The “Where are you?” prayer.

by K.W. Leslie, 02 October

God’s always there. But when we don’t feel him, it helps to acknowledge this.

Ordinarily, God is invisible. Can’t see him.

So we compensate by trying to feel him. Sometimes by “practicing his presence,” of constantly reminding ourselves he’s here, including him in our actions, talking to him… and discovering he talks back. Other times, and less legitimately, by psyching ourselves into feeling him—and all the problems immediately caused when we confuse happy thoughts with the Holy Spirit.

But sometimes we can’t feel him. Either those feelings are drowned out by our other feelings, ’cause we’re going through a crisis, or mourning, or something else is creating a whole lot of emotional noise, making God (or “God”) harder to detect. Or we’re depressed: We feel nothing, lest of all God.

And sometimes God’s totally behind this. Because we’ve taken to trusting those feelings instead of him, and he wants us to follow him. He tolerates our immature methods of “hearing” him for only so long, and it’s time to grow up.

So the next step for us Christians is to read our bibles—and to start praying what Richard Foster, in his book on prayer, calls “Prayer of the Forsaken.” I’m not fond of that title, ’cause it makes it sound like we somehow are forsaken, and no we’re not. Instead I call it the “Where are you?” prayer. When we can’t detect God anymore, we need him to show us how to hear him. We’re kinda praying the equivalent of a lost cell phone connection: “Hello? Are you still there? I think we were cut off.”

Well, we were cut off from the warm fuzzy feelings. But relax: God figures we’re ready for next-level communication.

Authentic prayer experiences.

Sometimes God doesn’t have to turn off the warm fuzzy feelings. Because sometimes we Christians realize, on our own, we’ve been “listening to God” all wrong.

Fr’instance, new Christians tend to look for signs. “If it’s you, God, give me a sign!” and then they look for signs. Problem is, they don’t seek confirmation from God properly: They don’t ask for a specific sign which only God can fulfill. They really want a yes answer, so they’re willing to settle for anything which suggests God might’ve said yes. Any sign will do.

A bird lands on the fence outside: That’s a sign. The phone rings, and it’s a telemarketer you haven’t heard from in years: That’s a sign. You find your cheese has gone moldy, but the mold kinda looks like Elvis: That’s a sign. Yes God can and does confirm himself through signs. But when anything can be turned into a sign, it’s pure superstition. And some of these “signs” get downright ridiculous—especially when some of our requests are downright ridiculous.

Well, newbies get some maturity under our belts, and begin to realize God has nothing to do with our foolish signs. So we put aside this childish behavior and seek real God-experiences. Something where God really does communicate with us. Sometimes through bible-style signs, although most of the time we find out it’s possible to actually hear God with our spirits, so we’d kinda like to do that instead. (Although sometimes we wouldn’t mind a full-on supernatural vision… but be careful what you ask for! It’ll blow your doors off.)

But some newbies never do achieve that maturity, and never do realize God doesn’t speak to them that way… and they unknowingly look ridiculous all their lives. If you’ve been in church long enough, you’ve seen the type.

Hence the “Where are you?” prayer: We want God to talk to us. We want to know which of those things in our spirits is actually the still small voice of the Holy Spirit. We want God to turn up the volume for a bit so we can identify him. We wanna hear him.

That’s a good prayer. Pray that.

Time to lose control.

Newbies quickly discover the problem with listening to God, instead of impatiently looking around for signs, is that God

  • won’t always give us the answers we like, and
  • won’t give ’em as quickly as we want.

Because now we’re no longer dealing with an imaginary friend whom we’ve named “God.” We’re dealing with the actual person of the Holy Spirit. Who has his own agenda, his own timeframe, and his own ideas. And we have to conform to his plan, rather than imagine him accommodating our own. We have to be humble and follow him.

That’s not at all easy when newbies aren’t ready to do that.

But in our relationship with God, he calls the shots, and talks when he decides to. Part of praying “Thy will be done” includes accepting this fact.

There’s nothing wrong with objecting when it feels like God takes too long to respond. Jesus himself prayed “My God, my God, why’ve you abandoned me?” Ps 22.1 when he felt that way. Calling out to God implies we haven’t given up on him responding! People who really think God’s gone, don’t even bother.

But in my experience, God doesn’t take long to respond at all. It’s just sometimes I lack the patience to shut up and listen… or he did answer, but I don’t like his answer and am kinda hoping he’ll change his mind. He’s not gonna give me another answer though. And if I’m so delusional I think he might, I’m gonna be sitting there, waiting for a response I like better, for a mighty long time. It’s gonna feel like God’s not talking; in reality it’s me not listening.

In those cases the “Where are you?” prayer gets the answer, “Right here, waiting for you to obey me.” Ouch.

Hopefully that’s not the response from God you’re getting. Hopefully you’re at that point in your Christianity where you’re praying, listening, and reading that bible to remind yourself what God sounds like. ’Cause when he answers, that’s how he’ll sound. Brace yourself, ’cause once you hear him… he’s gonna tell you to do stuff.