I do not pray to the universe. The universe is impersonal. The universe is neither benevolent nor malevolent, neither compassionate nor uncaring. It is awesome; it is magnificent; it is beautiful. It bears the unique artistic signature of the divine artist. It is also harsh, cold, and violent. Fire and wind, water and explosions. Viruses snuff out innocent lives. Children starve.
God created the universe but is not the universe. As with the eucharistic sacrament, God is under, over, around, and in God’s creation. Creation shows forth God’s handiwork and reflects God’s glory. Lift God out of the picture, however, and you are left with existential meaninglessness and arbitrary destructive forces. Take God out of the picture and you have darkness and chaos.
But God is not out of the picture. Nor is God distant and uninvolved, an apathetic watchmaker. Neither is God pulling all the strings and manipulating creation and creature like so many marionettes. God is not the slightly senile, very jolly Santa Claus of the prosperity preachers, nor a personal genie to be conjured up in emergencies.
God is not hidden. God has revealed the divine self in the beauty and intricacy of nature, through the progressive revelation of scripture, in tender human relationships, and, most thoroughly, in Jesus. God is omnibenevolent and triune.
A universe without a loving Father-God is a frightening place. It is a dangerous place; a place where threats lie around every corner. Many, perhaps most, do not believe in a personal, loving Father-God. They live in fear behind locked doors, checking their doorbell cameras, setting their alarms, loading their guns. They build walls and demonize those who culture and skin tone are different. They wrap themselves in national flags and vote for strong-men dictators.
A universe without God the Son is frozen in inactivity. It is a place void of redemption, with no basis for grace, forgiveness, or reconciliation. It contains no call, no imperative, to work for justice, to end poverty, racism, or war. Jesus is upsetting to many people unless they are able to keep him a babe in a manger. Grown up Jesus demands action. Mature Jesus requires self-sacrifice, love of enemies, a servant’s heart, nonviolent nonresistance to evil, death to self, and washing the feet of the least.
A universe without God the Holy Spirit is a place in which there may be many well-meaning folks, but no power, no dynamic, no spiritual vigor or potency. All our goodhearted charity is but a Sisyphean project. It accomplishes and changes little. A universe without a Holy Spirit lacks guidance and comfort. It does not contain the ability to obey the stringent demands of Messiah.
Those who do not deeply believe in God as Father are often filled with the fear of lurking danger.
Those who do not deeply believe in God the Son are often frozen into spiritual inactivity.
Those who do not deeply believe in God the Holy Spirit lack the power to make a lasting difference.