asking for something that’s already here

asking for something that’s already here February 23, 2013
asking for something that's already here cartoon by nakedpastor david hayward
“Worship” by nakedpastor David Hayward

A good father doesn’t want his children to beg. Ever. A good mother doesn’t require her kids to plead before she delivers basic necessities… like her presence.

If we train people to believe that they lack something, especially a basic need, and that you have the remedy, but that it requires them to perpetually apply to get it, like a lottery, then you’ve got a life-time customer. Right?

So I drew this cheesy little cartoon to illustrate the fact that this poor worship leader is begging for something that he doesn’t need to beg for. If there is a God, then this God is over all things at all times. If there is the Christ, then this Christ would be the All in the all things at all times by the Spirit.

I’m guessing that it’s this type of gimmick that confuses people and either creates mass stupidity or individual rebellion.

I’d say to the guy: “Put the guitar down. Stop your pleading. Open your eyes and look around. Everywhere!”

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  • Most people just don’t realize that God is already a part of them. Even people that know it theologically, might not know it experientially, which is where you really have to learn it.

    Another thing people do when they get in front of people and pray is say God or Father or some other name for God at the beginning of each thought, sentence, and every time they pause. I counted once and this guy used a name for God over 50 times in one prayer. As you point out He is already there, and He isn’t senile. He isn’t going to forget you are talking to Him.

    This one is fun, I like it a lot!

  • Carol

    I think that a lot of people have had it drummed into their heads, from early Sunday School on, that the Church is “God’s House” without ever being told that the earth is “God’s footstool” (Isaiah 66:1).

    Actually, building a temple wasn’t God’s idea at all. It was a Divine concession to human need/desire. We shouldn’t confuse God’s loving concessions to us (permissive will/relative good) with the absolute good that is available for the taking as soon as we are mature enough to recognize it.

  • We all have different experiences, but I can honestly say that having grown up in and been around evangelical Christian churches for nearly 30 years, that I never picked up on anyone teaching me that I had to be in the church or act like they did or sing a particular song or pray a particular prayer to experience the presence of God. Quite the contrary, I remember always being taught that the Spirit of God was everywhere and that I had direct access to the Father, through the Son, always no matter what. Even as we sang things like “Come sweet Spirit we need Thee,” if you had asked me I would have said that of course God was here already, all the time, and everywhere, that we were more pleading to experience and be made aware of His presence. Now maybe I was just not picking up on some subtle message that I wasn’t aware of, it wouldn’t be the only time; I’m just saying that I’ve never been aware of anything like what is being portrayed in the cartoon.

  • Eric


    thanks for saying what I have thought for so long. What is even worse about these misconceptions is that the worship time is always held out as sort of “buttering god up” so he will show. I have a son away at college, can you imagine that when he comes to my house for spring break that I demand he sing about my greatness for 30 minutes before I enter the room? Gross….

  • Gary

    I hear you Jonathan and even in the rather fundy churches I used to be a part of, there was no implication that God was not present unless we sought Him. For me the subtlety you speak of was in the fact that our ability to fellowship with God was still contingent upon us emptying ourselves and working for the Spirit’s blessing. We all agreed God was present…but it was up to US to earn His favor.

  • As Luther said, “God is present in my pea soup”.

    But there is His saving presence, as well as His general presence in this world. His saving Word is present in preaching and teaching about what Jesus has done for sinners….in the Scriptures…and in the bread and the wine of the Supper and in the water of Baptism. And also in the consolation of believers, one to another.

  • yeah, I think that there are a lot of Christians who still have problems understanding that God’s love is unconditional, that we don’t and can’t earn it. We’re caught between the pendulum between legalism and anti-nomianism (I forget if that’s supposed to be hyphenated or not)

  • Carol

    Jonathan, that is how it works with dualistic thinking. The legalists give the Law too much authority and the anti-nomians don’t give it enough.

    Old Adam, I like the thought of God’s “saving presence.” Salvation/Redemption is a healing/repairing (tikkun) relationship, not a legalistic fiction like “the imputation of Christ’s righteousness.” I suppose God’s general presence could be a sustaining presence rather than the more intimate saving presence; since God is not only the Creator, but also the Sustainer of the Universe (in Him all things live and move and have their being).

  • Gary

    I don’t adhere to this distinction you speak of.

  • Also, there is a legitmate place in Christian worship for feelings of abadonement. Christ felt it on the cross when he crid out “My God, My God why have ou fosaken me?” David gave voice to that feeling in the Psalms as well. Sometimes it’s hard to feel God’s presence even when you theologically know that He is there; and it’s appropriate in those times to call out and ask God to make His presence known.

  • Carol

    A lot of your cartoons seem to me to have the same themes that Fr. Richard Rohr and many other evolutionary Christians are proclaiming as a message of love and renewed hope to our tragically disordered world:

    Richard’s Daily Meditations
    Seven Underlying Themes of Richard Rohr’s Teachings
    Second Theme: If God is Trinity and Jesus is the face of God, then it is a benevolent universe. God is not someone to be afraid of, but is the Ground of Being and on our side (Foundation).
    Sunday, February 24, 2013
    Second Sunday of Lent
    Meditation 1 of 52

    Your image of God creates you —or defeats you. There is an absolute connection between how you see God and how you see yourself and the whole universe. The word “God” is first of all a stand-in for everything—reality, truth, and the very shape of your universe. This is why theology is important, and why good theology and spirituality can make so much difference in how you live your daily life in this world. Theology is not just theoretical, but ends up being quite practical —practically up-building or practically defeating.

