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On Friday 26 October 1973 my father dropped me at Heathrow Airport and I flew to Sweden to join my first ship. My parents had to wait for a letter to confirm that their sixteen-year old son had arrived safely. That probably took about a week to arrive. Today I would just send a text, or an email, or use my mobile phone to call home. But writing letters and waiting for a reply was normal before the advent of modern communications.

LetterOne thing seafarers looked forward to on arrival in each new port was letters from home. I often received the lion’s share of the mail. This was because I wrote the most letters. Letters from home had to be sent to the shipping company, from where they were forwarded to the shipping company’s agent in the port where the ship was due to dock next. Sometimes mail followed me around the world meaning that there were occasions when a letter took several weeks to reach me. Letter writing and receiving formed a significant part of my courtship with Marilyn, my wife of thirty-four years. We used to number our letters to each other so that we could identify if any had gone missing.

When Jon Swanson wrote about conversing with God in his 300 Words a Day blog, he used letters to demonstrate that God does not always reply in our expected time frames. This made me think about my letter writing days. I still have all the letters Marilyn wrote to me when we were courting. The fact that it took a long time to get a reply didn’t stop either of us writing. We wrote regularly because of our growing love for each other, while constantly looking forward to being together again in person. It was difficult not seeing each other, seven months being the longest we were apart. However, we knew that separation was temporary, and we lived in the expectation that when we married we would be together for the rest of our lives.

Kneeling-in-PrayerThe question for all of us in the busyness of modern life is are we communicating adequately with each other, and are we finding time to converse with God? Imagine being at sea in the 1970s and never receiving a letter. I sailed with an engineer who got so upset if he did not receive any letters from home on arrival in port that he would drink heavily and become violent. Consider how God must feel when we forget to converse with Him, or if our prayer becomes sporadic rather than regular. And what if our conversation with God is one-sided and all about us? To receive letters you have to write letters. It is the same with prayer. Answers may take a while to come, but if we fall out of the habit of regularly conversing with God then why should He speak to us? Although we cannot see God in person surely we live in the hope that we will spend eternity with Him? So shouldn’t we invest in building our relationship with God as we look forward expectantly to seeing Him face-to-face?

In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly. Psalm 5:3 NIV