Messages From Rev Sheila Murray

To Whom Do We Pray?

1 February, 2012, 4:41 pm

Some people think that prayer is a waste of time while others view it as a form of positive thinking that initiates not divine but human action.  I believe that something divine is in play when we pray. Lately I have been wondering about who or what my prayers are addressed to?

C.S. Lewis over 60 years ago wrote; “when we pray we bow toward God and refer to God with familiar symbols, like father, judge, king, and so on. In so doing, we may falsely assume that our idea of God is identical to God, that the real God out there is no bigger than and no different from the idea we have ‘in here’ in our heads.”

Lewis reminds us that any language or symbol we use to describe the Divine is a human construct with limitations. The Hebrew people aware of this avoided using the word “God” choosing instead lord, king, jehovah…and the practice evolved of writing G_D as a way of conveying meaning but not limiting the definition.

Any image is limited by our understanding and experience. If one has had an abusive parent describing God as a parent may not be a helpful image or if we no longer are ruled by lords or kings do these images convey much meaning? Calling God friend works if you have good friends but if your friend has just hurt your feelings what kind of God is that?

None of this is to suggest that we abandon terms or symbols that work for us to convey something about God. It is though important to remember that God is more than we can define, as one writer put it; ‘if you can define God then God isn’t’. 

Lewis reminds us that we risk projecting our image on God which limits the scope of the Divine. There are no easy answers to this question but one thing I want to affirm is that God is beyond and above our ideas. That is not to mean that God is unapproachable but it is to remind us that God is not limited to our perspective, world view or even on our side of things. 

Hebrew scripture used words such as omnipotent, limitless, eternal… to convey something of the power and might of the Divine. To remind us that when we do pray God is beyond all limits, that all things are possible. I like the Biblical word that describes God as ‘awesome’.  Awesome enough or big enough to get the job done and to deal with even my prayers.