October 19, 2022
Those of you that know me well, know that I take music lessons on a weekly basis. I am trying to learn how to play the electronic keyboard in my old age. As a young person I had played the cornet in my high school band, but the years have taken a toll on my breath capacity and control. But my fingers still work reasonably well, so it seemed like the logical way to attempt to create music. My teacher used be local, but COVID and other factors closed the store and now he teaches online via Zoom. And once he moved all his classes online and figured out to make it work, he realized it did not matter where he lived physically. And so, he moved to Florida to be near his son and daughter and teaches remotely. In this day and age, we tend to take such data-intensive two-way communication for granted. Until the day it is gone, and then you realize what a gift it was.
Such was the case with my music teacher. He had moved to Naples, Florida. And then hurricane Ian hit. He was fortunate that the storm surge stopped just shy of his front door threshold, so he was spared any inside water damage, but not so, his yard, his neighborhood, and the broadband network, he had come to rely on. As we waited for his network to be rebuilt and repaired, I came to think about other wireless communication networks, that we tend to take for granted. As you let that sentence sink in, sooner or later, your mind will come around to prayer. As Christians, it is our link, or wireless network, so to speak, that connects us to God, our Creator, our teacher, our friend. One of the first verses I ever learned was dubbed by my teacher as "God's phone number."
Jeremiah 33:2-3 This is what the Lord says ... Call to me and I will answer you ...
This verse is one of the many promises of God, that gets quoted often, as a comfort in times of need. It is a remarkable concept that boggles the mind if you think about it too hard. A God, who can create a universe, can and will communicate with his creation, even though the created now number in the billions. I, on the other hand, sometimes get confused, if I have two text streams going on at the same time. The thought of the equivalent of millions of simultaneous interactions is incomprehensible. And yet, we take it for granted. I have been a member of a number of churches in my time on this earth, and visited many more. What is common to all of them is that they and their members all prayed. And all expected answers. When I was a new Christian with an engineering background and training, I wanted to figure out the mechanism. How did it work? The calling, while varied, seemed straightforward. We present our petitions either silently, or audibly, either singly or in a group, to our God. We rely on the promise of Jeremiah or other verses, such as,
Matthew 7:7 Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.
to assure ourselves that God is listening, and will respond. Some believe that there is more power in numbers.
Matthew 18:19-20 Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.
Some only pray in well written prose, as way of showing reverence to the God of all creation. Others feel their prayers should be spontaneous, unvarnished, devoid of embellishment, so as to present the petition as humbly and authentically as possible. Most follow a format suggested by
John 14:14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
Others pray only in secret
Matthew 6:6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Still others leave it to the Spirit to pray as they ought
Romans 8:26 In the same way the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.
No matter how we pray, however, we do it because we expect an answer. We expect the communication to be two way, and however God does it, we expect Him to deliver an answer. The prophets of old heard voices, speaking actual words.
Samuel heard him calling his name in the night
I Samuel 3:8 Again the Lord called, "Samuel!"
And Moses heard God dictate the entire ten commandments in Exodus 20 which were later recorded in stone.
Exodus 24:12 The Lord said to Moses, "Come up to me on the mountain and stay here, and I will give you tablets of stone with the law and commands I have written for their instruction."
Unfortunately, I have never heard God utter a single word in English, or any other language. I have never heard my name spoken in the quiet of the night, nor in a thunderous boom as experienced by John the Baptist, as he baptized Jesus,
Matthew 3:16-17 At that moment heaven was opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased."
So, how does God communicate his answers to us - the hard of hearing, so to speak?
Are we to be like the business man, who was facing some challenges in his business and prayed to God for guidance? He prayed for guidance, closed his eyes, and while they were closed, opened his Bible and pointed. He then opened his eyes to find his finger pointing to the words, "Chapter 11."
Or perhaps, we wait for the answer to be written on the wall like Belshazzar in Daniel 5:5, or come to us in a dream like it did to Joseph in Genesis 37:5, or be struck blind in a flash of light, like Saul on the Damascus Road in Acts 9:3? Or perhaps, God will speak through another, as God did through Cornelius to Peter in Acts 10? Or are you the type to ask God to repeat His answers in wet and dry fleece, as if in some ancient two-factor authentication process, as He did for Gideon in Judges 6? Or, do you simply wait on the Spirit?
John 14:26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
It would seem that there is no one size fits all. The manner in which God will communicate with us, is as varied, as there are people and circumstances. Just as when we communicate over the Internet, however, there is the proviso that we be sure that it is God with whom we are speaking.
I John 4:1 Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
The good news, however, is that as our relationship with God matures, we will eventually come to recognize our Master's voice with assurance.
John 10:3-4 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.
Lastly, remember even the disciples had questions about praying. When they asked Jesus to teach them to pray, his answer was:
Matthew 6:9-13 This, then, is how you should pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
May your conversations with our God be a rich source of instruction, comfort, peace, love, and encouragement.
Your Brother in Christ, Warren Warren J. Ayer, Jr. Chairperson, Board of Deacons United Church of Colchester