Knowing God (and not just about Him!)
‘Eternal life is this: to know you, the only true God, Jesus Christ whom you have sent’ (John 17:3). (Taken from Gospel of 7th Sunday of Easter)
Whenever most of I am are asked the question, ‘Do you know God?’, my mind tend to suddenly explode into a whole range of complex, and even complicated and calculated thought process. Various forms of the questions subconsciously manifest in my mind, ranging from “This is a rhetorical question, right? (*cue hopeful sigh)” to “What does she really mean(the exact kind of ‘know’)?”, to ‘What kind of answer is he looking for, would a simple yes or no suffice? Or does he expects a long drawn-out philosophical-theological debate?’(especially if the other party is a fellow Jesuit). There exists a frantic scramble to reply with the ‘çorrect’ answer.
On days when I am feeling indignant, I will simply roll my eyes and think, ‘Here it goes again...’ I had used to do this many times as a teenager whenever older adults were asking me this.
However, as I grew up into a young adult (and joining the Jesuits in the process), I realised that this was not just a question used to guilt-trip my unprayerful self (I am more than aware of this). I began to see this as an invitation for me to really spend some quiet time with God. It is truly a very important reminder for me to always seek time to pray, away from all my activities, distractions, work and play.
To know God is part of the process of salvation. It is part of recognising and living in God’s plan for our salvation. Jesus obviously did not just want people to undergo a one time baptism or say a one-off proclamation accepting Him as Lord and Saviour…, without doing anything else faith-wise in our christian lives. Note the word ‘one’ here. To know God means to take time for prayer to grow closer in intimacy in our walk with God.
What then, would this prayer life lead to? Many of us may see it as pretty much pointless especially when we do not see much significant and tangible benefits (owing much to our cost-benefit analysis-esque minds). Some may even see it as wasting time. Problems don’t seem to be solved immediately. The work load remains heavy. Bills do not magically become lower. School results do not improve. The kids still do not want to go to church.
Prayer leads to closer intimacy with Christ, which in turn leads to joy. Incidentally, one of the main themes of the Easter season (which at this point of writing, we still are) is that of joy. This joy here is not the same as the excitement when one sits on an exhilarating roller-coaster ride or when one strikes the lottery. Rather, this joy is a deep sense of peace of entrusting everything, especially all our worries, problems and anxieties to God. We trust that God knows everything and it is up to His will and His time for these problems to be solved (or whether they will even be solved). We surrender our liberty, memory, understanding and will to God and learn to depend on Him and not on our abilities and intelligence. When we do so, we are in fact recognising that Jesus is truly our Lord and that we depend on Him for everything and that everything is in His hands, not ours. Our inadequacies thus begins an opportunity to depend, lean and trust in God.
Thus, prayer is truly the best way of knowing God. We can learn about who God is from many books and commentary (like this one which you are reading) but not know God in its purest and deepest sense. Hence, prayer is not a one-time event when we get to ostensibly say, ‘I know God, full stop.’ Prayer is part of a series of knowing God in our lives. Only by knowing God through prayer, can we then claim to be living our eternal life in the salvific process.