship with God then God has, does, and will protect me before, now, and after. I say this in that I live constrained by time but God lives unconstrained in eternity – he knows before and after I am, sees me before and after I think, hears me before and after I speak, hurts for me before and after I hurt, and protects before and after I need. God works from an eternally timeless perspective taking into account my limited timed existence. And he will be telling me about his machinations however he thinks best.
Do I have a relationship with God or not? The answer to this question will determine God’s providential and predestined dealings with me.
I need to be in a prayerful relationship with God. It’s essential. It determines God’s eternal care for me – what was before, what is now, and what will be.
Actions alone will not sustain a relationship with God. Likewise, words and belief alone will not make a relationship with God. When I say that we need to be in a prayerful relationship with God I mean that our actions and faith needs to be balled up into one such that we can talk about it all with God in prayer.
But even more to the point that I would like to make – many of us search for the essence of what the father of the demon-possessed son was crying out for in the subject passage from Mark 9:24. The man wanted complete and absolute assurance that Jesus was God and that Jesus was eternally powerful enough to do what he said he could and would do for his son. The son’s father was hopeful and afraid all at the same time. On one hand, the man said he had faith – pisteuo – but on the other hand he said he suffered from unbelief – apistia. He was torn. He fully expected to see Jesus destroy a demon – he certainly would be amazed – but he was to suffer still from doubt – his mind likely couldn’t and wouldn’t fully grasp what he was about to see take place. He was very confused and prayed a prayer that we may often pray – and should pray sometimes – “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
I completely and totally empathize with this man. I am torn like this man. And like this man, I too understand that there is more at stake than just a moment in time of doubt. Like the man, I have reasoned and believe that God is eternal and that he desires very much that I accept his care and love. I see how God positively works in my life and in the lives of others – there is simply too much spiritual evidence for me to deny an all-powerful God. But like the man about to witness the purging of the demon, I cry out, “Help me overcome my unbelief.”
And the one place where I can and should be talking about this Jekyll-Hyde approach to spiritual living is in prayer with God. Thus, my sincere desire to have a quiet, sincere conversation with God because I need him to listen to me and I very much want him to talk with me – however he does that – because I need some answers.
“Help me overcome my doubt, ” I keep praying. Please.