My new Project: What does it mean to Know God?

When you pray to a God who is Spirit, how can you keep your mind attentive to a being who is shapeless, odorless, colorless, and transcendentally out of reach?

If you focus on a thought, like the one above, instead of actually talking to God, then, you are thinking… but not actually praying; at least it would seem. Some would suggest that you use things in creation like trees, flowers, music, and so forth as catalysts of praise and thanksgiving. How can a tree connect you to the odorless, colorless, formless entity that you are seeking communication with? 

Can it become a idol? People are guilty of making creation or things in creation an idol, so, why suggest focusing on creation in order to worship God, if creation is the very thing that we as humans are said to disobediently replace God with?

At any rate, it is not acceptable for mature believers to have a translucent golden watery fairy dust Spirit in our minds when we address our Father in Heaven. Nor is it adequate to have a big man with a big beard. What then?

Never mind images! How can we love this God, and talk to him, relate to him as a person, as our Father, without wandering around in our thoughts, or injecting strange images that distort who he actually is. How can we attain the deepest and most profound relationship imaginable for ourselves as God’s creatures; especially when it rarely feels like a relationship at all. Our relationship to God is supposed to be the consummate relationship. In a sort, it is to be like Tolkien’s Ring of Power, the one Relationship to rule them all. 

A regularly recurring painful experience in my life is prayer. I go to Him who I feel so unfamiliar with, but, ironically, the one around whom my entire life revolves. I have given him everything, and I want to know Him. When attention turns to Him, there is a awkward unfamiliarity that stifles conversation. What do I do? Ignore the unfamiliarity and ask for stuff. Pray for the lost, and for the Mission of God’s Kingdom. Pray for my family. Or just begin to give thanks to Him for all that He has given me. The fear remains, however, that my life is certainly revolving around something else than Him, if, every time I try to talk to Him, I can’t even figure out who He really is without abandoning the whole enterprise of prayer to think theology (biblical stories, Scriptures, and so forth). Trying to hold Packer’s attributes of God in my mind, and push them into a mental square while imagining what kind of a person a God with all these attributes is like; it is just difficult to sustain. Then to begin talking to this imaginary mental projection while wondering why it feels like I’m talking to a mere imaginary mental projection engenders frustration. No wonder I like reading more than praying.

So, what is the key to relating to God in the most complete, dynamic, biblically intended way? This is not a question that I intend to answer quickly. It is not a question that I can answer right now to my own satisfaction. I’m compiling some resources: James K.A. Smith, “Desiring the Kingdom,” Diverse writings from C.S. Lewis, and most importantly, Edwards’s “the End for Which God Created the World.” I am committing myself to this project, and as time and resources allow, I hope that in answering these questions (if I do) that I will have something that will help others who have similar struggles.   

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