Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Wealth Management

    One of the unfortunate characteristics of a free market economy is that fact that it can often produce vast disparities of wealth. It takes the entire workforce to create wealth, but once it is created it is usually not distributed evenly. Those at the top of the corporate ladder are often rewarded with generous compensation packages, , while the ordinary wage earner is often forced to live from paycheck to paycheck. Those who control land and capital can realize large amounts of "passive" income, which under American tax law is often taxed at a lower rate than earned income. Meanwhile those at the bottom of the economic ladder sometimes cannot find work and are forced to depend on public charity for the bare essentials. In a free market economy extremes of wealth and poverty often exist side by side.
    So what should the rich do with their money? Or, more to the point, what does God want them to do with their wealth?
    The basic moral principle is stated in Deuteronomy 15, verses 7,8 and 11: "If there is among you a poor man of your brethren, within any of the gates in your land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart from your poor brother, but you shall open your hand wide to him and willingly lend him sufficient for his need, whatever he needs . . .For the poor will never cease from the land; therefore I command you, saying, 'You shall open you hand wide to your brother, to your poor and your needy, in your land'" (NKJV).
    To understand why God puts such an emphasis on the care of the poor it is necessary to understand something of His own character. At that dramatic moment on Mt. Sinai when God revealed Himself to Moses, "the Lord passed before him and proclaimed 'The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth . . .'" (Ex. 34:6). This mercy and grace especially reveal themselves in God's care for the poor: "He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing" (Dt. 10:18).
    This is why God wants us to care for the poor – we are supposed to imitate Him. "He who oppresses the poor reproaches his maker, / But he who honors Him has mercy on the needy" (Prov. 14:31).
    The concern that God has for the poor is reflected in the social and economic legislation that He gave Israel. It contained provisions for the private relief of the poor including gleaning laws, sabbatical years, and restrictions on the transfer of property, interest, and withholding wages. It was, and remains, a remarkably humane legal code.
    In the Old Testament Job epitomized the proper attitude befitting a wealthy man. ". . . I delivered the poor who cried out, / The fatherless and the one who had no helper. / The blessing of a perishing man came upon me, / And I cause the widow's heart to sing for joy. / . . .I was eyes to the blind, and I was feet to the lame. / I was a father to the poor . . ." (Job 29:12-16).
    God gives us a stern warning of what will happen if we mistreat the poor: "If you afflict them in any way, and they cry out to Me, I will surely hear their cry; and My wrath will become hot, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless" (Ex. 22: 23,24).
    Our obligation, then, is clear and straightforward: "Learn to do good; / Seek justice, / Rebuke the oppressor; / Defend the fatherless, / Plead for the widow" (Isa. 1:17). That is what God expects from us as individuals and as a nation.
    Strictly speaking, America is not a "Christian nation," and for that reason pure socialism would never work here as an economic system. But Americans are still human beings and have consciences, and are therefore capable of recognizing and responding to human need. It behooves us as a nation to take steps to ameliorate the adverse effects of a free market. We should never adopt a policy of "laissez-faire," allowing people to starve or to go without medical care. To turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to human distress is to invite the judgment of God.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

