The Invisibility of God and our Prayers
A common hindrance to our prayer life is the invisibility of God. When we pray, we are speaking to a God we can't see. We converse with a God who doesn't audibly respond.
God's invisibility is one of His central attributes.
"He [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation." (Colossians 1:15)
"To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen." (I Timothy 1:17)
"No one has ever seen God;" (John 1:18a)
But God's invisibility is a problem in our prayers for a few reasons.
There's the concentration problem.
Not seeing someone with whom we are speaking, can make concentration challenging. Many Christians have commented about how easy it is for our minds to wander or to lose our train of thought in prayer, primarily because we can't see God while we are talking to Him. So much of our communication with one another is based on non-verbal communication and body language. Without those visible cues, we can find ourselves in-and-out of prayer consciousness.
There's the confirmation problem.
With no immediate, audible response, we are tempted to think we are wasting our words. There is no receipt given to our prayers. No warranties. No Apple Care. We can't track our prayer requests like an Amazon package. So, how do we know we "got through?" And, how can we be confident that our prayers were actually heard and that an answer is not just a coincidence?
There's the concrete problem.
Talking to an invisible God seems to be much less of a concrete activity than other good endeavors. It's easier to listen to a sermon, read the Bible, study the Bible, or read a book (even one about prayer!) than it is to speak to an invisible God in prayer. You could add other activities like answering emails, returning phone calls, and a host of other productive tasks that are concrete, and measurable which make you feel as if you accomplished much more than speaking to an invisible God in prayer.
Talking to an invisible God seems to be much less of a concrete activity than other good endeavors.
There's the cynical problem. The air we breathe all around us is materialism with sayings popularized like, "seeing is believing." As a culture, we have grown to distrust and be skeptical of anything we can't see, observe and verify. So, our spiritual doubts are almost always tied to God's invisibility. We say "I'm praying for you" as an expression of care and concern, but inwardly we are often cynical about the effectiveness of such prayers because of God's invisibility.
So what do we do? Do we just continue to have an impoverished prayer life?
Some people have responded to the invisibility of God wrongly by creating "aids" to worship and thus violating the second commandment that forbids creating "graven images." Maybe we don't make trinkets and metal idols, but do we find ourselves more interested in watching The Chosen than in reading the gospels? Or are we ever reading books about the Bible while rarely reading the actual Bible?
Others stay away from personal prayer and collective prayer meetings like the plague. It's interesting to see how you can typically get a crowd of your church members to attend a Bible study, or to serve on a service day, but if you announce a "prayer meeting" you will typically have very few attend.
We must persevere in knowing...
One day we will see God face-to-face. "For now we see in a mirror dimily, but then face to face." (I Corinthians 13:12). We are not sure what all that includes. John was a bit befuddled: "Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we will see him as he is." (I John 3:2) The truth that God will not always be invisible should encourage us to keep purusing God even in His invisibility. One day we will see God, face-to-face.
There's a blessing for those who believe without seeing. The apostle Thomas is better known as "douting Thomas." He was missing when Jesus appeared to his disciples on that first Easter evening and he said that he would not believe unless he saw Jesus for himself. The next Sunday, Jesus appeared to the disciples again, and Thomas was present. Thomas believed. But, hear the words of Christ to Thomas, and to us: "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." (John 20:29). Christ promises a particular blessing to those of us who believe, but haven't yet seen.
Faith comes from hearing the Word of God: hearing is believing. How do we increase our belief in the invisible God? "So faith comes from hearing, and hearing thorugh the word of Christ." (Romans 10:17) There are no shortcuts. Only a nourishing intake of the Bible will increase our trust in the invisible God. We should pray back these promises and speak back these attributes revealed in the Bible to the Lord in our prayers. For the Christian, it is not "seeing is believing" but rather, "hearing is believing."
Love for the invisible God grows as we see Him in the Word. "Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory." (I Peter 1:8) How can we explain this love for God that we have in our soul although we have never seen Him? It's a supernatural love that the Invisible God has poured into our hearts. (Romans 5:5)
“ And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight.”