Random thoughts for the Contemplative Service
This is an adaptation of an earlier post, so if you read the first one, you can just ignore this one lol)
I don't remember when I first started praying, it was definitely before I had the 'evangelical conversion experience'. I used to address my prayers to God without any real understanding of who God was. After I became a christian (walk forward at a Revival during 'Just as I Am', say a three point prayer and get a little emotional) most of my prayers were addressed to Jesus.
In my twenties I went though a very charismatic phase so most of my prayers were addressed to the Holy Spirit (or just spirit if I felt informal).
I still start my prayers different ways at different times, but I became aware a few years ago that my default setting was 'Father God'.
The words we use are important, they indicate preferences and prejudices and also set up expectations. Different organizations use different terms to mean the same thing to cast themselves in the best possible light. 'Illegal Alien' vs 'Undocumented Worker' or 'Pro-life' vs 'Pro-choice'.
Each of these terms carry subtly different shades of meaning.
When you shop at Target or go to Disney World you are not a Customer (even though you are buying a product), you are a Guest.
Some of these language issues creep into church as well. I've been in meetings where the Congregation has accidentally been referred to as the Audience. It was just a slip of the tongue, but I wonder what mindset it revealed about the role of the people in the pews. When I was young most Pastors had a 'Study' at church. Now most of the Pastors I know have an 'Office' at church and do their studying elsewhere, usually somewhere where the audience (oops I mean congregation) can't find them :D
So what has this to do with my prayers?
I believe that God displays qualities that we traditionally label as masculine and others we label as feminine. Isaiah says 'As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you and you will be comforted over Jerusalem' (Isaiah 66:13)
I have no difficulty using the phrase in a prayer 'God, as a mother you....' but when I tried to use the phrase 'Mother God' it tripped on my tongue and I felt uncomfortable. Even though I gave intellectual assent to God mothering me as well as fathering me, it still felt strange.
And so I prayed that way, out loud for one week. I prayed to Mother God, mainly in the car or in my office, and I noticed something. The content of my prayers shifted slightly. When I was a child I would ask my Mother and Father the same question but I would phrase it differently. The way I would talk about a topic with my Dad was different to Mom, and so it was with my prayers. I was still praying about the same situations and topics, but the shift in language caused a shift in emphasis and sometimes even a shift in request.
All of our ways of describing God fall short of who God is. God is beyond gender, so much more than only Father or Mother.
When I changed the metaphor that I was using for God, my way of relating to God changed.
What metaphors do you use when you pray?
What other metaphors might God be inviting you to use?