I wonder when you last prayed? Was it this morning, that the alarm clock wouldn’t go off, or when you realised you hadn’t done the right homework and would be in even more trouble? Was it a few days ago when you nearly got hit by a car crossing the road in the split-second of blind panic you shoot a prayer like an arrow ‘just in case’ there’s a power up there listening. I take a lot of funerals as part of my job, and most of the people in those families are not church-goers or religious but they believe in God when someone dies. They pray then.
A couple of weeks ago the Bolton footballer Fabrice Muamba had a heart attack on the pitch, and the response from his team mates and thousands of supporters was what…? To simply wish him well. To write a card? To send him good vibes? To read his star sign to see if it mentions recovering from a heart attack? To tell his family all the bad things religion has done? Or… was it to pray?
His whole team came out in t-shirts saying ‘pray for Muamba’. Which is fantastic and demonstrates that the doo doo hits the fan we know – we know! – there is something out there, someone out there, someone who might just be able to help. It’s an instinct we have, it’s a connection we have with out creator that even if we have forgotten about, our souls haven’t.
So when we pray, who do we pray to? A nameless face, a ball of gas, a statue, an idea? Maybe we are praying to a mystery, maybe we are praying to whoever you want God to be?
I think not.
I believe that I know who the God is that we pray to. I believe that God isn’t nameless and faceless, that God doesn’t hide away behind the clouds. That God in’t just for certain people at a certain time. And that God isn’t reserved for those who ‘feel’ the spiritual or like to have a fuzzy feeling and say [Darth Vader voice] *The force is strong with you..*.
And I believe God is here.
My faith is rooted in actual historical events. I believe that the God we pray to in emergencies is revealed to us through Jesus, who is present here by his Holy Spirit. I believe that the man Jesus was actually God, that he actually gave us a face and a name. I believe that God so loved the world – that is, you and me and this earth – that he came to earth as one of us to show us, to be present with us. I believe that he so wants to be in relationship with us that instead of staying far way and hoping one day we’ll discover him for ourselves he came looking for us.
You see, there is this dividing wall between us and God, it’s what prevents us from being in a relationship with him. God is a God of love and goodness and compassion and every time we don’t live like that, like he does, and all the time we don’t recognise him as God, it’s like a new brick in the wall. Jesus came to break down that dividing wall between us and God. And not just to break it down, but at the same time to transform us so that we might be able to approach God and be in relationship with him.
Because all that bad stuff we do when we don’t live lives of love and goodness and worship sticks to us like charcoal, makes us dirty. And God is clean, like Morgan Freeman in a white suit in Bruce Almighty. So he makes us clean. When we trust in him, when we follow him, Jesus makes us clean. When he embraces us. We don’t have to be clean before God will embrace us. That is so important. Morgan Freeman’s suit takes on our dirt. We don’t have to be good, fine, sorted, religious to be embraced by God. In fact, it’s because I’m not good, sorted and religious I know I need Jesus.
That is what happened that first Easter. Jesus took all the bad stuff – we call it sin – on himself, so that we might be holy and be in relationship with God. Paid the price to free the slave. That’s me. You.
This is the God I believe in. A God who came to be with us, who searched us out; a God who answers prayer, who isn’t a nameless and faceless force; a God who is Jesus, who came to break down the wall that divides us and God so that we might live as we were meant to live, in relationship with God who made us and loves us. A God who is personal. A God who shows us love. Love that is real and true and deep, not a love that goes up and down on a tide of emotion like a teenage crush or tugs at the heart strings like the backstories on X Factor. Love, unconditional and unfailing love.
That is the God I believe in. This is the God to whom we pray. He’s called Jesus, and he is here right now by his Holy Spirit. Do you want to know him?