‘I feel like my prayers are just bouncing off the ceiling.’
I’ve heard this one. Most of us have. We may have even uttered it from time to time. While I understand the sentiment, and that it is genuine at times, it reflects a horrible failure to grasp some basic theology.
First, God is not (solely) ‘out there.’ God is with us. A few verses state this point clearly.
“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)
“The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” (Psalm 145:18
“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” (James 4:8a)
We miss a crucial point when we posit our heavenly Father “somewhere out there.” “Our father who is in heaven” could be rendered, “Our father who is as close as my next breath, and as all around me as the stars up above.” We are so afraid of being pantheist (God in everything) that we try to drive him totally out of our surroundings for his own safety.
Secondly, we, as believers, we have God within us. Let us not forget the Trinity–Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The third person of the triune godhead lives within each believer. We are in-dwelt by the Holy Spirit. I’m not sure what that typically means to you, but if we take the doctrine of the trinity seriously, it means that God is within us.
The logical deduction from this is that our prayers don’t even have to pass our lips, let alone make it to the ceiling to come before the throne of grace.
“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (Romans 8:26-27)
The Spirit can do this because the Spirit is within us, cohabiting with our own spirits. (Which makes you wonder how on earth we could ever think we could hide anything from God.)
All of this, of course, is why we can pray “in our heads” and still be heard. So, if you’re praying silently anyway, how could your prayer “get past the ceiling?” Because it does not need to. God is with you.
Immanuel–God with us. The gift of the Nativity. We would do well to remember it. He hears our prayers. The Holy Spirit is living in and with our spirit, and praying for us–keeping us in constant communication with God, even when we aren’t consciously praying.
So, the only way your prayers can ‘bounce off the ceiling’ is if your theology is off the wall….I pray that is not the case.