Many compare prayer to the conversations that loving family members and friends have with each other. In a conversation with you, I attend to your words, gestures, tone of voice, and facial expressions in an attempt to take in all that you are saying and not saying and, indeed, all that you are in these moments we share together. I, for my part, also use words to lay out before you, in honesty and love, all that I am. Even if it lasts only a short time, a good, soulful conversation is like a long, graceful, slow dance between two partners who care deeply about each other. And so it goes with one’s daily conversations with God.
These are some of the ways I talk with God. I pray the Old Testament psalms, sometimes deliberately looking for one that matches my current mood or situation. I ask God to tell me something I need to know, then I open the Bible at random and look for a passage that catches my attention, and I talk with God about it. Or on the spur of the moment I invent a new form of prayer. One day on a long drive home I had fun listening to golden oldies on the car radio. As each new song was introduced, I’d say, “OK, God, is this one I’m singing for you or one you’re singing for me?” I’d listen to the words and decide it was God singing if the lyrics spoke of eternal, unfailing love, or that it was I singing if the lyrics spoke of regrets or failings in love.
In conversations with God, a genuine exchange always occurs. Recently I sat in silence with God, feeling deep pain over a friend of six years who had written me a note saying we were not to see each other anymore. She offered no explanation, and I could think of nothing I had done wrong. Yet somehow when I wasn’t looking, my company had become unbearable to her. I thought of other times when a sudden reversal in a relationship had happened to me, and I resurrected bits of advice I had received at those times. Then God put into my mind the story of the Prodigal Son, and I understood that my friend’s mysterious behavior was no less mysterious to me than the son’s behavior was to the father in that story. Yet all the father did was simply give his son the money he asked for and say goodbye. The father did not curse or disown the son in a fiery display of temper, and that was how the son later knew, once his change of heart came, that he could always go home again. As I thought of that, I pictured myself silently watching my friend retreat into the distance; after she was gone, I turned around and went back inside my house—but left the door slightly ajar, just in case.
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