Prayer and the Image of God

Over the last couple of months, I have been engaged with a group of people on how to pray. Here is the matter for our latest discussion.

I want to pose some questions to you on your image of God. Basically, is God for you a stern white-haired old man with a long beard or a merciful loving patient personal creator? Our image of God is important; it says something about how we view ourselves and others. And, how we pray.

Who first taught you about God? Was it your parents or grandparents or some other person?

What is your image of God now? Is it as a father, a mother, a shepherd or judge or some other symbol?  If it is different than when you were a child, what caused the change for you?

What words would you use to describe God? Perhaps a passage from the Bible can help you. It says in the first chapter of the Book of Genesis that we are made in the image and likeness of God (1:27). How does this make you feel about yourself?

When you pray, to Whom do you address your prayers?

When I was a child attending a Catholic elementary school, we were taught that God is the Supreme Being Who made heaven and earth. There wasn’t a sense of God as personal.

In the early days of my Jesuit training, I was introduced to the person of Jesus Christ as shepherd (see Psalm 23) and as companion on my faith journey. This was very important for me because I had a difficult time relating to God as father; the  reason being that I had a difficult time relating to my own father. Once that was resolved, I was able to take to heart such  words as are found in the forty-third chapter of the prophet Isaiah:

      “But now says the Lord, who created you,

                  and formed you: fear not, for I have

redeemed you; I have called you by name:

you a            re mine……you are precious in my eyes

and glorious and I love you.”  (Verses 1 & 4)

I also found encouragement from Psalm 139:13 & 14:

““Truly you have formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb. I give you thanks that I am fearfully, wonderfully made.”

 And Jesus, in the Gospel of John, Chapter 15:15 where it says:

“I no longer speak of you as slaves, for a slave does not know what his master is about. Instead, I call you friends….”

  invite you to spend some time during this month considering

your image of God as you pray. Does this image affirm you or bring you down? Inspire you or discourage you?

Max Oliva, SJ worked in Las Vegas for six years. The only Jesuit in the state of Nevada, his main ministry was called “Ethics In The Marketplace.” Now in Spokane, he has a continued involvement in Las Vegas, albeit on a part-time basis. His web site is found here -

  • Peter Bisson
    Posted at 11:59h, 14 June Reply

    Thank you Max!

  • Margaret Powell
    Posted at 12:32h, 14 June Reply

    Important to reflect on these questions. Especially for those of us raised in the 50s and 60s who attended Catholic schools

  • Leanna Obirek
    Posted at 13:04h, 14 June Reply

    Thank you…

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