God longs for real conversation with us, as indicated in an oft-misunderstood Bible verse.
I think Jesus may sometimes get lonely. Not just during His earthly life but even today. I think He gets lonely for us. I think that reality is implicit in an oft-misunderstood verse of the Bible, one most churchgoers have heard many times. But we may never have heard it the way Jesus intends us to hear it. It’s from the last book of the Bible. I believe these are the words of Jesus to me and you: “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20, NIV).
For years, many of us have made that verse into a nice little verse about opening your heart to Jesus and becoming “born again.” And I don’t want to burst anyone’s bubble, but I must tell you: that’s not what the verse is about.
Revelation 3:20 is a portion of a letter which the risen Jesus dictated and which John, His disciple, relayed to a church in a town called Laodicea. It was not written to skeptics and seekers. It was not written to people attending an evangelistic service or responding to an altar call. It was written specifically to church folk who were being urged to repent and turn from their lukewarm ways.
And Jesus said, in effect, “Hey, open up. I want to come in. I want to eat with you. I want to keep company with you.”
That is what Zacchaeus heard and understood when Jesus said, “Dude, come out of that tree. I want to come to your house. I want to eat with you. I would like to keep company with Zacchaeus the tax-collector.” The religious snobs of the day got so upset with Jesus because He wasn’t just accepting a social invitation; He was saying, “I want to keep company with tax-collectors, lepers and prostitutes.”
And Jesus wants to keep company with you, too. That’s what prayer is. That’s what it should be, anyway. That’s what Jesus longs for, with you. He doesn’t frown on “God is great, God is good,” but He won’t be satisfied with that. He wants each of us to keep going, to move past “Bless us, O Lord, and these thy gifts” to the kind of conversation we enjoy when we lift our heads from prayer and turn to the person next to us and, smiling, say, “Hey, did you notice Sharla’s hairdo in church today?” Believe it or not, he actually wants in on that stuff. He takes just as much delight (or dismay) in Sharla’s hairdo as anyone does. And I wonder how many times we break His heart at the dinner table when we say “Amen” and then proceed to elbow Him aside in order to enjoy true fellowship. . . with everyone but Him.
Philip Yancey, in his book titled simply Prayer, writes:
I am writing away from home, sequestered in the mountains in the middle of winter. At the end of each day I talk with my wife, Janet, about the events of the day. I tell her how many words I wrote and what obstacles I met in the process, what Nordic ski or snowshoe trails I explored . . . which prepackaged frozen foods I ate for dinner. She tells me about the progress of her nagging cold, the mail that has been accumulating in my absence, the neighbors she has encountered walking their dogs to the mailboxes down the road. We discuss the weather, current events, news from relatives, upcoming social engagements. In essence, we meditate on the day with each other, in the process bringing the details into a new light.
Then, he says, “What I have just described bears a striking resemblance to prayer, too. Prayer, according to one ancient definition, is ‘keeping company with God.’”
I believe that is what God wants from each one of us. And for each one of us. He wants us to quit saying our prayers, if that’s all we’re doing, and instead keep company with Him. Every day. Throughout the day. When we’re alone and when we’re with others.
(Adapted from Quit Going to Church by Bob Hostetler, Leafwood Publishers, 2012.)