When you receive a call from someone in a federal prison, you receive a message at the beginning of the call and then again after every 5 minutes. The message lets you know that you are receiving a call from an inmate at a prison, but also tells you that your call is being monitored. Every word you say is being recorded and listened to. Talk about intrusive and hard on a relationship!

We received a limited amount of minutes each month to talk on the phone, so those calls were usually very fact-based, to-the-point, and guarded. We sometimes created code words for things so that we would know what we were talking about, but they wouldn’t – hopefully! There were certain words that could get flagged and then my husband could get reprimanded and life made even more difficult for him. Even our emails were scrutinized and approved before being sent through to each other. It would often take 1 1/2 hours to receive an email and then the return response would take just as long. Once again, certain words put up flags and emails may not even be forwarded to the individual. It made communication very difficult, less enjoyable, and frustrating.

That caused us to take advantage of our alone time, face-to-face, during visiting hours. We came prepared with lists of things to talk about from the past week and upcoming week. We discussed code words needed when referring back to something we would need to discuss the upcoming week on the phone. We figured out ways to make our “monitored calls” work for us.

Many people view their relationship with God this way. Every word, action, thought and deed is being carefully monitored and recorded for all of eternity. That view leaves people feeling violated, evaluated and continually watched. Imagine the type of relationship they tend to have with God. It is guarded, hidden (or so they think), superficial and coded. If you don’t take time to figure out how to muddle through the misconceptions, it will make any relationship with God strained, limited and even become extinct.

Our prayers may go unanswered for long periods of time or seem to have been intercepted and not even received on the other end. We are left wondering if He even cares or if he even hears our prayers. We may not understand the “codes” he is sending us and miss out on an answer completely.

How can we combat this perception and work to have a real relationship with God? It begins by taking time to truly make your relationship with God yours. You can’t expect to communicate the same way that other people do. You need to invest one-on-one time with God – in-person. You can’t rely on other people’s relationship with God to get you through. You can’t rely on the pastor’s message and what he has learned during his time with God to get you through. You need to figure out something for yourself.

It’s okay if you don’t speak in tongues, have a long prayer list that you pray through every day, have a prayer closet, teach a Sunday school class, attend a ladies’ Bible study, or any other thing that you think contributes to a closer relationship with God. However, you and God need to figure out together what your relationship should look like. Will you hear from him in dreams? Will you receive nudges about something you should do or someplace you should be? Will He send messages (make something stand out clearly) through the passages you are reading in the Bible?

Take time to figure out your own “secret codes” so that you know when God is communicating with you. Don’t allow others to monitor your relationship with God and determine what is approved or not. Know where to be looking for, listening for or discovering those coded messages. God wants to have a special time and way of communicating with you. His desire is that you will want to find a way to make it happen.

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