31 Days:: God is My Audience
Day 17: God is My Audience
“He prayed to the ears of God and not to the ears of men.” That was a line I read back in September 1996 during my first reading of the book Wisdom Hunter by Randall Arthur. It was the middle of the night and I was wide awake, voraciously reading the latter half of a novel I simply couldn’t put down, despite how tired I was. It was two weeks before my 18th birthday and I was staying at my cousins’ house in Kona, Hawaii. The bedroom window was open and the smell of plumerias and fresh ocean air wafted lazily into my room. A sandy-colored gecko clung to the white wall at the foot of my bed. I had gotten to that point in any good novel where you tell yourself “I’ll just read until the end of this chapter and then I’ll go to sleep”… but when you get to the end of said chapter something happens that is so compelling that you are simply unable to put the book down until you find out what happens next… and then next, and then next…
“He prayed to the ears of God and not to the ears of men.”
That line changed my perspective. That line made me consider prayer and religion and performance and authenticity in a whole new way.
Before I read that line it had never occurred to me that there was a distinction about prayer. Prayer was just a conversation with God, regardless of what words I used or who I was with, I assumed. But the words in that book opened my eyes to my own inner motives in a way that I had previously been blind to.
I realized, after reading it, that I did sometimes pray a certain way for the sake of those within earshot. I did sometimes use my prayers as a way to passive-aggressively “preach” to those around me. And, through those simple 13 words, God revealed to me the error of my ways. He taught me that there is a time to teach or preach or instruct, and there is a time to pray. But I ought not use moments of prayer as hidden opportunities to brag or to gossip or to try to send any kind of non-confrontational, disguised message to whoever was nearby while I was praying. Praying was a sacred conversation between God and I, not an opportunity for me to slyly show off my spirituality or to put someone else down or to tell someone else what to do with his or her life.
Before I read those words it had never occurred to me that I might have a double motive when I prayed with other people.
Even still to this day, 19 years later, that line goes through my mind almost every time I pray aloud with others. It floats in, like the smell of plumerias and fresh Hawaiian ocean air, reminding me that God is my audience, not the folks within earshot. He is the One I am talking to; anyone else nearby is just an accidental eavesdropper.
So I had better be authentic— even in those moments.
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What about you?
Have you ever read a line that changed your life? Is there a particular book that resonates with you in a special way?
Please feel free to share your journey in the comment section below.