Prayer and the Unknown


Prayer and the Unknown

Acts 17:22-31

Then Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, “Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us. For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said,

‘For we too are his offspring.’

Since we are God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals. While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

John 14:15-21

The Promise of the Holy Spirit

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.”

“I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”

We have covered most of the day to day types of prayers we make, from prayers for help, prayers for guidance, prayers for personal discernment, prayers of adoration and thanksgiving, and prayers of confession and comfort. That is not an exhaustive list. Indeed there is at least one more type of prayer that we pray on a regular basis that needs to be discussed: the unknown prayer.

Unknown prayer? What does that even mean?

Sometimes we have a need or something we need to communicate to God but we do not know how to say it. Maybe we struggle keeping a reverent and respectful demeanor with God and are fearful about bringing up the subject. Perhaps we really don’t even understand the situation enough ourselves to know what to ask or say. Whatever the problem, the Holy Spirit comes through for us. Paul writes:

Romans 8:26-27

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”

When we are first getting to know Jesus, there are a lot of prayers we pray like this. There is so much we do not know. As we grow older and wiser, having spent time with God, these prayers do not become less important, they become more important. The longer I follow God, the more I see how much I don’t know. Some may take this as a kind of anti-affirmation of faith… feeding the notion that there is nothing that can truly be known about God, but that completely misses the point. We can indeed know God, just as we can know one another. There are just always going to be gaps I this lifetime. There will always be room for the mystery.

It is a mystery that is meant to be embraced.

1 Corinthians 13:12

“For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.”

Where are you experiencing the mystery of God in your life?

What prayers is the Holy Spirit praying for you today?

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