Lovers of costume dramas will be aware of the ‘above’ and ‘below’ stairs cultures that are used to enhance the drama. The two worlds seem to co-exist almost independently yet collide frequently – usually with consequences. The above stairs characters will often be unaware of those below stairs – they are invisible to them as they are not part of their everyday world – despite having the task of supporting their world, making it happen and function with as little fuss as possible!
Invisibility is probably the aim of those serving the above stairs world. However, invisibility doesn’t mean that the servants are either deaf or blind. They hear and see and often, it seems, know more of what is going on than those above stairs.
When I worked in London years ago, the situation was similar but without most of the drama. News was most reliably given by the switchboard operators, the tea lady, the guys in the post room and the chauffer. They were not always ‘seen’ by management in the same way as the rest of us and on a few occasions something that was ‘revealed’ was already fairly widely known.
Looking at that concept in a slightly different way, we have a God who is invisible to us and yet knows everything about us and amazingly he wants a relationship with us; not one that is formal and has strict codes of conduct but one that is developing and growing in depth and intimacy. It’s a relationship where one side knows all and the other chooses to either treat God as absent, as non-existent; or decides to find out more. For that to happen there needs to be communication and prayer is one of those communication tools.
If we want to know the Father we look to the Son, the life and death of Jesus demonstrates the character of God to us, so the Bible is another of our tools of communication; especially if we understand it as the living word of God – living and supremely relevant to us.
I often say to the parents of babies and children being baptised that the way to help them grow in their faith is to pray with their child each day – very simply, no flowery language needed – giving thanks and asking for help is a good way – no flowery language needed – giving thanks and asking for help is a good way to start. Prayer changes as we grow, in years and in maturity – from those beginnings to something deeper – we may learn to listen as well as to speak; we may learn to ‘gaze’ on God in silent wonder, filled with the joy of being in that holy presence. God is invisible to our eyes, yet we may see and hear him, just as he sees and hears us; not only when in prayer but through our daily lives and interaction with others. Prayer becomes our anchor, our source, our barometer, our centre – we have a living relationship with God.
Revd Gerri Tetzlaff