If your relationship with God feels distant and wary, perhaps it’s time to try these prayers.
I listened recently to a podcast hosted by a friend of mine. The person being interviewed discussed how recent brain studies in a field of science called “neuro-theology” chart the effect that various beliefs about God have on our brains.
Researchers have discovered that two basic images or concepts of God tend to have deep and lasting results on a person’s brain. Someone who relates to God primarily as an authoritarian, angry God tends to behave well, generally speaking (if only to avoid punishment). But they also struggle to feel close to God and relate to Him with genuine affection.
Conversely, someone who relates to God as a loving, gracious God may not be as strict in behavior but more often experiences peace and intimacy with God.
That is, of course, a woefully inadequate summary, but the conversation got me thinking. Many people’s struggles in prayer relate to a perceived distance from God or a sense of His displeasure.
Sometimes this can be traced to disobedience or incongruence in their lives, but more often (it seems to me) it is a feeling that defies their efforts to identify the cause.
When the podcast host asked his guest how a person might go about correcting a mental image of an “angry God,” the guest answered, “Prayer.”
It will take time, of course, but it is possible to develop more intimacy with God by adjusting your perception of Him through prayer. Change, according to the podcast, can be noticed in as little as six weeks.
If you tend to relate primarily to God as an angry figure, here are four bible passages and mental pictures for you to meditate on, and so help yourself to mold your mind—and very likely revolutionize your relationship with Him:
1) The Good Shepherd of Psalm 23
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
forever (Psalm 23:1-6, NIV).
2) God as a nesting bird
Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. . . .
He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart (Psalm 91:1, 4, NIV).
3) Jesus holding children in his arms
People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them (Mark 10:13-16, NIV).
4) Jesus restoring Peter
When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep” (John 21:15-17, NIV).
There are numerous ways to interact with these passages, of course, but I suggest you select one each day, read it through slowly (even aloud), and then close your eyes and picture the scene, meditating on the Divine figure at the center of each.
Do this daily for, say, six weeks, and see if your changing image of God allows you to draw closer to Him in prayer.