A Prayer to the God Beyond Our Idols

A Prayer to the God Beyond Our Idols May 25, 2016

Mark Sandlin shared a prayer and I immediately wanted to pass it on to readers here:

Good and gracious God,

We love you.


the you we love

is the you we have created.

We love discovering that you

are much like us –

after all

we are created in your image,


We love those moments

when when a piece of scripture

confirms the things

we long suspected

and gives us divine permission

to hold on to



and even damnation.

Unexpected God,

break into the “realities”

we have created.

Confirm within us

the thing that our spirits

already know –

that you are too big to be contained

in some limited earthly conceptualization.

Invite us to experience

the breadth and depth of you

in a way

we have never before

felt secure in exploring.

Direct us toward a faith

that is not dependent upon certainty –

a faith that is fascinated with

the questions –

a faith that gains energy and strength

in the uncertainty

which points to the existence

of something bigger

than we

could ever fully understand.

May we find humility

in that knowledge.

May it gut our overstated piousness

to its core

and created in us

a God-shaped space

that seeks out

only the reality

of you –Mark Sandlin Prayer God in our own Image

a reality

founded in,

nurtured by,

reliant upon,

enlivened with


Teach us to make love

our default position.

And in that God-shaped space,

may we find

an unending desire

to envelope the world

and all the people in it

with a grace and love

that it has never known before.


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  • Phil Ledgerwood

    This is superb. Thank you for sharing it. I fired it over to Pete “Uncertainty” Enns.

  • John MacDonald

    In my experience religious people tend to treat as inspired scriptures that confirm what they want to believe about God (like The loving God who gave his only son), and dismiss as preposterous scriptures antithetical to their theological biases (like the God of the Hebrew Scriptures who ordered genocide). What is the epistemological basis, then, for deciding some scriptures are divinely inspired while others are not? Apparently it is whatever prejudices, biases, and arbitrary feelings one brings to the choice.

    • If someone chooses to regard as inerrant a text which says things they want to hear, then that is indeed problematic and circular. But the ancient church, of course, started with its beliefs and assessed texts based on that in a manner that is somewhat different. And liberal Christians do not (or at least should not) pick and choose some texts to regard as inerrant, but should reject the concept of inerrancy altogether.

      • John MacDonald

        How do you choose which scriptures are representive of God, and which are not?

        • John MacDonald

          Or perhaps more precisely, how do you decide which scriptures are “divinely inspired,” and which are not?

          • How does who decide? I assume this is asking about the views of people who regard the Bible or some subset of it in this way, but it also seems to be addressed to me, which is confusing.

          • John MacDonald

            As a religious person, I assume you think (a) some scriptures are not reflective of God’s true nature (such as Him ordering genocide), while others (b) do teach about God’s true nature. My question was how do you choose between the two?

          • I view Scriptures as human writings, pondering transcending questions as I do.

          • John MacDonald

            Do you feel about Scriptures that (a) some of these human writings are divinely inspired, or (b) none of these human writings are divinely inspired, or (c) these human writings may be divinely inspired,but there is really no way of knowing, or (d) there is a different way of characterizing the relation of these human writings to the divine that I have neglected to mention?

          • John MacDonald

            I’m agnostic, so I would choose (c).

          • I don’t think “divine inspiration” is a helpful category, as it means different things to different people. But these texts are simply human writings, and so whtever inspiration its authors may or may not have experienced, it was not of a kind that differs from what human authors experience more generally.

          • John MacDonald

            You seem to have more of a philosophical faith than a theological one. You seem to treat Jesus more like a student would treat Socrates than as an object of faith.

          • John MacDonald

            You seem to be more of a “fan” of Jesus than a “disciple” of him.

          • I would have thought the opposite- that modern conservative Christians tend more towards fandom, while my view is more akin to discipleship/studentship/apprenticeship.

          • John MacDonald

            Yes, that sounds right.

    • charlesburchfield

      quite! precisely it’s one’s own unique relationship with the Lord. everything one is and has done, especially what one suffers in this life, IMHO, that as one receives the miracle of healing, the suffering can become empathy and deep understanding for what others are suffering. what used to exclude one from Human Fellowship & Society and make one ashamed can be embraced and shared openly with others who still suffer. the amplifiers to scripture come to one from within one’s Living spirit into one’s mind and reason through the connection to the Holy Spirit. preeminent in this choice to focus on one scripture and not another is when one is immediately faced with the proposition of encountering others, whom the Lord sends in one’s path. Divine appointments are a unique opportunity of cooperation with self, others and the Holy Spirit. if one is willing to engage others with conversation then one may be sent as an agent with help from the Holy Spirit usually to encourage that one to hope for a better future with respect to connection of support and nurture of a loving God and the loving community one has always wished for and needed for validation of one’s life, genius and gifts. this opens up territory so that one has opportunities one never imagined or dreamed possible.

      • John MacDonald

        So, for you, the Holy Spirit helps you discern which scriptures are “divinely inspired,” and which scriptures are not?

        • charlesburchfield

          not only scriptures john! also Heritage Rock lyrics like ‘make it work with what you get.’ lyrics from ‘never stop’ from the album ‘naked ride home’ by Jackson Browne (BTW ‘Dont’t you wanna be there’ is another good song from that same album. I highly recommend!) & from Crosby Stills Nash & Young: ‘you expect for me to love you when you hate yourself my friend?’, & from the Beatles ‘Let It Be’ & ‘All You Need Is Love.’ but that’s my experience. I come from the generation that got rudely awakened up in the 1960s. all we had were the rock stars to tell us that where it was at. the spirit is moving and never quit moving in every generation, IMHO, and he will use whoever is willing. but I’m a Jesus Freak! we had the Jesus movement back then. the Lord sent me my friend Dona to tell me about how it was all coming down for her. she was a single mom on welfare. she didn’t have anybody else to help her but the Lord but she was willing to talk to me about it. I didn’t want to hear it at first but my life was turning to s***. I was so strung out on the unrealities! so I was open to anything and anyone who would help me.

          • John MacDonald

            Sounds like a desperate place to be – a place where one would latch onto anything or believe anything if it offered a way out.

          • charlesburchfield

            yep! I hit bottom! most people I know that actually ‘gets it’ do. the lens from under the bus is the widest lens of all! your whole being is on fire to know the truth and there aren’t any good choices anymore that you can make with a dysfunctional mind and heart. one is all alone at that point and it feels like one is a melting Ice Cube in in the middle of a warm ocean. abandon all hope (of being able to save yourself) ye who enter here! if you’ve never been backed into a corner like that chances are slim to none that you’ll cotton on to what I’m talking about. *~\]:D

        • charlesburchfield

          yaz john! I kept an open mind. the cooperation part between me, the Holy Spirit and you Works beautifully! for private use of private individuals the Bible isn’t a rule book, as you probably are aware, nor is it a text book that you’ll be tested on unless you are being involved in a seminary, Bible College or such. the Golden Rule: do as you’d be done by, and (I don’t know where this is in scripture) what is it the lord requires of you? do good, love Mercy, walk humbly. I get this hit from you that you’re making it way too complicated! I’m sure you have reasons and wisdom for it to be such an obsession to you to get to be with the big boys and go head-to-head in arguments with them. but so be it!