A man noted a child in a wheelchair and stated that he had actively prayed that his grandchild be born whole and without defect. He apparently felt that his prayer contributed to that child’s well-being, and he was grateful that his prayer had been answered. In my own heart I have to wonder if the parents of the wheelchair bound child had prayed the same prayer. Was their child’s condition the result of no prayer or unanswered prayer? Praying for God’s special intervention in our lives- heal the sick, protect our loved ones, bless our country and its policies: how does this correspond to the realization that all have been chosen by God in the New Covenant Age? Why would God preferential intervene in one life over another? Why not pray for intervention in the lives of all mankind universally? Why not pray for wisdom and courage and resolve in facing whatever problems come our way? Instead of praying to escape, should we instead pray for inner peace and confidence in coping with all the life brings? Are we to be escapists from life and its trials with God’s help? Who should experience these trials in our stead if God grants our escape? If our response is simply that no one should have to face trials, then perhaps our prayer should be that all trials be eliminated for everyone.
What purpose do life’s rough spots play in our lives? Are they mere aberrations in the otherwise joyful continuum of life experiences? Whatever else we may know about the trials of life, I am sure they exist because God allows them to exist. They are evidently a part of God’s plan for mankind, a necessary step in man’s spiritual development.
A problem free, utopian existence has formed the traditional picture of “heaven”, the abiding place of the “righteous dead”. Our developing understanding of the Bible has brought us to realize that orthodox picture of heaven as “an other-worldly existence after physical death” is not correct. The biblical descriptions so long associated with this “heaven” are really applicable to us right now, but in the spiritual realm. The current reality of spiritual blessing of peace, joy, and freedom do not, however, lead to a problem free, utopian physical existence. In that respect life continues largely as it always has with certain trials perhaps alleviated by technological advancement. (Technology, of course, also sometimes brings along a new trial previously unknown.)
One aspect of prayer that seems to be universally and eternally appropriate is the prayer of thanksgiving. Remembering and recounting our blessings is always a good way to lift one’s spirits. Particularly in a time of trial, it is therapeutic to focus on all that has previously gone right in one’s life, rather than focusing exclusively on the moment’s trial. Today’s trial should not blind us to the previous blessings. A positive attitude is always helpful in facing whatever we must face. Negitivism is a sure path to a steady downward spiral in thought, spirit, and ultimately physical well-being.
In the face-to-face relationship that we now enjoy with God, dialogue is essential. A relationship without communications is dead, as evidenced in many failed marriages. How can anyone really relate to another with whom they do not share in intimate dialogue. At best two such individuals could be only mildly acquainted. They each may know the other’s name and a few cold facts gained from secondary sources (gossip, casual observations, written records, etc.), but that does not mean they actually know each other.
Accepting this as true, we must ask how man relates to and communicates with his Creator in this day. For his part, I am convinced that God speaks to us in many ways, not just through written revelation as is often taught. On this side of the fulfillment of all that the scriptures foretold, we continue to look for guidance about our current spiritual state and the road to further enlightenment. I believe this takes us beyond what was written and into new forms of communication which derive from a now mature, face to face relationship with God. One of the ways I feel that God speaks is through all of life’s circumstances, including those we may judge as “trials”. Each such circumstance is an opportunity to become more at one with God and our fellowmen and to gain a new spiritual insight. Spontaneous thoughts can be another way. These thoughts often contain elements of divine inspiration, God’s small voice speaking to our hearts.
In return, we must speak to God. I think prayer is one of the means of communication, but perhaps not prayer in the classic, orthodox sense. Often we picture prayer as a formal exercise, involving setting aside a special time and place to physically verbalize our request and comments to God. I believe that prayer is now more correctly a state of mind in which we seek to direct our thoughts to our relationship with God on a continuous basis. It is perhaps better described as a meditative state where we transcend the mere physical and connect with God through silence more than active thought or deed. I think there is much room for an individual approach in how one relates to and communicates with God. Personal comfort is an important factor. Jesus encouraged his disciples to avoid public prayer and to talk to God in private. I believe that this move away from the public, ritualistic prayers of the Jews toward the quiet, introspective prayer of the individual saint point toward the mature relationship with God which was to be enjoyed in the Eternal Day.
The bottom line for me is that a new relationship with God, as indicated by the completion of all that God planned, means a new way of relating and communicating. I do not relate to my grown son like I did when he was small and immature; not by a long shot. In an analogous way, our dialogue with God has changed. The hierarchy of the old immature relationship has been lost in the union with God that now prevails. We require no mediator and we speak for ourselves. God listens and responds in myriad ways to impart the continuing knowledge that we require to understand, appreciate, and realize our full potential as his full-grown children.