Until the Tenderness is Real
“Dear Lord! Please! Dear God of Israel.” – Psalm 69:6
When you pray, how do you begin? I always say, “Dear God…” as if email hadn’t been invented and I was composing a letter. But I don’t write letters any longer. I barely write emails. It’s all text messages. And beginning a text message with “Dear” is like wearing a tuxedo to a picnic. So these days, apart from tender moments with my family, I only say “dear” when I’m talking to God.
Maybe that’s how it should be. The word means “precious, valuable, costly, loved, beloved.” Dear is not a word to overuse. It conveys deep affection. You should only spend it on those you cherish.
Dear God, do I cherish you?
I’m not sure. If my prayers were completely honest they’d begin differently. “Antique God” or “Vague God” or “God whose opinions resemble mine so perfectly I worry that you’re simply a projection of my own wish fulfillment fantasies.”
Maybe “Dear God” is nothing but a holdover, the last gasp of a dying formality.
I hope not. In an era when faith allowed for faithful despair, Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “It is not always easy to say, ‘Dear Lord.’ Who would not wish sometimes to say: ‘Harsh Lord, severe Lord, terrible Lord. I submit to you. I will be silent and obey.’ But to learn to say ‘dear Lord’ is a new and difficult struggle. And yet we will have found God, the father of Jesus Christ, only when we have learned to speak that way.”
In other words, until we cherish God and adore God and find Her precious in our sight, we will not really know God. So I’ll keep on saying “Dear God” until the tenderness becomes real.
Dear God, let that day come soon. Amen.
Matt Fitzgerald is the Senior Pastor of St. Pauls United Church of Christ in Chicago. He is the host of “Preachers on Preaching,” a weekly podcast sponsored by The Christian Century.