Iconoclastic1, at YOTR, said:
I’m an admitted atheist on this board, but I am doing my best to learn and understand the dynamics of faith. One aspect I hear often alluded to yet never explained is the concept of a relationship with God. Please help me to understand what this relationship means and what it entails, as well as how it is reached. Does relationship imply an active two-way communication with a God who is willing to change things down here on earth? Our part in the relationship seems to be prayer, but what is God’s?
this starts getting at the mystery of faith, which is no small part of it.
i’ll tell this little story the best i can, but admit i may mess it up:
one time someone asked mother theresa what she says to god. when she prays. she replied, “i don’t say anything, i just listen.”
the questioner then asked what god says to her, to which she said: “nothing, he just listens. and if you don’t understand that, then you’re starting to understand it.”
now, to be sure, there ARE times when i am talking to god and am speaking, as well as listening. lots of times, actually.
and there are times when i’m ONLY speaking, and not really listening at all.
and times when i’m ONLY listening.
now, this “listen” i’m speaking of is not usually the way i listen to ovenmitt, or her to me.
listening to god involves more “hearing” with your spirit, your heart or soul or whatever word makes you most comfortable with the idea of the “inmost you”.
the “heart of hearts”.
my “inmost being”.
god’s voice is described in scripture as a “still small voice”, and i find that to be true.
he often requires silence in order to break through.
not just “physicial” silence, though that can be an important aspect of it, but also quiet of mind.
i find i can hear god best when i spend twenty to forty minutes in silence — just quieting my mind, empyting all the troublesom/worrisome/distracting thoughts that crop up.
until you are practiced at this, it has been suggested that doing this with a journal nearby is good: when a distracting through comes up (they are usually important, as this is how the human mind works!), you write it down, so that you can “put it aside safely”, and move on.
you tell your mind, “no, not right now, later” and allow yourself to continue in silence.
eventually, the worries of this world are put aside and all that is left is the quiet of real silence.
this is where god’s voice can be found most readily, according to long-standing traditions, and not just christian (for who could claim that only christians can hear from god?).
once silence is obtained, and real peace and quiet is what is in my head, i like to start to ask god what in my life is standing between he and i, with the objective being to deal with those things and get rid of them.
this is where god starts to speak — bringing to mind things i’ve done or said, or attitudes i’ve had, or not had, that were outside of how he’d prefer i do things.
as things come to mind, i can either deny that these are bad things or agree with god’s spirit speaking to me, and repent of these things.
repenting is “turning away from”, or “turning my back on”. the idea is that god brings such an attitude to mind, and i realize how it was something contrary to what he desires, and i agree with him that it was bad, and both ask god’s forgiveness for this attitude, and intentionally set about not having such an attitude again.
i have spoken about how one of the first thing jesus deals with in the sermon on the mount in matthew 5 is anger, where he says that by tradition, it was murder that was evil, but that his new teaching was that even anger itself is a sign that your heart may not be where god wants it to be.
so, when silent before god, he may bring a time in the past day, week or whatever where i got angry, and ought not have — and if i am really to allow this relationship with him to go further, i must admit to myself that i was behaving poorly, and set it aside.
now, as you can imagine there can be all sorts of things brought to mind during this time with god, but afterward, i can tell you with all honesty that it actually feels as if a weight is gone, and a brand new freedom has been attained.
now, with this freedom, some “real work” can get done, where god can bring to mind things/people/whateve to pray about with no distractions, either from “the world” or from my own wrongness, and i ca set about asking god’s favour in the lives of people i know or know of.
i have experience, too many times to count, where i have asked god to move, and wow does he move.
to be sure there are times when no such answer is forthcoming, or just more silence is what i get, but god really does answer prayer.
now you can imagine, i hope, when i say “ask god for stuff”, in light of the weightiness of the process i described above, of removing distractions, and of concentrating on what it is god wants FROM me, and my attitude, that i don’t then set about asking god for a million dollars, or for all the people i dislike to fall to ruin.
rather, when i ask god for stuff i am asking for wisdom to know how to deal with situations that will come up in the next day or week.
i ask for god to heal a sick friend.
i ask for god to act in response to things going on in the world that i think he should (dufar, for instance).
i ask for boldness in speaking his gospel, and also gentleness and discernment, that i may speak in such a way that draw people TOO him, rather than just being a resounding horn, blaring what ends up being untruths to those who hear, and repelling them FROM him.
and he answers with thoughts popped into mind, both from scripture that i’ve memorized (and i have memorized quite a bit of it) or just with his own new word —- you know it when you hear it —- and he does so in such a way that all i can do is acknowledge that i’ve been in contact with the king of the universe, and he’s told me things that i am unfit to hear — and lived.
i’m sure i’ve helped clear up some things, and helped foggy many waters here, but i wanted to help explain the “talking with god” part of this life of being a disciple of jesus christ.
like i said: there’s a mystery here.
if it could be nailed down to steps and reproducible in a lab….
well, there wouldn’t be much faith there would there?
(none of us spend much time debating about gravity.)
anyway, i hope this helps, at least somewhat.