Nehemiah 9:5-37; Ephesians 3: 14 – 21.
In any human interaction, the conversational depth and intimate nuances are totally dependent on the level and quality of the existing relationship between or among participants. All of us possess undeniable red lines on a need to know basis for a number of personal or shared-information matters, whether within the purview of a work-related fraternity, or family-specific or other circles of association. Although relating with God, a spiritual Being, Who is prescient with all our private musings, is different in terms of His incorporeal disposition, His omnipresence and other Creator-traits, the dynamic in communicating remains similar, as we are indisputably spiritual beings (c.f., Ex 33:20; John 4:24; 1 Cor 2:13; Eph 5:18). And being in Christ and filled with His Holy Spirit further facilitates this divine interactive mode (John 14:23-26). How does the Bible instruct us in our communication with our Creator?
The colloquial supplications and communicative responses in Scripture exemplify the normal and appropriate form of interaction with our God. In fact, various portions of the Old Testament, especially the books of the Psalms, the Major and the Minor Prophets, and the Pentateuch illustrate how God was addressed, and the modality and tone of reciprocation by His people (e.g., Nehemiah 9 is an exemplar of one such interface). It is creditable to note that the form of Biblical language used with Yahweh is replicated throughout the numerous narratives by its varied authors, indicating a well-established frame of reference through several aeons transcending human history (e.g., the theme of the Israelites’ deliverance from Egypt found in various books: c.f., Ex 15, Neh 9, and Ps 105). It is significant that these wide-ranging conversations possess theological content that enabled us to grasp the import of Yahweh’s nature and His relational issues with recalcitrant humanity. Hence, the transformative character of our prayers with our Lord has always been on the basis of a transparent and humble heart before God and man, with an obedient bearing, and an intentional attitude totally immersing us in His Word.
Scripture forms the basis of our spiritual knowledge of the Almighty, as well as laying the foundations for our rapport with Him. The New Testament through the Lord’s Prayer and the teachings of Jesus, including the prayers of the Apostles in many of the Epistles continue to enlighten us to this poignant and incredible relationship. Paul’s prayers are not only doctrinally insightful, but he encourages cultivation of a spiritual maturity towards an appreciation of God and each other: “that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man… that you… may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God” – where in the Apostle’s days, the creation of a new community in Christ of Jews and Gentiles was imminent and critical (Eph 2:11-16; c.f., Phil 1:9-11; Col 1:9-12). Inevitably, the eschatological element in Paul’s prayers looked forward to the ultimate redemptive goal of God’s plans for His people and His creation by the summation of all things in Christ (Eph 1:10).
No doubt Scripture does provide us with the verbal expressions in our approach with God and clarify aspects of His mind and purpose in redeeming creation, there is nevertheless an aspect of our human finiteness that predictably limits us in comprehending Him. The Bible acknowledges our undeniable ignorance as we attempt to grasp the Infinite (Rom 11:33; Ps 145:3; Isa 40:28). It is presumptuous to indicate that we explicitly know the mind of God, as Job’s companions claimed, hypothesising over his dire predicament. That posture was ultimately repudiated and judged by God. At times, the Holy Spirit may even intercede for us with groanings too deep for words (Rom 8:26-27); apart from God, who knows what that ‘groan’ was all about! God’s sovereignty defines our expressive faith from attempts at ‘arm-twisting’ a decision out of Him that would fit our desires. There is much to learn in our conversations with God.