Western culture, sometimes equated with Western civilization, Western world, Western society or European civilization is a term used very broadly to refer to a heritage of social norms, ethical values, traditional customs, belief systems, political systems, and specific artifacts and technologies that have some origin or association with Europe.
The term Eastern world refers very broadly to the various cultures or social structures and philosophical systems, depending on the context, most often including at least part of Asia or geographically the countries and cultures east of Europe, north of Oceania.
The term “Middle East” is generally recognized today to refer to a region that stretches from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to Afghanistan in the east, a distance of approximately 5,600 kilometers. It has a total population of around 300 million people.*
Why would I start a post with this “dry” cultural information when my topic is prayer?
Well, defining Western Civilization and Eastern Civilization [including the Middle East] can give us some insight on what our Bible means when we ask pray to an omniscient God.
Western logic works like this regarding prayer and omniscience. What can I tell a God who knows everything anyhow? From our point of view, you can tell Him nothing. For many Christians this logic is not very encouraging for our prayer life.
The Bible is fundamentally an Eastern book written by Semitics [Semitics are speakers of Hebrew and Arabic languages]. They were not slaves to Western logic. When Jesus spoke of God’s omniscience, He thought it would encourage His Semitic disciples to pray.
While the logical response to praying to an omniscient God may be discouraging from a Western point of view, the opposite is true from an Eastern point of view. W. Bingham Hunter says a disciple of Jesus was encouraged to talk to God about anything. There is nothing that you can tell God that will change His feelings for you. He is a “loving Father who hugs His children—even when they have jam on their faces” [Hunter, 42].
Is there any sin you can commit that can shock God? The answer is no. Instead of wondering how to approach God with our sin, we know that God knows it already and we can be liberated. We can be who we really are.
How many times, when you are having an awful day, do you lie to people when they ask “How are you doing?” You say something like “I am doing just fine.” We think that is perfectly ok but it is not really being honest about how we are. It is not liberating at all. We are putting on a façade. With God, Jesus was saying share your anger, joy, fear, frustration, endless struggles with sin, hurt, loneliness—our real selves.
In our Western way of thinking, we may be too image conscious. We would rather present a perfect image that is unrealistic than be honest. Hunter says “If we do this long enough we become a split personality—a kind of spiritual schizophrenic. Our relationship with others becomes increasingly unsatisfying and we often end up trying to tell God, ‘Just fine thanks’” [Hunter, 44].
But God knows all and He cares about all. Luke 12:6 says “Are not five sparrows sold for two cents? And yet not one of them is forgotten by God.” The thought is completed in Matthew 10:30-31 when Jesus says “But the very hairs on your head are numbered. Therefore do not fear; you are of more value than many sparrows.”
He knows that you are not speaking the truth when you say “Just fine thanks” and He knows why things are not going well. Don’t worry that the problems seem small. They are not small to God. “God loves you more than you will ever know. Not your image, not your happy face, not your spirituality—but you. The real you. The one you think nobody knows about. No, real love is not blind. Because His eyes are open, He can see what you cannot. And He felt what He saw in you was worth dying for. So when you pray, be honest. Tell Him everything” [Hunter, 44].
Don’t be afraid to approach God with jam on your face. It won’t matter to Him. He will hug you and love you over and over again. You can be who you are. It is ok.
Just talk to Him about anything…He is waiting to hear from you.
The real you.