God and Mammon

    As we have seen Jesus warned about a form of religion that was mainly external and self-serving ("Religious Hypocrisy" – 6/8/12), and we noted that in God's sight it is the underlying motive that counts. Jesus now goes on to explore our motives further. In particular He warned His audience about the danger of materialism.
    Jesus first notes the sheer folly of materialism. Treasures upon earth, He notes, are subject to destruction and decay. A much sounder investment would be to "lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven," (Matt. 6:20; NKJV), where real wealth is lasting and permanent. And then Jesus makes an interesting observation: "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (v. 21).
    Our "treasure" is what we value most, and hence our affections will always lie where that "treasure" is located. If we have worked hard to accumulate earthly goods, if we have acquired what we think are the finer things of this life, that is what is going to occupy our attention and interest. We frankly will care about little else.
    The effect on our spiritual life will be devastating. Jesus uses the illustration of the eye and the body. The eye is the organ through which we receive light. But if the eye is blind, we are in abject darkness. And so it is with the spiritual life. If our minds are preoccupied with material things we have little relish for that which is spiritual.. The spiritual realm is virtually non-existent for us. If we become so preoccupied with the temporal that we are oblivious to the eternal, "how great is that darkness!" (v. 23).
    Jesus then draws the inevitable conclusion: "No one can serve two masters; for either he will be hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon" (v. 24 – "mammon" is the Aramaic word for "riches," and the Aramaic word has been transliterated into the Greek). It is impossible to maintain a divided loyalty: one interest will inevitably outweigh the other and reign supreme. The lesser interest will eventually be sacrificed for the greater. When material considerations predominate, spiritual concerns atrophy. "You cannot serve God and mammon"!
    With the skill of an accomplished physician Jesus has diagnosed the problem with the modern American church. We live in a prosperous society, and unfortunately we have gotten caught up with the things of this world. We spend endless hours in front of the TV or computer, and our dreams rarely extend beyond next summer's vacation. Do we seriously pray? Read the Bible? An honest answer to these questions tells us the state of our relationship with God. For all practical purposes it is non-existent. We have sold our inheritance in heaven for a handful of pebbles, and brought reproach on the gospel as a result. What will we say when Jesus returns?

Friday, August 24, 2012

“Lead Us not into Temptation”

    "And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one" (Matt. 6:13: NKJV). When Jesus said these words He knew whereof He spoke. Only shortly before He Himself was faced with just such a temptation. "Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil" (4:1). The experience was very real, and is still very much a part of the Christian life.
    The problem of evil is one of the knottiest problems of Christian theology. Why would God, Who is both good and all-powerful, allow the presence of evil in His creation? The Bible never gives us a direct answer to the question. Theologians have proposed a variety of solutions, but they are only guesses. The real reason is know to God alone. It should be noted, however, that the whole scheme of redemption, which presupposes the fall, glorifies God by highlighting His love, wisdom, mercy and grace.
    Several things from this petition of the Lord's Prayer are noteworthy. First of all, it is "the evil one" who does the actual tempting. The "evil one" is a patent reference to Satan, who sits at the head of the hierarchy of evil spirits. But it is also true that it is God Who is ultimately in control. And so the desire for deliverance takes the form of a prayer request directed toward God. It is He Who controls the circumstances of our lives; it is He Who determines whether or not we will be "led in temptation," and it is He Who will "deliver us from the evil one."
    Strictly speaking a "temptation" (Greek: "peirosmos) is a test, and it can be viewed from two perspectives. From Satan's viewpoint it is an enticement to sin, an attempt to draw us away from God. But from God's perspective it is a test of the genuineness of our faith, a public demonstration of who is real and who is not. In the Book of Deuteronomy in the Old Testament. God said that He humbled the Israelites in the wilderness, and would even allow false prophets to come and try to lure them away, "for the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul" (Dt. 13:3; cf. 8:2). Having thus tested the genuineness of our faith and love, He is then free to bless us in the end (Dt. 8:16). Sometimes we are enticed by sin; sometimes we are intimidated by others or by financial pressure; sometimes we are led astray from false doctrine. ". . .now for a little why, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ . . ." (I Pet. 1:6,7).
    Whatever the ultimate reason for it, the present reality of evil is an unavoidable fact. When a person becomes a Christian he is not immediately set free from trial and difficulty. He acquires a new spiritual life, but that spiritual life is lived in tension with the surrounding world, which is still fallen and largely unredeemed. As a result there is an inevitable conflict. The Christian is fighting a war with the world, the flesh, and the devil. The byword of the Christian life is "semper vigilans," ever watchful!
    The Christian church in America has been largely free from persecution: we are blessed to live in a land whose constitution guarantees freedom of religion. But we have been overwhelmed by temptation of a different sort. The threat facing us is material prosperity coupled with personal freedom. The result has been a tragic moral collapse in too many cases. Satan has allured us with the enticing apples of consumer goods and endless entertainment. "Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8).

