A Prayer of Answers Questioned (PAQ)
Dear God, are you there? Can you hear me? Are you listening? I hope I am not speaking too softly. I hope I didn’t catch you at a bad time. I hope you are not too busy or something. I know this is one of the millions of petitions you will receive in a day. And I can't imagine the billions you get every year. I know you have heard them all. I know there is nothing new when it comes to you. But what is old stuff to you is actually new stuff to me. I am in my forties and you are well infinity. Going purely on numbers, you are way ahead of me in age and wisdom. So, what is billions of requests compared to an eternity, right?
Anyway, if you are still there, then you would have already known what I am going to say. But still, I want to say it because I need to personally know that I have said it. I am doing this more for myself. My insecurities that is. So, indulge me and pretend you are hearing it for the first time. And what I want to say to you starts with a question. It is from the heart. I hope it’s alright with you? Ok?
Dear God, here's my question: Are you always there? Always near? Always within earshot? Of course the operative word here is "always". Because I consider your existence self-evident. That’s the privilege of my Christian bias. But still, I just need to know that you are still there, always. It is important for me to know that because nobody wants to be talking to himself, at least not when he believes he is talking to you.
People say that if my heart is open I can hear you. I believe that. I really do. Or at least I want to believe that. Who am I to even doubt that? In my many years on earth, I had a few significant moments when my heart was open. Yes, truly open. No joke. I know that because during those times, I felt that I was closer to you than I was closer to anyone. In fact I felt so close to you that I could almost feel your presence. Almost. But being truly open to you then, I did not get to hear you in the same way that I can hear my wife whispering to me. In other words, I did not get to hear you in such a way that I can record it all down in my hand-phone so that I can fondly listen to your voice again at a later date when I am discouraged. (pregnant pause)
Ok, maybe that recording thingy is taking it a tad too far. I get it. But still, I did not hear you audibly.
Dear God, let me be frank with you and I seek your pardon. I hope it's alright with you? (waiting)
Ok, here goes. I can't help but get this impression that you don't seem to communicate with me in the same way that communication is normally understood by me. I know you have spoken before during biblical times of old and it was audible, firm and even loud. No doubt about that. And I have heard the same testimony about you speaking to other believers in a loud and clear voice. At least that was what they told me. But when it comes to me, someone who is dying to have the same experience as those chosen ones, your still small voice somehow turns out to be more silent to me than it is still and small.
Well, truth be told, I have experienced the same kind of silent treatment in my life before. Trust me I have. My wife and I have gone cold turkey before. We treated each other like we didn't exist. But of course, it was merely a game of childish pretending or ignoring and it was not as if we didn't exist. You know that right? Some call it showing the other the cold shoulder. Or putting the other on cold storage. Or giving the cold treatment. Those were silent moments that basically arose from a vindictive or indignant heart.
However, even during those times of general apathy and apparent distance, I am sure my wife was there. She was in fact in the other room, sulking. And I was in my room, sulking. You see, we may have no desire whatsoever to communicate but we knew outright that we were not far from each other.
But in your case, dear God, I am sure that when I did not hear from you when I desperately wanted to hear from you, you were not in the other side of eternity, right? I am sure you were not angry with me right? I am sure you were near and you heard me? However you were just not replying to me in an audible voice because you have your reasons, right? You were basically held back by a higher purpose? And I am sure your reasons are beyond reproach, beyond challenge right? I am sure.
And by the way, who am I to question why you choose to refrain from projecting your voice in the same way that my wife projects hers when talking to me? And why am I even making it an issue about you? Maybe I need to listen harder. Maybe I need to understand you more. Maybe I need to wait longer. Maybe I need to have more patience. Maybe I need to listen to you in other ways because you may have communicated to me in other ways too.
So, dear God, if I have not bored you thus far, I guess what I am trying to tell myself about what you are I guess trying to tell me is that you talk to me in many ways and I may have taken some of those ways for granted. Maybe you have spoken to me by way of a sign or upon the occurrence of an event. Or through a friend, a Sunday sermon, a heart conviction, a sudden moment of epiphany, a planted thought, a flip of the pages of the bible, and the list of possibilities goes on and on - anything but a direct, audible, and booming voice-over.
