Communicating You (Part Four)
In the seemingly programmatic summer of 2005, Hurricane Katrina forever changed the lives of Gulf Coast Americans. To this day survivors and revivers maintain tireless efforts to rebuild and recover dozens of cities. Prolonged effort is necessary because the disaster was not limited to the ephemeral Bahaman-born winds of the Category 3 hurricane. Nearly two thousand fatalities, crushed homes, displaced cars, and water-damaged apartment complexes and office buildings encapsulate the toll of “the storm”.
Problems are not eliminated when the principal adversary is detected or dissipated. Similarly, the hurricane of false image creation has been allowed, even welcomed, to increasingly devastate the intrinsic human terrain of the Imago Dei. In such antagonistic activity humanity is not left unscarred and unthreatened by further decline. Often ramifications do not immediately blossom. Rather they remain silent missiles on a trajectory that will eventually reek their destruction. I submit that the decay of communication is the silent missile that has been launched by the creation of false image—not simply a possibility, but an unavoidable outcome without recourse.
Communication’s degeneration has been on course for quite sometime. Caught up in the momentum of modern connectivity we have deviated from the fundamental components of real communication. In order to achieve real “communication between human beings you need not only a tone of voice but also body language, facial language, and the thousand small ways in which, without realizing it, we relate to one another.”
In short, strongest and truest communication is done in real space and time. Thus, the further removed from the elements of authentic, ideal discourse, the more decay has rotted our ability to talk with other human beings. For example, writing a letter is stronger than sending a telegram; calling on the phone than writing an letter; talking in person than calling on the phone. At the top of the ladder is a true connection manifesting in face-to-face interaction and at the bottom is information exchange exercised in the pervasive forms of cyber correspondence. If simple words are ornamentally exchanged, then acquired information is the height of communication. The Pharisees exhibited this principle well.
Praying on the street corners and the synagogues of Israel, hypocrites stood to be seen and heard. Jesus said they thought they would gain respect from the crowd by displaying their religiosity in public and catch the Father’s ear by offering many words in prayer (Mat 6:5-8). They desired to cast an image of themselves into popular opinion to receive praise from people. From that desire, their ability to communicate truly with the Father had begun to decay and even deteriorate. The inclination to create a false self-image led to the inevitable decay of communication. Consequently, they were unable to appropriately connect with God in prayer and worship.
Often, prayer feels unnecessary and inconclusive, much like cheering for the red dot (as opposed to the blue or white dot) to win a race on a baseball stadium jumbo screen, prayer seems ineffectual–no matter how loud you yell, the outcome is preprogrammed. The contemporary atheist, Christopher Hitchens, explains a similar tension in his book, god is not Great. He asked the question, “why, if god (is) the creator of all things, (are) we supposed to “praise” him so incessantly for doing what (comes) to him naturally?”
Hitchens and I may join in similar questioning, but we arrive at eternally different conclusions, by starkly different means.
Praise and prayer are both forms of communicating to God. Some may even say that the practice of prayer is praise or worship, and the participation in worship is prayer. I would tend to agree, but the Scriptures do make some distinctions between the two. For instance praise is set apart in the succinct two-verse chapter of Psalm 117, as an imperative action for all people in response to God’s great love and faithfulness. In regards to prayer, Paul encourages the church in Ephesus to, pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests (Eph 6:18). Biblically, it is safe to deduce that praise and prayer are essential and distinct. But practically speaking, both seem annoyingly extraneous.
Neither praise nor prayer are essential to God’s existence or glory (Acts 17:24-25). He is complete, perfect, and holy without connecting with humans. Conversely, humans are found incomplete, sinful, and unholy without connecting with God. Thus, we do not pray to God because he is in need, but because we are in need. We do not sing to God because he is unaware of his majesty, but because we must celebrate his majesty. Likewise, we do not pray to God because he is curious, but because we come alive when we connect with the Creator. Regardless of its effect, communicating with God is not about exchanging information, but about relational connection. Therefore, we can deduce that information exchange is the adversary of authentic communication because its goal is data not connection.