Monday, August 20, 2012

“Forgive Us Our Debts”

    Anyone who has recited the Lord's Prayer in a church service knows that there is some confusion over whether the Fifth Petition should read "And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors," as we have it in Matt. 6:12, or "forgive us our sins," as it is worded in Luke 11:4. Both readings, however, are correct. The reason for the difference in wording is this: Jesus was no doubt speaking in Aramaic, a Semitic language closely related to Hebrew, and the everyday speech of First Century Palestine. He evidently used the Aramaic word "khuva," which literally means a financial dept, but also came to mean metaphorically a moral debt that results from sin. Matthew, writing primarily for a Jewish audience, gives us the literal translation, while Luke, writing for a broader audience that included Gentiles, use what we would call today the "dynamic equivalent." A Gentile would not have necessarily known that when Jesus used the word "debt" He was actually referring to sins.
    The Fifth Petition bears a resemblance to the Sixth Benediction of the Jewish Tefillah, which reads, "Pardon us, our Father, for we have sinned against thee. Wipe out and remove our transgressions from before thine eyes, for great are thy mercies. Blessed art thou, O Lord, who aboundest in forgiving." What is different about the two prayers is the condition that Jesus attaches to His: "as we forgive our debtors." The Tefillah, on the other hand, at least in a later version, calls down the wrath of God upon the various opponents of the Jews: "For the renegades let there be no hope, and may the arrogant kingdom soon be rooted out in our days, and the Nazarenes and the minim perish as in a moment and be blotted out from the book of life and with the righteous may they not be inscribed . . ." (Benediction Twelve). "Nazarenes" is a reference to Christians (followers of Jesus the Nazarene).
    The statement "as we forgive our debtors" in the Lord's Prayer may seem out of place in a plea for forgiveness. If we are confessing our guilt this is not the place to be reciting our spiritual accomplishments. But Jesus goes on to explain: "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Matt. 6:14,15; NKJV).
    On a later occasion Peter approached Jesus and asked: "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" (Matt. 18:21). Jesus replied with one of His famous stories: A king wanted to settle accounts with his servants. One of the servants, however, owed him 10,000 talents, an enormous sum of money. The king ordered him to be sold, along with his wife and children and entire estate to liquidate the debt. The servant begged for mercy, and the king, out of the kindness of his heart, forgave him the debt.
    But then there is an interesting twist to the story. As it turns out there was another servant who owed the first servant 100 denarii, a much smaller amount than what the first servant had owed the king. The second servant likewise begged for mercy, but the first servant refused to listen. He had the debtor thrown in jail.
    The other servants, shocked at the first servant's behavior, reported the matter to the king. The king, in turn, was outraged, and asked the servant a pointed question: "Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?" (v. 33). The king then concluded the story by saying "So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses" (v. 35).
    Is Jesus here inculcating a kind of works-righteousness, making our eternal destiny contingent upon our own good works? Not at all. It is not a matter of our earning our salvation. It is a matter of our genuinely repenting of our sins. A plea for forgiveness out be arise from a recognition that a system of pure justice will result in the condemnation of us all. If we recognize ourselves as sinners in need of forgiveness, then we must recognize those who have sinned against us as needing forgiveness as well. It is a recognition of our common guilt and our common need of God's grace. If we see our own personal need for redemption then logically we should be able to see that same need in others as well. If I cannot sympathize with the predicament of my fellow sinners it is because I do not recognize my own predicament, and my "repentance" is insincere. My plea for forgiveness in disingenuous.
    We are sinners, and we need forgiveness. Let us be willing to forgive others as we would wish to be forgiven ourselves.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Our Daily Bread

