How do you think of God? Is God, to you, a remote Being who is available to you when you think you need Him? Is He just a sort of institution or tradition in your home, a faraway Someone about whom you read and to whom you pray? If this is true of you and I, we’d better shake ourselves out of our apathy and become aware of this reality: God is our creator (He made us), our Sustainer (whether we live or die is up to Him; He also preserves us spiritually), our Father (He rules us and demands of us obedience) and our Friend.
The relationship of friendship is a very special one. Those who are friends have an intimate knowledge of each other. They know the innermost feelings of the other, they know the other’s personality, his likes and dislikes, almost everything about him. So it is with God and us. Although we do not know God perfectly, as He knows us, we do have or can have a complete knowledge of Him through a study of His Word. As it is with any other friendship, this knowledge is necessary for a sincere and truly God-glorifying relationship. This is why a personal study of God’s Word is so important. It is true that the preaching is the chief means of grace and thus is the chief means whereby we know God, but we cannot just sit back and expect the Holy Spirit to work in our hearts and make us spiritually strong, without ourselves taking interest in learning of God. Take time to read and study God’s Word, even if it is only a verse or two a night. Your own spiritual sensitivity will be greatly increased and you will grow in the knowledge and love of God.
Another aspect of friendship is communication. Friends are people who confide in each other. They share with each other their deepest thoughts, their hopes, their fears, their aims, their hearts. So we do with God. In fact, talking with God about our problems, our joys, our deep spiritual desires should be as natural as talking to our friends. And because God is everywhere- present, we don’t have to wait until mealtime or until we’re all alone to commune with God. We can talk to God at any time and in any place. For example, a time for communion and talking with God can be as you drive down the road on your way to work or to school. Some would not call this prayer, but no matter what you call it, it is communion with God and God does hear it as long as it is sincere. These things are necessary for true and sincere prayer or communion with God (Heidelberg Catechism, Question and Answer 117): That our prayer is from the heart and to the one true God; that in our prayer we know our need and misery so that we experience a knowledge of God’s divine majesty and our own nothingness; that we pray in the knowledge that God hears us on Christ’s merits even though we are not worthy in ourselves. We can see, then, that talking with God, although He is a friend, is not like talking to another of our friends. It demands a very deep respect and humble adoration, something far greater than that which we would even give a human dignitary.
There is one more thing we must say about our communion with God. With our earthly friends, communication always goes both ways. They confide in us and we confide in them. In a sense this is true of our relationship with God, too. The difference is that God’s communication with us isn’t for the purpose of sharing with us His problems. Rather it is for the purpose of teaching us of Himself, showing to us what His will is concerning us, how we must conduct ourselves in our daily lives, etc. From this we can see that our prayer is not necessary for God’s sake, so He will be able to make wise decisions where we are concerned; but rather, prayer is necessary for our sakes, so that we may convey to God our sincere sorrow for sin and our deep thankfulness for deliverance from that sin, and also (Heidelberg Catechism, Question and Answer 116) “because God will give His grace and Holy Spirit to those only, who with sincere desires continually ask them of Him, and are thankful for them.” Again we see that we may not just sit back and wait for God to miraculously give us grace. God works through earthly means. He gives us spiritual growth in the way of our striving for it. This is a fact which we as young people seem to ignore. We seem sometimes to think that being Protestant Reformed, attending church twice every Sunday, going to catechism and praying around the table with our families constitutes a satisfactory amount of “religion” in our lives. How vain and empty can we get?! This kind of an attitude is the result of a selfish and wrong perspective on life – an idea that all things do or should revolve around us. Instead, our perspective should be God centered. We should look at life in this way: God is infinite. He always has existed and always will exist. In contrast, we are finite, in fact so finite that the whole of human existence can be represented on an unending “time line” of God’s existence as the very tiniest dot. Then we, among the huge number of all individuals that ever did or will exist, aren’t even worth thinking about. If we think of life from this viewpoint, it will be obvious and real to us that God doesn’t exist for our sakes – to make our lives easier, but we were created for God’s sake – to glorify Him. In light of this perspective, we certainly won’t be selfish and self-centered, doing things because we like to or because it’s so much fun. Instead we will have God as the center of our lives and the criterion by which we will judge our actions and activities will be God’s Word and His commands and His will.
In conclusion, let’s remember that prayer is a privilege – a privilege given only to Israel. Anyone can utter a pretense of prayer, but only God’s people can truly pray and only they are heard by God. So let us as young people learn to make personal use of this most rewarding privilege and thus grow in the knowledge and love of God.