They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
– Luke 24:32
“To be articulate at certain times we are compelled to fall back upon ‘Oh!’ or ‘O!’ – a primitive exclamatory sound that is hardly a word at all and that scarcely admits of a definition…
“In theology there is no ‘Oh!’ and this is a significant if not an ominous thing. Theology seeks to reduce what may be known of God to intellectual terms, as long as the intellect can comprehend, it can find words to express itself. What God appears before the mind, awesome, vast and incomprehensible, then the mind sinks into silence and the heart cries out “O Lord God!” There is the difference in theological knowledge and spiritual experience, the difference between knowing God by hearsay and knowing Him by acquaintance. And the difference is not verbal merely; it is real and serious and vital.
“We Christians should watch lest we lose the ‘Oh!’ from our hearts… When we become too glib in prayer we are most surely talking to ourselves. When the calm listing of requests and the courteous giving of proper thanks take the place of burdened prayer that finds utterance difficult we should beware the next step, for our direction is surely down, whether we know it or not.
– Rev. A. W. Tozer, Born after Midnight
I see Tozer’s “Oh!” and it brings up a personal lament. “Oh, my God, when did ‘Oh My God’ and ‘OMG’ become a curse?” You even hear it in church. I am sorry, but hearing it makes me cringe. It isn’t the trivialization of any phrase containing the word ‘God’ that bothers me as much as it takes away a perfectly legitimate expression when we are in the presence of Almighty God. It can be said reverently, with great meaning, but anyone within hearing, will think that the ‘Christian’ is cursing too.
What is Tozer really saying here? I love his comparison of theology and reality. It gives some understanding of those who have studied theology and then publish works that betray their lack of knowledge on their own topic. Theology may explain the intellectual side, but to be a true Christian, the real LIFE is on the spiritual side, and a lot of it defies explanation. Without the heart knowledge, the head knowledge does us no good. I praise the theologians who have both.
The secondary focus of the Tozer quote is about prayer. He gives a warning about being glib. I had one of those moments last month, but God listens, even if you are, as Tozer says, talking to yourself. I confess my transgression:
I take the Great Commission seriously. Maybe that’s why God directed me toward writing a blog. I looked over my statistics page about mid-month, not long ago. I noticed that I had more people from outside the USA viewing my posts that month than from inside the USA. It didn’t stay that way. I had a lot of European ‘views.’ In my prayerful attitude, I quipped, rather glibly, “I have views from most of the big countries of Europe, but what about the tiny ones? You know, like Angola…” (If you are up on your geography, hold your comment to the end, please.) I immediately felt guilty. Two days later, I got up about 6:00am, turned on the computer, and saw a single view already that day, from Angola. I shared this news with my pastor, regarding answered prayer. My pastor gently let me know that Angola was a large country in Africa, not a tiny European country. It was then that I realized that I had been thinking of Andorra, not Angola. I thought it was an “Oh!” moment that became an Uh, Oh! Moment.
This was my next, almost immediate, prayer with God. “God, I felt guilty when I asked for ‘Angola.’ I was being greedy. I know your commission is to take the Gospel to all the corners of the world and that means the tiny places, too. But I told You that at the time that I was being greedy. I praise You that I even have the opportunity to share my faith with anyone. The fact that people around the world can read about my thoughts is humbling and mind blowing. You did, in a very profound way, show me that You are listening, and You answer prayers. You put me in my place, in that I still don’t have anyone viewing this little blog, according to the stats, from one of those tiny countries in Europe. And it shows me that you have a great sense of humor. I praise You and thank you that You love me, in spite of my faults and my mistakes regarding geography. Amen.”
Forget the “thee” and the “thou.” Don’t be glib. But be real. God knows the real you. And when you get that moment when God let’s you know that He was listening, recognize it as an “Oh!” Moment.
Our prayers shouldn’t be a grocery list or file card system, as the terms Tozer uses in other books. We should go to Him in everything, and spend time listening. It makes no difference how we feel: happy, sad, grumpy, snarky, frustrated. God knows what is going on within us better than we do. We may know the feeling, but we may not know what is causing it. God knows. We must also know that when we do something for God, it is really God doing something through us. When I chose the title of the blog “Thoughts from…”, it was to state that these are my thoughts as God works within me, an unfinished product, today, this week, or this season. My blog isn’t the “Word of the Lord” or the doctrine of a church. But I go to God in prayer each day and trust that He guides the right people to read what I type and post. For God not only knows what is going on within my heart and soul today, He knows what is going through the reader’s heart and soul on the day that they read this.
That is truly humbling and truly another reason to go back to God in undistracted prayer once this typing is finished.