THERE’S AN OLD JOKE that says when we tell people we talk to God, they think we’re pious; when we tell them God talks back, they think we’re crazy. Indeed, if we’re not used to thinking about prayer as a conversation, it can seem scary or even impious to dare think we’ve heard Jesus’ voice, much less dare to write down what we think we’ve heard. But, as the Bible tells us, conversing with God has been part of the human experience from the very beginning. In Genesis, the first words uttered to the human creature were the words of our Maker. And after naming the animals, the first words addressed by the human to anyone were addressed to God. Perhaps that first conversation didn’t end on the best terms, but later conversations with God weren’t always full of easy cordiality either. God’s particular people, Israel, receive their name from a man (originally named Jacob) who contends and wrestles with God. Moses, the great liberator of the people of God, converses with God and, at times, pleads with God on behalf of the Israelites. The Psalms attributed to David, the great king, which give voice to the full range of human emotion, are all addressed to God.
By the time Jesus arrives on the scene, his invitation to conversation is not exactly a radical innovation but a continuation of the traditions of God’s people. The church, in different ways and in different eras, has adopted structures for facilitating this conversation and drawing us back to it. Almost five hundred years ago, Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, recommended regular, honest conversation with God — a practice named colloquy — at the conclusion of a time of meditation on scripture. These days, Christians from many traditions engage in “listening prayer,” “conversational prayer,” or “dialogical prayer.” As they do so, they are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. The experiment we’re about to undertake aims at this ancient mystery. If we do sense a voice speaking back to us, addressing us in these questions, we’ve found more than a new personal spiritual practice; we’ve stumbled into the way of life of the people of God from around the world and across millennia.
– Matthew Croasmun
Let Me Ask You a Question
From pages 9–10 of Let Me Ask You a Question: Conversations with Jesus by Matthew Croasmun. Copyright © 2018 by Matthew Croasmun. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Upper Room Books. http://bookstore.upperroom.org/ Learn more about or purchase this book.
Do you agree that prayer is a conversation with God? How does God speak to you? Share your thoughts.
He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
Mark 5:34, NRSV
This Week: pray a prayer of praise every day this week. Submit your prayer to The Upper Room Living Prayer Center or share it in the comment section.
Did You Know?
In need of prayer? The Upper Room Living Prayer Center is a 7-day-a-week intercessory prayer ministry staffed by trained volunteers. Call 1-800-251-2468 or visit The Living Prayer Center website.
This week we remember: Irenaeus (June 28).
(Courtesy of Vanderbilt Divinity Library)
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