The Spiritual Life: Knowing God Deeply Through Prayer

To begin to understand prayer we need to start with how God made us. In the beginning God created man in His image. This means that like us God is a real person with real thoughts, beliefs, desires and feelings- especially toward us. He is a person with personality and he wants us to know him personally.! Since God is a three part being (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) so  we also have three parts. These parts are our body, our soul (which comprises our minds, our will and our emotions) and our spirit. Our spirit is the deepest part of us and is the core of who we are. The bible calls our spirit the “hidden man of the heart” and it is the real us. In a sense you could say it’s our personality and the totality of our parts makes up our personhood. It is with our spirit that we directly connect with God, we indirectly connect with him through he soul which is in the process of being transformed and we will one day see him face to face in our new body. When we first get saved our spirits are regenerated which makes it possible for us to have a real connection with God. People who are not saved can pray and many no doubt do pray but they lack the necessary equipment to connect with God in any real or meaningful way. So then what is the connection between our spirit and prayer?

In a way we could compare our spirit with a two way radio. When a person is not spiritually regenerated, they are like a two way radio that has no antenna.  They can talk and talk but they never hear anything in response. The reality is that God is broadcasting all the time but they can’t receive the broadcast. So this person may end up thinking either God doesn’t exist or he just doesn’t care, but it doesn’t dawn on them that their real problem is not with God but rather their equipment is faulty. I know a person who is an agnostic and they’ve said that whenever they read the bible it’s all gobbledygook to them. Others say they pray and pray but they wonder if God ever hears their prayers.  However when a person does get born again (spiritually regenerated) they are amazed that they now can understand the Bible and talking to God takes on new life and meaning – God has given them a new two way  radio with a working antenna and receiver. In fact the bible says that before a person is born again they are hostile to God and live as his enemies, therefore any kind of meaningful relationship with God for them is impossible. It is only after a person comes to true faith in Jesus can there be a truly meaningful relationship. But being spiritually regenerated means more than gaining the ability to communicate with God, it also means he actually lives within us in our spirit through the Holy Spirit. If you’ve ever had a time in your Christian life when God feels a million miles away, the truth is he’s not, he’s as close to you as you are to you even if you can’t perceive it. The best remedy for this situation is prayer because it reestablishes your connection with God.

Prayer in the most basic sense is having a personal conversation with God. This personal conversation is at the heart of our ongoing relationship with him. It is through this ongoing conversation that our relationship with him develops and gets deeper over time. Through this means of communication we grow in our knowledge and understanding of God. This should be a familiar concept to us since this is how we have relationships with other people in our lives. Now in our dealings with other people there are different kinds of communication and relationships. Some relationships are superficial, some are friendly some are close and some develop into very intimate relationships, other relationships can be distant, strained and even hostile. The kind of communication and relationship God desires tho have with each of us is the most intimate and personal kind, one that is full of warmth, closeness, tenderness, understanding and deep connectedness.

If you look at the various relationships in your life I’m sure that you can quickly identify the different kinds of relationships you have and the people involved in your various types of relationships. So when it comes to those relationships that we hold dear, the ones where we are deeply and intimately connected with another person, ask yourself how those relationships were formed. Most of these close relationships started with a conversation. And those early conversations brought the realization that there were common interests, mutually shared beliefs or some other kind of attraction. Once the initial relationship is formed it grows and develops through spending time with each other, sharing experiences together and talking a lot. As you begin to feel safe with this person, you begin to open up your life to them and they begin to open up their life to you and through this exchange a guarded sense of trust is formed. With this mutual sharing we allow ourselves to become more vulnerable with each other because the other person has guarded the confidentiality we have with them and we’ve guarded theirs. We watch each others backs.

We begin to share more and more of ourselves because we feel safe with them and they feel safe with us. As we expose more and more of our inner selves, our beliefs, thoughts, desires, hurts, fears, irritations, failures, needs, what makes us laugh, what makes us tick  etc., with each other we eventually grow into a very deep connectedness with each other. We really know them and they really know us. In the same way we can have this kind of very deep, connected and meaningful relationships with others we can also have this exact kind of relationship with God and it develops along the same lines as I’ve described how intimate human relationships are formed. At the core of this formation of intimate human relationships is communication and it is also the core of having a deep, connected and meaningful relationship with God. And it all starts in private conversations with God. Not some fake pious prayer but real prayer from our heart, like how we talk to our best friend or spouse.

In one of the most scary new testament passages in Matthew 7:22-24 Jesus says. “On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ 23 But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’” Now when Jesus said “I never knew you<” the Greek work here for knew is gneseko and although it does mean “to come to know” it is also a Jewish idiom for sexual intimacy between a man and a woman, which is as physically intimate you can get with another person. In Genesis 2:25 it says “now the man and his wife were both naked, but they felt no shame.” In the kind of marital intimacy God intended between husbands and wives, there is nothing hidden, and we are completely vulnerable to each other but we feel completely safe, loved and desire to please each other because we really know, are committed to  and love each other. We put forth the effort  to honestly communicate and listen to each other, and we work to meet each others needs thus resulting in a very deep personal bond that lasts and that we cherish. That is the ideal but as fallen humans, relationships can have their problems, but if husbands and wives are committed to their relationship they may have rough times, misunderstandings, hurts  and fights but they work through it , forgive each other and come out stronger.  Because of what Jesus did for us at the cross we can experience such a close intimacy with God that it parallels a good marital relationship.

