One of my favorite comic strips when I was a kid showed an astronaut radioing Earth, “No signs of life,” while standing in an immense footprint he’d mistaken for a crater!
Previously (God, Are You There?), I spoke about the “still small” voice (I Kings 19:12) that awakened me to God’s presence when I was in my 20s, a voice that in Hebrew (demamah) can only be known by means other than external senses (like knowing a person has entered the room without actually hearing them). I’d been standing in God’s footprint without realizing it.
Hearing God’s voice changed everything. I not only came to believe he was there, I discovered he was the love of my life. Now, if you love someone, you want–need–to connect with them. But that doesn’t make it easy. In fact, the more a relationship matters, the more difficult it can be, precisely because it matters so much.
My initial prayers were clumsy but earnest, like the words that spill forth when you first confess your love to someone. But real love outlasts infatuation, and as it grows, differences arise: that delightful dimple turns out to be acne, that charming laugh an evasive maneuver. You hurt each other’s feelings and react defensively, adding layers of hurt before you humble yourselves and remember how much more important your love is than your pride.
Spontaneous communication with God is easy. Regarding this type of prayer, the Apostle Paul says simply, “Keep it up—don’t ever stop!” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
Scheduled communication with God is harder. Our expectations are higher, so we tend to put off such meetings and to be a little uncomfortable when they do happen: “Well, here we are, Lord” (nervous chuckle). “So, I guess I’m due for a haircut” is OK for starters, but it’s time to talk about things that matter!
When I joined the comedy act Isaac Air Freight, a decision that would impact the rest of my life, I prayed, “Is this your will?” and got my answer when a complete stranger handed me a note that read, “Look! I have placed before you an open door no one can shut” (Revelation 3:8). When I asked, “Was that from you, Lord?” a song blared from my car radio, “I’m telling you over and over again so that you’ll know for sure!” (I’d never heard the song before and haven’t heard it since.)
But that kind of clarity was an exception.
I eventually grew frustrated with dryness in my spiritual life, and began driving up to California’s Mount Wilson Observatory once a month to focus exclusively on God. God honored my intentions by pouring out his Spirit. I laughed and sang joyfully to him among the pines! But after five months that still small voice whispered, “Now, go find this at the bottom of the mountain.”
I’d like to say I immediately found a way to consistently connect with God, but I didn’t. Oh, I continued to read his Word and to “pray unceasingly” (spontaneous communication). But I still faltered during planned “Us times.” Another decade passed before a different—and far more consistent—way of meeting with God was given to me.