    With the Fourth Petition of the Lord's Prayer ("Give us this day our daily bread") we pass from the great overarching concerns of the glory and honor of God to our own personal needs. While "the chief end of man is to glorify God," in the words of the old catechism, God is, nonetheless, concerned about our well-being. Thus our physical needs are a legitimate matter of prayer.
    The Fourth Petition bears a resemblance to the more elaborate Ninth Benediction of the Jewish Tefillah: "Bless this year to us for good, O Lord our God, in every kind of increase . . . Grant the dew and the rain on the face of the earth, and make full the world from the storehouse of thy goodness. Grant blessing on the works of our hands. Blessed art thou, O Lord, who blesses the years."
    The Fourth Petition of the Lord's Prayer is an acknowledgement of our dependence upon God for our daily needs. Granted, the farmer plows the field and sows the seed. He later harvests the crop and stores the grain. But the farmer knows better than most of us how dependent he is upon forces beyond his control. If the rain does not fall the crops do not grow. In the midst of a drought there is nothing the farmer can do to make it rain. If the crop withers and dies his best efforts are all for naught.
    It is ultimately God Who controls the weather. He "covers the heavens with clouds, Who prepares rain for the earth, Who makes grass to grow on the mountains" (Ps. 147:8; NKJV). God can either send or withhold rain as He sees fit.
    But at this point the skeptic is sure to object. The weather is produced by natural causes; there is no direct physical evidence that God has anything to do with it at all. What do we say to that?
    Just because it can be demonstrated that a natural phenomenon has an immediate cause does not mean that there is not also a more remote cause behind it. If I strike a chisel with a hammer and the chisel moves, the blow of the hammer is the immediate cause. But what caused the hammer to strike the chisel? Obviously, in this case, it was the human agent. The hammer, by itself, could do nothing at all. There was a chain of events, and something had to set the chain in motion. We can see the effects, but we cannot discern the remote causes. And in this instance, while the hammer was the immediate cause of the effect, it was the remote cause, the human agent, that determined the nature of the final outcome.
    A materialist could posit an infinite chain of natural causes, but that is a philosophical supposition, not something that is capable of scientific demonstration. In a Christian theistic worldview God is ultimately in control of everything, and He is the ultimate source of life and energy. " . . . for in Him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28).
    How, then, does the Christian know that God is the ultimate cause of all that happens to him? First of all, he knows it through revelation, through the clear statements of Scripture. But he also learns it through practical experience, through answered prayer. "The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, To all who call upon Him in truth. He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He will also hear their cry and save them" (Ps. 145:18,19).
    It is appropriate, then, to ask God to give us our daily bread. And it is also appropriate to thank Him when He has provided it. Let us take care to acknowledge the true source of our blessings!

Monday, August 13, 2012

“Thy Will Be Done”

    The Third Petition in the Lord's Prayer asks "Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven" (Matt. 6:10; NKJV). Here there is a contrast drawn between heaven and earth. Heaven is where God's will is always done, a perfect paradise where truth and justice always prevail. Earth, however, is another story altogether. Here we are confronted on every hand with the ill effects of man's rebellion against God – cruelty and exploitation, corruption and injustice, tyranny and war. Our desire and our prayer, therefore, is for earth to be brought into conformity with heaven.
    It is here that the contrast between Christian theism and atheism is cast in bold relief. An atheist insists that heaven does not exist, that earth is all there is. As for ourselves, we can hardly think of an idea more perverse. By eliminating the will of God atheism is, in effect, erasing all the higher human values; it is the negation of all ideals. It denies the existence of a transcendent order, of a universal, objective standard of morality, of meaning and purpose in life, of ultimate justice, and robs us of the hope of life after death. It leaves us with nothing but the toil and sorrow of everyday life, to snatch whatever fleeting pleasures blind fate may strew across our path.
    But at this point the atheist will surely object. "We can create our own values, By means of a kind of social contract we can create a society to our own liking: liberal, humane, and democratic."
    This vision of a secular utopia is certainly very appealing, but it is a mirage. First of all, in the atheistic worldview the values of human dignity, equality and democracy occupy the same place as God and religion – they are all imaginary, artificial constructs of the human mind with no basis in objective reality, mere wish fulfillment. Whatever scorn and abuse the atheist pours on religion he must also pour on liberal democracy as well: it is all alike a delusion.
    But secondly, this vision of a secular utopia fails to reckon with human nature. If we could create the kind of society we would like, what kind of society would it be? The secular liberal is quick to answer, "one that is marked by a respect for individual human rights, and by freedom and equality." But in real life it rarely works out that way. Driven by individual self-interest we push and shove our way to the front of the line, and hurt each other in the process. Crime is a daily fact of life, and whole governments have been known to have been corrupted. If there is no transcendent standard of right and wrong, no universal law that is binding, and no eternal rewards and punishments, then why should anyone not try to see what they can get away with? In the end might makes right and victory goes to the strong, who rarely use their power for the benefit of society as a whole. In the end justice is but a mirage.
    "Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven" expresses the deepest longing of the human heart. Granted, part of us rebels against the idea of divine authority: we don't want to be subject to the will of a Supreme Being. But another part of us dreads the prospect of living in a universe in which there is no final justice, where cruelty and inhumanity reign supreme, and there is no retribution for evil. In short, a world without God is a fool's paradise.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

