“Mum! Wait! Why can’t we see God?”
My daughter had started to make it a habit to try and draw me into long-winded, existential conversations as I tried to leave her bedside at night. It worked every time.
I stopped, weighed her words and considered my own, careful not to give her an exact, immovable answer.
“Well, some people think that God is so powerful and amazing that no person can look at Him, kind of like He is the brightest light you can possibly imagine. What do you think?”
She paused for a minute, her eyebrows furrowed in three year old thought.
“I think that maybe we can’t see Him because He lives inside of us.”
And there it was, the most accidentally poetic and profound thing my child has ever said, and she knew it too. It was a beautiful moment to be a part of, to see the little smile spread across her face as truth took hold and blossomed in her heart.
It was a moment that only existed because she had been willing to seek, and because I had been unafraid to let her journey to her own revelation. I wondered if, in some small way, this is what prayer felt like from God’s perspective, and I suddenly realised that it had been a long time since I had been in my daughter’s place, voicing deep and curious thoughts to my Heavenly Father. In fact, I rarely prayed at all.
What was the point?
I thought I knew once, but not anymore, not since about two years ago, when my understanding and faith in prayer was suddenly swept away by the tides of death. I believed my prayers would be answered in that time. I held onto them tight and safe in the pit of my palms, certain they would change the course of heartbreak. But, cancer won the day, leaving behind an empty space in my family where a beautiful three year old girl once stood, wild and sweet.
If God is all knowledgeable, and He can see all the intersecting parts of every situation and understand how it unfolds in past, present and future, if His will will be done and all things are a part of His plan, then why bother praying at all? Life will go on as He always intended it to, won’t it? I came to a point where I had concluded that perhaps all I can ever truly pray for is that I will be at peace with His decisions.
Only, something felt misplaced and meaningless in that sort of existence with God. It was as if I had reduced prayer to a sympathetic play-thing God had thrown me to give me some sort of distraction as the world moved around me, beyond me and without me. I was living in a spiritual state of conflict, trying to align my understanding of God’s character and His value for me, with this disconnect, this blind faith I felt I had to adopt in order to respect His will and protect my heart.
The Bible, a book in which every word is written with intentionality and purpose, is filled with events in which real, flawed, ordinary men and women question, declare, command and wrestle with the God of the universe, and are not met with silence, are not merely listened to, but hear Him respond in kind. What did God want communicated through stories like these? Stories of prayers answered, of people being the instrument of answered prayer for others, verses upon verses telling us to pray for all things, to pray for each other, that our prayers are powerful.
This continued emphasis and focus on the importance and power of prayer in scripture, doesn’t it indicate that we have a role to play within it? That we aren’t just quietly discussing, mulling over and coming to terms with His pre-ordained will and plan, but that we are impacting it, entering into it and engaging with it? That He has given us some responsibility in this world, and that we are part of His plan for Heaven and Earth to intersect?
That maybe, we usher in the new day alongside Him?
I’m starting to think, starting to understand, that prayer is less about conversation and more about connection, as if our spirits are invisibly extending into the very heart of God, and His lifeblood flows through these unseen arteries into our lives, into the lives around us, into the very Earth itself. And, I don’t think prayer is necessarily restricted to the words we utter on bended knee between “Dear God”, and “Amen”. I don’t think that the God who knows how many hairs are on each head, suddenly starts paying attention when we intentionally engage Him in conversation, or only weighs up our verbal requests when he considers the course of our lives. Instead I believe we are in constant communication with God, whether it be through spoken prayers, or in the secret murmurs and longings of our hearts, or in the actions of our day, or in our private thoughts, or in our fears and doubts, or in the joy and passion that consumes us when we are walking in our purpose and being our authentic selves.
He is connected to us, and us to Him. Always.
“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Matthew 18:20 NIV
This connection, holy and powerful and intimate, I think it exists between people too. When we come together, when we are aligned with God’s will, when we join in fellowship and worship and prayer, something happens beyond our understanding and beyond our vision. Like the holy spirit dwelling within each of us reaches out and joins together, encircling and uplifting us. Like we become one body, one mind, one heart. One voice singing praises to the Lord, stronger and louder and more powerful than if we sang alone.
One prayer; our brokenness, our restoration, our longings, all the things that make us who we are, colliding with His will, and His love for us.
Connecting us to each other, connecting us to God, connecting Heaven to Earth.
We are more than witnesses in the unveiling of God’s plan. We are not pawns in the grand scheme of the world. We are not just being listened to and disregarded as we pour out the yearnings of our soul in prayer. We are the body of Christ and what makes each of us unique, what we think and do and pray for, deeply matters. We are impacting and changing the world in partnership with it’s Creator. And, though we can never command the will of God and will always need to exercise trust in the mystery and wonder of His ways, let’s do away with the notion of blind faith. Let us seek Him, draw Him into deep and curious conversation as the night draws near, and know He will always be unafraid to let us journey towards our own revelations.
“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” 1 Corinthians 13:12 NIV
Perhaps it’s in the act prayer, in acknowledging who we truly are within this connection both worldly and divine, that we can start to remove the grimy glass and see God with clarity. Paul didn’t describe His search to better understand God, by looking to the skies to see Him. He didn’t talk about his vision being burdened by dark clouds as he strained to see a clearer image of Him in the heavens afar.
He used the word mirror.
Who is to say that Paul wasn’t actually looking at his own reflection as He was searching for God?
Maybe the closest way we can grasp the full image and wonder of God in this life, the best way we can glimpse that brilliant, blinding light, is by looking within His most valued and beloved creation, with which He is most deeply connected.
“I think that maybe we can’t see Him because He lives inside of us.”
- Amelia Isaac