What is my concept of God?
What is my concept of God? This foundational question is the first of a series of postings on prayer. For effective prayer, I need a true, spiritually healthy concept of God. My concept of God frames how I think of him, how he works, how he views the world, and how he views me. Although my concept of God interweaves with belief—the topic of the next post—it precedes belief in the true God. If I glimpse his true nature, I more easily and naturally believe, accept, and pray to him rather than a false or silly concept of God.
Why pray to a concept of God that I can’t believe in because it is just like a man, just bigger and older?
A concept of God that defines him as merely superman, superwoman, an old man in the sky, the mother of nature, or a modified Santa Claus makes prayer irrelevant. Can time and space bind the true God as the creator of time and space? He exists outside and within my dimension. What I see, touch, hear, and measure limit me to the boundaries of my dimensions. Reading Flatland by Edwin Abbott helps me see the difficulties involved when a three dimensional being attempts to communicate with a two dimensional man. The two dimensional man cannot go beyond his dimensional boundaries as I cannot go beyond my four dimensions.
Stephen Hawking, in discussing the problems of string theories in A Brief History of Time, says that string theories seem to be only consistent if space-time has either ten or twenty-six dimensions, instead of the usual four. He then goes on to link this to discussions of science fiction not stopping to elaborate. To be fair, I’ve only referenced a small part of the chapter titled the Unification of Physics. My point is that if there is a creator, and he claims to be the creator of the dimensions, he must be outside of the ones we know.
1 John 1:5 describes Him as light without shadows or darkness of any degree, no darkness, pure light. 1 John 4:8-16, describes Him as love. As love describes actions, love emanates from Him as the source. He, the source of all love, loves me. In John 4:24, I know he is spirit. From Psalm 99:9 and 30+ other passages, I know him to be holy, in fact perfectly holy, the standard for holiness. From 1 John 4:12, I know that he is unseen, although for a short time he was born into the world as a man and walked among us. So God is light, spirit, love, perfectly holy and unseen.
Why pray to a concept of God that is mechanistic and distant?
Some people believe in a mechanistic, distant force. It is hard to pray to something that is far away. But God is not distant. I know from Acts 17:27-28 and 1 John 3:24 that he is very near, very close, and very intimate. So God is very near.
Why pray to a concept of God that doesn’t care about people?
John 3:16 should set make it very clear that he cares a great deal for people.
Why pray to a concept of God that doesn’t care about me?
If my concept of God is clouded by this lie, the best way to get to know God and have a healthy concept of him is talk and walk with him through the book of John. As I read and pray and ask him to show himself to me, so that my concept becomes more like his reality, I will experience that God does care about me personally.
God will also accept me when I have come to the point that I have tried everything else but him and avoided relationship with him perhaps all my life. C.S. Lewis best describes this in the Problem of Pain:
“I call this a Divine humility because it is a poor thing to strike our colours to God when the ship is going down under us; a poor thing to come to Him as a last resort, to offer up ‘our own’ when it is no longer worth keeping. If God were proud He would hardly have us on such terms: but He is not proud, He stoops to conquer, He will have us even though we have shown that we prefer everything else to Him, and come to Him because there is ‘nothing better’ now to be had.”
Concept of God Always Limited
Unfortunately I am stuck with a limited concept even when I know some true things about God. I can never fully understand him as the two dimensional cannot understand the three dimensional in Flatland. My concept of God must be balanced with mystery so that I accept this limitation. The wonderful thing though, is that I can have a relationship with God, and he wants to be in relationship with me. I am not bound by the limitations of my concept of God. If I meditate on the truths that I know about him when I pray, accept his mystery, accept his love, and love him with all my heart, mind, and spirit, then I have the healthiest concept of God possible in which I can frame my prayers.
So, God is light, spirit, love, unseen, unlimited by time and space, cares about all people, cares about me, and wants to be in relationship with me. Now that is a God I can pray to because that is a God that is able to hear and answer prayers. God cares about me. He wants to be in relationship with me. Prayer is one of the ways that I communicate my love to him and learn that as in Hebrews 11:6, ‘he rewards those who earnestly seek him.’
A Concept of God for Believers
The healthiest concept of God a description that precedes getting to know Him as Jesus for believers can be found in Psalm 103.
Psalm 103:1-9 KJV – 1 Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. 2 Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: 3 Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; 4 Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies; 5 Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s. 6 The LORD executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed. 7 He made known his ways unto Moses, his acts unto the children of Israel. 8 The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. 9 He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever.
What Do I Deserve?
Psalm 103:10-13 KJV – 10 He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. 11 For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. 12 As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us. 13 Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him.
Psalm 103:14-22 KJV – 14 For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust. 15 As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth. 16 For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more. 17 But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children’s children; 18 To such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them.
19 The LORD hath prepared his throne in the heavens; and his kingdom ruleth over all. 20 Bless the LORD, ye his angels, that excel in strength, that do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word. 21 Bless ye the LORD, all ye his hosts; ye ministers of his, that do his pleasure. 22 Bless the LORD, all his works in all places of his dominion: bless the LORD, O my soul.
Ultimate Concept Found in Christ
Reading the Gospel of John about three times and asking God to reveal himself to me in his word and remove any false concepts about him is a good starting point to correct any deeply held error in how I look at Him. “Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us. 9 Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?” John 14:8-9 So if I see Jesus, I see the Father.
Finally, an ongoing daily intimacy will make the passage below come alive.
Hebrews 1:3 ESV – 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,
No Fixed or Static Concept
As I grow in prayer and faith my concept of God moves to a state of wonder. Anytime I think I’ve arrived, I should take warning. Pope Gregory I (pope 590-604) said, “We make idols of our concepts, but Wisdom is born of wonder.” A absence of wonder serves as sign post to return to my knees. When I read the Psalms, I find a great deal of wonder in these prayers.
Another aid for fine tuning my concept of God is the book: The Religion of the Apostles, by Stephen De Young. Also another aid is reading the complete Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. The final book gives one of the best descriptions of heaven I’ve read, but it is incomprehensible without reading all the preceding books. The series is a quick read. Though considered a “children’s book,” it is theologically rich. A willingness to read it as an adult will indicate a level of humility which indicates a successful journey. Obtain the whole set or read them in order from your local library.
Additional Postings on Prayer