“Thy Kingdom Come”

    As we have already seen, the message of Jesus could be summarized as "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel" ("The Message of Jesus" – 2/2/12). In some ways this message was very typical of Jewish speculation in the First Century about the end times. A variety of radical Jewish sects were looking for a final apocalyptic battle between the forces of good and evil. But most of these groups were thinking narrowly in terms of the future prospects of Israel. Jesus' message was different. While using much of the same terminology and referring back to the same Old Testament texts, Jesus' emphasis was different. He focused on the future kingdom of God, universalized the concept, and emphasized its moral aspects. We must repent in order to "inherit" or "enter into" the kingdom.
    So, then, when we pray "Thy kingdom come," what exactly do we mean? One of the best explanations we have of how the kingdom unfolds is the parable of the wheat and the tares found in Matt. 13:24-30 and explained in verses 36-43. A parable is a story that illustrates a point, and Jesus was the master story-teller of them all.
    In the parable of the wheat and the tares a landowner plants wheat in his field. Later, however, an enemy of his sows tares in the same field. (A "tare" is apparently the bearded darnel, a weed that looks at first like wheat until it grows out.) Once it became apparent that there were tares among the wheat the landowner's servants asked him if he wanted the tares pulled out of the field. He said "no," wait until the harvest. Then gather the tares first and burn them, and afterwards harvest the wheat.
    Jesus then explained the parable this way: the landowner represents Christ Himself; the field is the world, the wheat seed is "the sons of the kingdom," and the tares are "the sons of the wicked one." The harvest is "the end of the age" (synteleia aionos – the completion and consummation of the age). Jesus goes on the explain further: at the end of the age "the Son of Man" (a messianic title taken from Dan. 7:13 in the Old Testament) will send out His angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire" (vv. 41,42; NKJV). Then, He says, "the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father" (v. 43).
    It is apparent, then, that there are two different senses in which the kingdom "comes." The first is when Jesus Himself and later the church proclaimed the gospel and individual members are added to the church. The second is when Christ returns and establishes His personal, visible rule on earth. Until then the kingdom, in its spiritual form, and the world exist side by side. Thus to pray for the coming of the kingdom is to pray for the success of the gospel. But then it is also to pray for the speedy return of Christ, that glorious day when He shall descend from heaven, vanquish all His foes, and establish a reign of peace and justice on the earth.
    Thus the Christian is a conservative and a liberal at the same time. He is a conservative in the sense that he wants to preserve the Christian heritage of the Western world. But he is also a liberal, profoundly liberal, for he can never accept the status quo. He is deeply impressed by the corruption and injustice that remain in the world, and he ever presses for reform. But he does it by peaceful means – by pleading with his fellow sinners to repent and come to Christ for the forgiveness of their sins and a new heart. But the final solution to the problem of evil awaits the return of Christ.

Monday, August 6, 2012

“Hallowed Be Thy Name”

