Communicating With God
How do we communicate with someone with whom there is no common ground? I’m not talking about someone from another country who doesn’t speak the same language. I have had that experience when travelling abroad. Usually the language barrier isn’t a problem—at least not an insurmountable one. In most hotels and places of business there is someone who speaks English—a result of so many people from America and other English-speaking countries wanting or needing to travel the world. Occasionally we have run into a situation where it is difficult to make ourselves understood because there are no words we can share. Even then, sign language usually gets the job done—especially if we want to buy something and they want to sell something.
What I mean is a situation where, even if you share a common language, you don’t share a common vocabulary. Have you ever spoken with someone whose vocabulary is so specialized that you can’t understand him or her? Like me, you’ve probably encountered a textbook or technical journal that is so full of jargon you can’t get past page one. Computer manuals are like that for me. I’m hopelessly lost by the time I’ve gotten through the table of contents.
How can we overcome that kind of disconnect? How can we hope to understand what the other person is trying to share with us? If the shoe is on the other foot, how can we hope to have someone understand us when we don’t share a common vocabulary—someone, for instance, who doesn’t understand our jargon or technical language? How can we bridge the gap in such situations?
I think Paul understood the problems involved in this kind of communication. He must have been a very well-read and well-spoken person. Trained in Scripture, trained in Judaic law, and quite likely trained to some extent in Greek philosophy and religion, it would seem he could communicate with anyone; and yet he understood communication problems.
As much as God wants to communicate love and caring for humankind, there is no common language. We do read frequently in the Hebrew Scriptures of God speaking to humans, but there must have been some sort of translation device. When Isaiah, conveying words from God says (Isaiah 55:8), “my thoughts are not your thoughts, and my ways are not your ways,” he’s letting us know that God understands the problem. There needs to be a way for us to communicate with One who is so far above us that we don’t even share common ways of thinking or acting.
We can’t solve the problem. We lack the resources. We can’t possibly think, act or speak on God’s level. The translation device must come from God’s end. Paul tells us that the translator is the Holy Spirit.
“For we do not know what to pray for as we ought,” Paul says, “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.”
What a blessing! What a relief! We don’t have to worry about being misunderstood. Because God loves us so much a way has been provided to eliminate the communication gap. The Spirit, who enters our lives when we commit ourselves to God, helps us communicate our longings and desires so that there can be no misunderstanding. The unapproachable God becomes eminently approachable. The transcendent One becomes immanent. The Holy One becomes Emmanuel—God with us.
Then all things work together for good.