Would it be okay if I prayed to a god that was identical to the God described in the Bible – having all of God’s characteristics – yet I imagined he was bright green and had 8 arms?
Well, what are the first two commandments that God gave to the Israelites, via Moses?
“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
“You shall have no other gods before me.
“You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.”
Which raises the question, if I have created a god from my own understanding; my own thoughts and ideas about God, but which might not all be true; when I pray, am I still praying to the true God? Will my prayers be heard, or am I just praying to a god I have created, an idol?
God promised, through the prophet Isaiah, that there will be a time when worship of Him will be made up only of rules taught by men, not the truth.
“These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.” ~Isaiah 29:13
The fulfillment of this prophecy happens in Matthew 15 when the Pharisees and teachers of the law come to Jesus and ask him why his disciples break the traditions of the elders by not washing their hands before eating. Here is Jesus’ response (Mt 15:3 and 6-9):
“And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?”
“Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.”
If our understanding of God is only made up of rules taught by men, then our worship is in vain. It means we do not have a true understanding of who God is according to His word, and that means that we cannot be righteous in His eyes nor do we have His law in our hearts (Ps 37:30-31). Which leads to the next problem…
“The LORD is far from the wicked but he hears the prayer of the righteous.” ~Proverbs 15:29
And what happens if we do not keep God’s laws, but rather turn from the truth and create our own understanding?
“If anyone turns a deaf ear to the law, even his prayers are detestable” ~Proverbs 28:9
In order for our prayers to be heard and received by the Lord we need to know and obey God’s Law and commands, being righteous in His eyes. But do we really know what the covenant is that we have to keep? And do we really understand all the laws, promises, and prophecies that are recorded in the New Testament? If we don’t know these things how can we truly know God according to His word, and how can we make sure we’re keeping our covenant?
What is our image of God? Are there things that we believe to be the truth, but are actually only rules taught by men?