    It is significant that the Lord's Prayer begins with the honor and reputation of God Himself. God is the Creator and Sustainer of life, and all of creation exists for His honor and glory. Worship is the fitting response of the creature.
    The first petition of the Lord's Prayer bears a striking resemblance to the Third of the Eighteen Benedictions of the Jewish synagogue service: "Holy art thou, and revered is thy name. There is none other God besides thee. Blessed are thou, o Lord, the holy God." When we pray "Hallowed be Thy name," or "let Your name be sanctified," we are asking that God would be honored and venerated as God throughout all of creation.
    The petition is, in fact, an outright assault on secularism in all its forms. Refusal to worship God is the sin of base ingratitude. "But," an atheist might ask, "why should modern man acknowledge God at all?" One answer to that question was given by King David 3,000 years ago. In Psalm 8 he exclaims: "O Lord, our Lord, How excellent is Your name in all the earth, Who have set Your glory above the heavens!" (Ps. 8:1; NKJV). What prompted David to say that? "When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars which You have ordained, what is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him?" (vv. 3,4). In his earlier life as a shepherd David had had the experience of gazing up at the star-studded sky, and of being struck by the sheer immensity of the universe. This, in turn, caused him to reflect on the vast disparity between God and man. If the heavens are this spectacular, how much more so must be the Creator of it all? How could it be, then, that Almighty God could take note of us?
    What David has done here, in effect, is not so much to give us a technical scientific explanation of nature as to express an aesthetic appreciation of it. Nor is he being irrational: he is looking at something that actually exists. But he is deeply moved by what he sees.
    Has science discovered anything in the last 3,000 years that in any way invalidates David's insight? Not really. If anything the more we learn and understand about the inner workings of nature the greater our appreciation of its majesty and grandeur should be. What we know now is that the universe is far larger and more complex than anything David could possibly have imagined. The scientist, for all of his research and investigation should be the most reverent and devout of all believers.
    Ah, but the atheist will say, science has shown that there is no need for the "God hypothesis." O really? Christian theism posits the existence of a First Cause Who is eternal, self-existent and omnipotent. He created the universe ex nihilo, out of nothing. Atheists, on the other hand, have to argue that the universe somehow created itself. But if something does not yet exist, it has no power to do anything, let alone bring itself into existence. If Christian theism cannot explain the direct causal link in creation, neither can atheism. Christian theism at least posits a first cause; atheistic science has absolutely no first cause at all. And who is being irrational here?
    O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

“Our Father, Who Art in Heaven”

    The Lord's Prayer begins by addressing God as "Our Father Who art in heaven" (Matt. 6:9; NASV). What is significant about this manner of addressing God is that it contains two contrasting ideas in virtually the same breath: God is "our Father," but He is also "in heaven." The first phrase speaks of God's immanence; the second of His transcendence.
    On the one hand God is viewed as "our Father," which denotes a very personal and familial relationship. Interestingly God is very rarely addressed this way in the Old Testament (see Isa. 63:15,16; 64:8) The emphasis there tends to be on God's power and holiness, and because of man's sin there is a barrier between us and God. Yet the title "Father" does appear more frequently in the Apocrypha (written after the Old Testament proper), and it occurs twice in the Tephillah, or Eighteen Benedictions in use in the Jewish synagogue. The title, in effect, invites us to come before God with our cares and concerns. He is our Father; He cares about us and desires our well-being.
    And yet, at the same time God is also "in heaven." Solomon could ask, at the dedication of the temple in Jerusalem, "But will God indeed dwell with men on earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built!" (II Chron. 6:18; NKJV). God is God alone, eternal, self-existent, all-powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth. How could He be expected to take note of such infinitesimally small creatures such as ourselves? The thought staggers the imagination. How can it be?
    The answer, we think, is this: God is omniscient. He knows everything exhaustively, and if He knows everything exhaustively, then He knows each one of us individually. Moreover, God is a God of love; compassion is a part of His very nature, and there is something about our very frailty and weakness that draws out His love to us: "As a father pities his children, So the Lord pities those who fear Him" (Psalm 103:13).
    Here, then, is the basis for prayer. God is the all-powerful Creator, Maker of heaven and earth. To Him we owe everything and before Him we bow in reverent worship. But we are also made in His image, and He desires us to enter into a relationship with Him. It may seem strange that the infinite and eternal Creator would want to enter into a relationship with us finite, mortal human beings. Yet that is exactly what He wants us to do.
    It is our highest privilege to approach God in prayer. In fact, we are no more fully human than when we prayerfully sing a hymn of praise to Him. For then poetry and music combine with theology to lift our souls from earth and into the presence of God in heaven.