“Some people object to calling God personal” [Hunter*, 70].
Yet, can we make a case that there is some form of personhood for God?
The Bible does say that God is spirit but when you explore Scripture, you realize that this spirit is a personal spirit. Hunter cites the frequent use of personal references to God in the Bible. God’s personal name in the Hebrew language is Yahweh, Yahveh or Yahoveh [Jehovah]. This reference is far more common than people realize because translators have substituted the more formal and less personal Lord and Go in the place of Yahweh. Taking the New American Standard Bible as an example, Yahweh is changed to God 315 times, Lord 6,399 times and Lord’s 111 times. Even though we have become accustomed to using Lord and God in our references to our Divine Father, the Hebrew language intended Yahweh to be the best word to use due to the personal nature of the Word.
When you read Scripture and think about how God is portrayed, His more personal aspects become clear. He seems to be self-conscious and able to determine His own life. He does this through the use of clear, rational thinking. He has a will, He acts, He does things to reveal, He creates and does all this in a way that reveals He has a sense of right and wrong. God also has emotions like love and “righteous” anger. God knows joy and grief. There are many references to the fact that God desires to have a relationship with His children [us]. The keys to that relationship are very human activities like fellowship and mutual self-disclosure.
When you turn to the creation in Genesis, you read the book as God sharing His personal qualities with man. Our personal qualities did not come from some strange unknown source. They came from the Supreme Being. We are made in God’s image. How the first man was created was a clear indication of the personhood of God.
Perhaps the strongest case for the personhood of God is the person of Jesus Christ. God chose not to be eternally invisible when He put “skin on” and became man. John 1:14 states “The Word became flesh and lived for a while among us.” Jesus states in John 14:9 “Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father.” The Apostle Paul says “He is the image of the invisible God….God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him” [Colossians 1:15, 19]. Taken as a whole, one can just read the Gospels and see that the writers of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John intend for us to believe that Jesus [God] was fully personal.
People who object to making God personal seem to fear that we will take the concept of a personal God too far and somehow we will demean the dignity and divinity of God. For people with this concern, Hunter says that the best way to explain the personhood of God may be to say “there is personality in God” [Hunter, 70].
But from my point of view, I see the value in emphasizing the personhood of God, especially in the area of communicating with Him through prayer. I feel the most effective prayer is a personal connection with God. It is not an exercise in trying to figure out God. Prayer is not a set of techniques to get what you want from God. Prayer is opening as much of my heart to God as I can. God knows me intimately because He knows all anyway. I am the one who has to make the choice to share or not to share. To share a little or to share a lot. To be partially honest or totally honest. To reveal all of my motives or try to hide some of my motives. God knows what is going on and He wants to see how much I will connect with Him.
In my opinion, the more I share with God, the better my relationship with Him will be. In human relationships, the idea of sharing with another human being can be the bond that will cement a true friendship if we can trust the other person to be sensitive with our personal information. With God, that is not a problem. There is no problem with trust. He will listen, He loves us, He will help us and He is always faithful to us.
I think that prayer will always benefit from a personal connection with God. The more you allow Him inside you during prayer the more your prayer connection will be strengthened. He will give you the key to a better life as you open your heart to Him.
You will increase your personal knowledge of your Lord and Savior.
*our author W. Bingham Hunter, The God Who Hears