Why do we repeat Prayer?

In the aftermath of my message yesterday, let me give a more extended answer to why we at times seem to have to repeat prayer for it to be answered.

During our journey of maturing from a child of God (teknon) into sons and daughters (huios), we not only change our communication style, but our view of God.

We can see that in the Bible. Israel starts with God being one of many gods.

I can hear you say that the Bible starts very monotheistic and at most trinitarian in the creation stories. But then, I would remind you that those have been penned during or after the exile in Babylon and are not the oldest texts in the Bible.

I am more referring to the recount of the history of mankind, starting after paradise. Just think about the sons of the gods in Genesis 6. Or the battle of the gods in the ten plagues. Or Ashera, Moloch, Mammon, and all the other fellows. At best, the image of God is monistic, which means that God is at the top of a hierarchy of gods.

It takes a while for a monotheistic understanding to arise.

We see that Isaiah develops a new understanding, calling the other gods mere inventions of men when he shows us how ridiculous they are: one half of a log of wood becomes a god, while the other half is thrown into the fire to keep us warm.

But then, the Bible develops the notion of an evil counterforce of God called Satan to give evil a source apart from God. Not that this would work, as we see in the problem of theodicy, but it leaves us back to a monistic image of God at best, depending on the interpretation.

In the New Testament, we find different images for God, which, depending on the interpretation, is a trinitarian monistic God, set over many gods. Paul speaks of power and principalities, Peter of the Satan, and Jesus calls us gods, referring to Psalms, just to give a few examples.

God is truly monotheistic when we see Satan as a description of our egoistic nature, or when we adopt the model of process theology. But then, if we are God’s sons and daughters, if we are gods, as Jesus calls us, is he really the only God? Is Christianity a monotheistic religion?

But more interesting, we see different images of God in the NT. The depiction of the ancient one on the throne in Revelation that has become an inspiration for many, the Father Jesus is speaking of, or the judge who is reluctant to help the widow, among others.

Imagine being a spiritual baby. Just as our parents do, God and creation align to grant us every wish, metaphorically.

But then, God wants to nudge us onward in our development (again, I am speaking in images here) and we encounter our first prayer that is seemingly not answered.

We suddenly need an explanation.

We might search the scriptures and find the story of how we move a mountain by speaking to it. Soon, we come up with a lack of faith as the explanation for our unanswered prayer. So we keep on speaking to the mountain, attributing the failure as our own fault.

Maybe, we search the scriptures and find the story of the judge and the widow. Here, we construct an image of God whose arm needs to be twisted. If we are friendly, we say that God wants to teach us persistence.

I would say that we could also land with the image of the Father. He is in the business to mature us into a grown-up co-creator, and wants to show us who we really are.

Each of these images have been given to help us during certain stages of our development. God is not limited to any of these, nor is any of them a complete depiction of him. Potentially not even a correct one. But God gladly becomes the judge for us that needs an arm-twist if he sees that it helps us grow.

I am convinced that God becomes whatever we need each moment. He even died, both in Jesus and during modernity (according to Nietzsche) because he knew that this will help us grow and mature from our image of the old white man with a long beard sitting in heaven and learn more about ourselves, our capabilities and limitations.

God then, in postmodernity, is resurrected in a plethora of old and new images like in stones, pyramids and more in pantheism, showing that nature reveals God, just as Paul told us. Or he is found in the three faces of God, integrating the part we cannot know, the part that we can meet in the thou, and the part we are, the I am. Similarly, panentheism show us that God is all in all and then some more–probably the unknowable. Or we have new models like process theology or open theology.

All these are images that show us facets of God and that he allows us to have in all their imperfection. All of them create reactions and actions in us that, eventually, bring us closer to reality in God.

I am curious what images of God we will develop in the future under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, nudged onward by new revelation or failure of old concepts.

This is a great journey, don’t you think?