The home Bible study I am a part of will be looking at Paul's prayer for the Ephesians next week. While thinking about this passage I was struck with the different kinds of communications we humans employ among ourselves and how that might apply to prayer. Prayer is, after all, communication with God and it seems like we do not always communicate with him in the same fashion.
Many people make use of Instant Messaging, or Text Messages, to talk with other people, and some make extensive use of this communications mechanism. I send text messages out periodically, although generally only to those with whom I have an existing relationship. For me, text messaging is mostly used to convey a quick bit of information or ask a simple question and is very informal.
When I first thought about text messaging in relation to prayer it seemed somewhat inappropriate. But then I realized that a lot of my prayer life is pretty quick and informal. Is not a quick blessing for a meal, a thanks for a beautiful sunset or a quick prayer for direction similar to text messaging? It's generally informal, quickly dealing with a single topic, and to one I have an established relationship with. Could it not be that firing off quick text messages to God is actually a quite appropriate for us?
I like to use email quite a bit. Email tends toward being a bit more formal than a text message, at least including some addressee and sender names, and with spelling and grammar being important, at least for me. It also tends toward being more detailed that a text message, and can frequently cover a variety of topics or issues. Another thing about email is that a response is generally not expected immediately; it may take time to get an answer from the one you are sending the email to.
I think that much of my prayer life could be described this way. I am not very big on form, but I do have a tendency to close my eyes and frequently bow my head when I am going to spend more than just a moment in prayer. While I am not very long winded in prayer, I do find that my prayers generally cover a number of topics and I try to think through what I am saying. And in general I do not really expect an immediate answer but am content to wait for God to respond in his time. This email type of prayer is probably the most common for me with a smattering of text messages thrown in as the occasion arises.
There is a third type of communication that I like and that is face to face (telephones are evil). This communication has the potential to be much more personal and has the added benefit of allowing the participants to observe all of the non-verbal cues that are missing in a text message or email. That face to face communication does not always require words either. Just walking hand in hand with one you love is a pretty powerful communication that can occur entirely without words.
This is the prayer I yearn to have with God. That intimate personal time of coming into his presence and just being with him. Luke recounts a story that illustrates this for me. Jesus comes to visit in the home of Martha and Mary. Martha gets all distracted trying to play hostess while Mary sits at his feet and listens. I like this story because, like Martha, I am so easily distracted by all that is going on around me or in my thoughts. Coming before God with a quiet and still spirit is hard, and takes a significant investment of time and, oftentimes, relocation to a place without the distractions. But the return on this investment is greater than anything that might come from investing the time elsewhere. Just coming into his presence and sitting before him, like Mary did, is the best thing I can do.
Send off frequent emails and text messages to God, that's a good thing. But be sure that you also take the time to cultivate a relationship with him by spending time at his feet, that's an essential thing if you want to grow close to him.