I received an e-mail from a friend who endured a very difficult trial that lasted for several years. He wrote to say how his ordeal has changed his view of what it means to know God. There are three levels of knowing God, he wrote. First, there is the level of experience. All of us who know the Lord have some experiences with him that we can use to help others. Second, there is the level of knowledge. This comes from going to church, listening to sermons, reading the Bible, reading good books, going to a Christian college or to a seminary. Most people consider knowledge a higher level of the spiritual life. “This is a level I tried to work from, but it did not seem adequate,” my friend said. But there is a third level, which he called the level of wisdom. This level comes only by prayer. He offers this very helpful insight about a Level 3 relationship with God:
We begin to see things through God’s eyes and less through our eyes. Peace only comes from this level. It is not measurable, explainable, nor understandable. Levels 1 and 2 are not prerequisites. I see prayer lifting the illiterate to great levels of peace and wisdom where certain PhDs in religion may feel empty. Our prayers become less “gimme” and more “Help me see what you want me to learn through this—to deepen my relationship with you.»
Then he included the words of the old hymn Sweet Hour of Prayer. Although I have heard it and sung it many times, one verse stuck in my mind as especially appropriate:
Sweet hour of prayer, sweet hour of prayer,
Thy wings shall my petition bear,
To him whose truth and faithfulness
Engage the waiting soul to bless;
And since he bids me seek his face,
Believe his word and trust his grace,
I’ll cast on him my every care,
And wait for thee, sweet hour of prayer.
God invites us to seek his face. He wants us to know him better. It’s not as if our Heavenly Father is hiding himself from us. As my friend has discovered, out of pain comes prayer and out of prayer comes a closer walk with God who is the source of all wisdom.