    After years of giving and receiving spiritual direction, it has become obvious to me and to many of my colleagues that most peoples’ operative, de facto image of God is initially a subtle combination of their Mom and their Dad, or any early authority figures. Without an interior journey of prayer or experience, much of religion is largely childhood conditioning, which God surely understands and works with. But this is what atheists and many former believers rightly react against because such religion is so childish and often fear-based, even if their arguments are blowing down a straw man. The goal, of course, is to grow toward an adult religion that includes both reason and faith and inner experience that you can trust. A mature God creates mature people. A big God creates big people.

    If your Mom was punitive, your God is usually punitive too, and you actually spend much of your life submitting to that punitive God or angrily reacting against it. If your Dad (or your minister or early God teachers) were cold and withdrawn, you will assume that God is cold and withdrawn— all Scriptures, Jesus, and mystics to the contrary. If all authority in your life came through males, you probably prefer a male image of God, even if your heart says otherwise. As we were taught in Scholastic philosophy, “everything is received according to the manner of the receiver.” This is one of those things hidden in plain sight, but still remains well hidden to most Christians.

    Frankly, if your early authority figures were merciful and forgiving, you have a great big emotional head start in understanding the Gospel and who God might really be. This is why denominational affiliations in the end mean very little. Yes, good theology and preaching will help, but I have met evangelicals with very limited theology who are bright and alive. They invariably had a bright and alive upbringing, and their hearts tend to be generous.

    I also meet Catholics and Anglicans with a more expansive theology who nevertheless are dour and dominating. They invariably had an early worldview that was all about counting, measuring, making inner lists, and doling out rewards and punishments. The expansive and open world of grace will actually be a scandal to them. They are upset because God is so “generous” (see Matthew 20:16). Such people find it sincerely hard to live in the frame of reference which Jesus calls “the Reign of God.” They are much more secure in a meritocracy of quid pro quo and resent anyone getting anything they have not worked for and “deserved.”

    This is all mirrored in our political worldviews, of course. Good theology makes for good politics and positive social relationships. Bad theology makes for stingy politics, xenophobia, and highly-controlled relationships. No wonder that both Freud and Jung believed that low-level religion creates mostly “anal retentive” people, to use a rather unkind but truly descriptive phrase.

    For me as a Christian, the mostly undeveloped image of God as Trinity is the way out and the way through all limited concepts of God. Jesus comes to invite us into that flow —which only flows in one entirely positive direction.

    In a message dated 02/25/13 02:00:58 Eastern Standard Time, writes:
    God Is Not Santa Claus Meditation 2 of 52

    If we want to go to the mature, mystical, and non-dual levels of spirituality, we must first deal with the often faulty, inadequate, and even toxic images of God that most people are dealing with before they have authentic God experience. Both God as Trinity and Jesus as the “image of the invisible God” reveal a God quite different— and much better— than the Santa Claus god who is “making a list, checking it twice, going to find out who’s naughty or nice” or “I will torture you if you do not love me” god (worse than your worst enemy, I would think). We must be honest and admit that this is the god that most people are still praying to. Such images are an unworkable basis for any real spirituality.

    Trinity reveals that God is the Divine Flow under, around, and through all things— much more a verb than a noun; relationship itself rather than an old man sitting on a throne. Jesus tells us that God is like a loving parent, who runs toward us while we are “still a long ways off” (Luke 15:20), then clasps, and kisses us. Until this is personally experienced, most of Christianity does not work. This theme moves us quickly into practice-based religion (orthopraxy) over mere words and ideas (orthodoxy).
    ~ Richard Rohr, June 2012

  • Doug

    I don’t think the cartoon is implying what you are saying. It is saying: Why do we beg for God’s presence to come and be with us when it is obvious it is. Why don’t we ask for air to breath or the sun to provide photosynthesis. There are things we just don’t need to ask for. Maybe we should just thank him for what He has done. I have been in church when the Pastor was begging for the presence of God to visit us… Isn’t that Old Testament? Doesn’t the New Covenant teach an indwelling presence?

  • Doug

    I will also say that I do understand that there is a presence of God that we hunger for. It is that presence that came to us when we first encountered God. Those times were amazing. I would be a hypocrite to say I don’t ask God for things that I already have becasue I do.

  • Eric

    Great comment Doug…

    have talked with people on this topic several times over the years, and, inevitably, there will be those who say ” I have neve been to a place that does that.” Now, it may be that pastors and such don’t say such things in so many words, I.E. We must beg God to show up, but then the behavior from he pulpit indicates something else altogether. It is the mindset that comes out of many seminaries, and that is a shame. When John the baptist came before he said “Repent (change the way you think) for (because) the kingdom of God is within your reach.” Good advice from JTB, for all of us.

  • I have always wanted to ask at church when these types of songs are sung, and these types of prayers are prayed (“God, please be with xxxx as they go thru xxxx) “Why are we singing / praying this – did God go somewhere?” “God, thank you for being with XXXX as he goes thru XXXX” is what I am trying to pray instead. I haven’t quite figured out how to change the song lyrics though.

  • There is no doubt that circumstances can create in us a deep, deep, longing for God and at those times yes one does feel forsaken and cry out for God.