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Talking to God

Where there is love, the words flow.

THEOLOGY AUTOR 218/Jose_Hutter TRADUCTOR Jason Noble 05 DE ENERO DE 2021 10:30 h
Photo: [link]Y. Wang[/link], Unsplash CC0.

Theology often ignores prayer as a rule. It is not usually the subject of theological congresses, or even debates.

The great Protestant systematic theologies, especially from the eighteenth century, dedicate little space to it. And this unfortunately has not changed - with few exceptions - until today.

Luther talked a lot about prayer, but he never wrote a systematic theology; but his partner Melanchthon did. The result is 10 pages in a work of more than 300.

The same happens to this day in almost all publications that have as their subject a summary of Christian doctrine: many things are written about it, but there is seldom a theological reflection. Or it is simply left to devotional literature.

But there are notable exceptions. One is John Calvin's “Institution of the Christian Religion”. It is a pity that few people bother to read at least this part of his magnum opus. They would come across an extensive chapter on prayer that is so excellent, encouraging, and fundamental that it is worth publishing separately.

Theology and prayer do not seem to get along very well. And it is a shame because there is no prayer without theology and there is no theology that is worthwhile without prayer.

But why is there this strange separation between theology and prayer? And why is devotional literature not very theological? I do not know if there are good answers to these questions.

Over the years, I have read many books and articles on prayer. I have always learned something. But generally speaking, I am a bit disappointed with the “10 principles to pray better” literature. More than helping, it seems exhausting.

Let me explain. Many of these works underline the importance of talking to God and how to do it. This is the first problem. Do you have to explain why it is important to talk to God? Is it so difficult to talk to someone who is invisibly present and who we also love from the heart? Could it be that our inability or laziness when it comes to talking to God has to do with the fact that we do not love him enough to give him our attention?

No one ever had to teach me how to talk to my wife. When I fell in love with her, I wanted to talk to her whenever I had the chance and this has not changed to this day. When I am traveling, I always communicate. It does not matter where I am or what it costs.

And this is no merit to me as a husband. It is as natural as breathing. And nobody taught us to breathe either.

When by God's grace we are born again, talking to God becomes as fundamental an aspect of our new life as breathing.

[destacate]There is no prayer without theology and there is no theology that is worthwhile without prayer[/destacate]

I do not want to be overly critical of books on prayer. Most help us understand how to behave in the presence of God. In the same way, it is good to learn some rules that help us to carry on a conversation at a table. This is what we could call public or formal prayers. They undoubtedly have their place and their rules and conventions.

But what about our day-to-day conversations with God? I imagine that Paul had this in mind when he wrote to the Thessalonians that they should pray “without ceasing”.

I am talking about our lightning prayers throughout the day. In them we communicate silently but continuously with God. We thank Him for our nights rest and the joys of the day. When faced with a difficult situation, we ask, “Lord, give me patience to deal with this problem”. We thank Him for your guiding hand and for your care. If we come across a difficult person, we say, “Lord, I don’t know what to say. But I don't want to lose my temper or cause harm to the Kingdom of God if I don't behave well. Help me treat this person with respect and in a way that is appropriate”.

But this is only the beginning. We do not talk to our loved ones only about serious and important matters. We talk simply because it is fun to talk to people we care about. We even enjoy the sound of the voice of a loved and appreciated person. Song of Songs speaks of this more than once, referring with joy to “the voice of my beloved”. If we listen to the music of the voice of God in his Word, the desire to sing the same melody enters us.


Yes, it is a question of love

We all know that these short conversations of a sentence or two maintain a living and vibrant relationship. And when people do not talk, it is a broken relationship. In the same way, we can delight in the Lord as we talk to Him throughout the day. The relationship of being face to face with the Creator of the universe enables us to thank him for a new day, to thank him for the beauty of a sunrise or simply the fact that we can see, hear, move and enjoy so many things during the day.

Where there is love, the words flow.

With the people that we appreciate and that we are close to, we not only talk at lunchtime, but whenever we can and we have the opportunity.

Prayer is talking to God and is fuelled by a continuous and fluid relationship.

When there is a problem between a couple or between family members, it is difficult for us even to talk to those people who are so close to our hearts. The same thing happens when good friends disappear from our lives because they have moved to other places or we have simply lost touch with them. It is the same problem as when we encounter former classmates. After 40 years of hardly knowing anything about them, you find yourself at the same table. At the beginning it is interesting to remember the past, but from a certain moment you no longer know what to talk about. Our lives are different, our interests have developed differently. We lack common ground.

Where there are common interests, words flow effortlessly. Where there are none, the conversation lags.

But I think there is another aspect that sometimes prevents those words from flowing and that there is no conversation with God: it is resentment and lack of trust.

I realised this many years ago. In 1980 I spent a summer in the US and visited various seminaries. At one of those seminaries, a professor told me how important it is for me to study a certain theology textbook. “It is the best you can find”, he told me. But there is a sad detail. I know the author. And I know that for quite some time he has stopped praying. He does not forgive God for the loss of his child”.

Those words chilled me and scare me to this day. Can you write evangelical systematic theologies without praying? Apparently you can. And the aforementioned work continues as a reference book in its area. The author is no longer alive and I hope he was able to regain his relationship with God before God spoke to him.

Sometimes it is much better to yell at God, get angry with Him, ask Him questions, and tell Him about our disappointments and frustrations before we stop talking to Him.

Where there is love and there is no resentment, the words flow. This is also true in our relationship with God.




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