And though ironic, here's one more way worth exploring. Your reply to me may be to keep still and silent about my request to you. And at such time, I ought to respond by being equally still and silent, and while in this state of being mutually still and silent to each other, I should then acknowledge your presence.
Phew, did I get that all right, in the sequence they appear? I mean, silence in itself can be an answer, right? Right? Erm...is that a yes, a no or a maybe? (waiting)
Mm...well, being only fully human, here's what's bothering me. Am I to give up ever hearing your audible voice? Too extreme? Because for the last forty odd years, after much reflecting and looking back, I don't think you have spoken to me in the way that being spoken to is ordinarily understood. Correct me if I am wrong...? Wrong? Mmm….
So, taking from this cue, should I then just look for signs, wait for a f riend, sit in a Sunday service, pray and flip a page, or blank out my mind and take the first thought that pops in as your Spirit’s reply to me? Can I rely on them as your specific answer to my needs or as an answer to quell my doubts? Can I? Mmm….
But here's another bugbear for me. How can I then be sure that those indirect encounters (or replies) have been specially planned by you for the exclusive purpose of relating the message with my name on it to me through them? What if what I interpret from those signs or what I hear from others or what I read in the bible is no more than random events availing themselves to me just because I happen to be in the right place, with the right person and at the right time? What if they are all answers that I desperately want to hear and not answers you really want to tell me? You know messages can be mixed up with yours being overpowered by mine right? You do know that self-deception is the darnest thing, right?
Ok, this unavoidably dovetails to one fear I have and I trust you can empathize with me. This fear comes in three words (or two): Self-confirming bias. I am sure you have heard of that description a billion times and no further explanation from me is required.
So, after all is said and done - if not more is said by me on this side - is there a better, less round-about way to get your message across to me, dear God? Can we cut the middle man and have you speak to me heart-to-heart, face-to-face? And I am not even asking for it to be frequent. It can be infrequent and not even once a year. It can be done once in a blue moon and I hope in heaven, there's not millions of them blue moons!
Or maybe it can be done on rare occasions when I need to hear you most for encouragement and not when I am asking for something from you in particular. Maybe it can be just an under-the-breath whisper and not a grand appearance with horses and chariots and earth, wind and fire. It can even be anonymous but with your distinct divine signature of course. And by that, I mean something like a blind date in one of those restaurants that is completely dark.
In fact, those restaurants can be so dark that you can't even see your own hand waving in front of you. All you can do is to rely on your senses of taste and hearing, and it would be completely private, discreet and quick. How's that for anonymity? What do you think? Any chance of that happening once in a blue moon? (pause)
Ok...I take your silence as you are not too keen. I get it. I think I may be asking too much. I should be more respectful and understanding. I am sorry. I guess you are God for a reason (amongst many of course) and I have no right to be dictating the terms of our rendezvous with you.
Maybe what I really need is more meditation and less conversation, more silent inspiration and less vocal communication, and more watching and praying and less talking and questioning. Although if you'd recall in your Word, I am encouraged to ask and believe in the impossible.
Alas, I guess this is one request that may be before its time. I understand. And I therefore humbly withdraw the request. I shall henceforth be, or learn to be, grateful that you once came, roamed amongst us, taught with infectious zeal, were persecuted most horribly, and rose in glory. I should therefore know my place in the sovereignty of your plan and obediently stay on my side of the faith, in reverence and fear.
For now, that should be enough, I think, Until the next itch comes along to be scratched, I guess. For now, this will be my Christian hope and the anchor of my faith. And as for that anonymous meeting in the dark, well, it can wait until that day when I see you face-to-face in resplendent glory and blinding brightness.
I guess when that day comes, you won't be still and silent to me anymore. Neither will we ever need a middle man to pass the message. And on that day, it may not even be a face-to-face interaction but a heart-to-heart one - whatever that means in the realm of your eternal glory. Can't wait. Amen. Cheerz.
* Image from flickr.com