On one hand we can feel naked but not ashamed before him and yet fee loved, safe and cared for. (To be clear I’m NOT saying we can have sexual intimacy with God, that would be blasphemy and more than a little bit creepy) So the question then is what does being naked but not ashamed before God look like? It means that there is nothing we hide or keep from God. We feel free to bring anything and everything into his light, whether good or bad that exists within us. We talk to him about our sins openly, we seek his forgiveness and his  help in getting victory over them. We bring our anxieties and fear to him and seek his assurance, comfort and answers to our prayers. we bring him our thoughts,beliefs and attitudes and ask him to examine them and our hearts and let him guide us into the truth. We allow him to extensively examine us in every way and willingly accept his correction, help and comfort.

On the other hand like a good marriage we can also have have fights and be upset with each other or have hurt feelings. The key is to come back together and work it out . What causes this unpleasant aspect in our relationship with God? Have you ever had a prayer you desperately wanted God to answer and He didn’t? Have you ever sinned so badly as a Christian that it shocks even you? Have you ever lost someone? You wanted God to intervene because you know he could but he didn’t. Have you gone through a divorce? Have you had a child you raised in a christian home get hooked on drugs or join a gang? Have you ever lost your job or home? Have you ever gone through a difficult trial only to come to God and find Him to be silent? We can and do go through tough things in life that can shake out faith and make us hurt and mad at God which can cause us to withdraw from Him. Whether it’s God giving us the silent treatment or we’re giving it to him we can’t let this become our status quo, because underneath it all we still do love each other and are committed to each other and we need to reach out. God won’t always be silent, his silence is a test which you can pass by continuing to seek him. Trials, if we take them to God in prayer will actually strengthen us in our faith and improve our character because He loves us and is always working on our behald, even when that working involves adversity, deep pain and many tears.

Another aspect of our prayer life is that of the parent / child relationship we have with God. In Luke 18:14-16 it says, “One day some parents brought their little children to Jesus so he could touch and bless them. But when the disciples saw this, they scolded the parents for bothering him.Then Jesus called for the children and said to the disciples, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children.” God is our Father and we are his children. Think about what little kids are like. They are completely dependent on their parents to care for every aspect of their lives. When they are old enough to talk, they are constantly going to their parents if they’re hungry, thirsty, cold, hot, sick, scared, happy, sad and anything else they experience. They implicitly trust their parents to meet their needs and to care for them. This is the same attitude we should approach God with in prayer: as a little child – it is the kind of trusting faith he seeks from us. And yes kids do at times misbehave and their parents discipline them because they love them and want the best from them. We should expect no less from our heavenly Father. Sometimes he disciplines us through trials but he always has our best interest at heart. Therefore part of our prayer life is expressing a child like faith and implicit trust in our Father who loves us. If you don’t feel that you trust him as you should, tell him and ask him to help your unbelief and lack of trust. He will help you!

This intimacy with God through prayer is something you can absolutely have and it starts with having real conversations with God! In prayer you can pour your heart out to him about anything and everything and as your trust grows you will feel freer and freer to be more and more vulnerable with him and you will feel completely safe with him – even when he corrects you. You will know his love for you and you will love and desire to please him. When we are born again the bible says that God writes his laws on our heart, and because we desire to please him we also will desire to do his will and obey him. This is not out of a sense of religious duty or legalism but from knowing God intimately we want to do his will, which he empowers us to be able to do what we could not do in our own ability or strength.

In conclusion, prayer is not a one way conversation, that is what we call a speech. True prayer is a two way street. We talk to God and he speaks to us. The primary way God speaks to us is through his written word – the Bible. You cannot have effective prayer without spending time in His word and hearing biblically based messages from good pastors and bible teachers. Prayer and spending time reading and studying the bible are two sides of the same coin – you cannot have one without the other. Once you are spiritually regenerated, God can and will speak to you through his word by the Holy Spirit and when that happens you will know it and the Lord will confirm it to you. The danger of praying without spending time in God’s word is that you open yourself up to deception. You see God is not the only spiritual being out there who would like to talk to you. The Devil would love to talk to you, and in fact he does all the time. Also your flesh (your sinful desires) also talk to you and the world (fallen sinful beliefs and mindsets) also talk to you as well. As a Christian God can speak to you directly but in order to correctly hear him you have to learn to differentiate what voice you’re hearing. This takes practice and in time you will learn to distinguish who is talking to you. The bible, an understanding of sound biblical doctrine and the advice of pastors, teachers and seasoned, mature Christians is necessary to keep you grounded and not going off into error or being deceived when it comes to hearing God speak to you in your heart. My hope is that this post encourages you to seek a deeper relationship with God! He deeply loves you and longs for you to be in close fellowship with Him God Bless!

 

Tom Brown

Elder of Spiritual Life

Sebring Friends Church

 

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