How to Experience Intimacy with God
By John Aziza
Intimacy is that special emotion we feel with the nearest and dearest people to us. It is the experience of really knowing or being known by another person. Only our closest friends are allowed to glimpse into the private areas of our lives while others merely know us from a distance. This is what makes intimacy so special. But what about spiritual intimacy or the intimacy we experience with God? Indeed, spiritual intimacy is the most consequential to our Christian Faith because it's at the very core of God's purpose for redeeming us. Believe it or not, God would like us to get to know Him much more intimately. In fact, He wants to become our very best friend. And many of us desire the same with Him.
So what does it take to experience God more intimately? Let's attempt to answer this question in the following study.
Prayer is the first point to explore in relation to our intimacy with God and also the most crucial. Prayer is vital to our spiritual success because it represents communication and communication is always essential for a healthy relationship. If we fail to communicate with God, we will fail at our relationship with Him also. This is why prayer is so essential. You see, God created humans expressly to enter into relationship with them, and this is what gives God and man the deepest satisfaction (Lev. 26:12; 1 Jn. 4:10, 19). As a result, we simply cannot experience true intimacy with God apart from a relationship involving much prayer.
So prayer is the conduit through which we experience intimacy with God. And it is also the most emphasized spiritual exercise mentioned in the Bible. Indeed, prayer is so important to God that He chose it to characterize His dwelling place, the Temple: It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer... (Mat 21:13).
Yet in spite of this, many of us regard the act of prayer as something dull and meaningless. And all too often our communication with God amounts to little more than closing our eyes to mumble some well rehearsed litany. But this is not true prayer. Half hearted prayers are not the kind we will champion in this writing. What we wish to discover is REAL prayer—the kind that actually works and produces dynamic results.
PRAYER MOTIVATED BY GENUINE LOVE (EMOTIONAL PRAYER)
We cannot deny it. The mainstream church is endemic with superficial emotionalism. And as a result, it is hard to distinguish genuine emotion from that which is shallow and false. But what about real emotion? Is there a legitimate place for it? Yes. Absolutely! Emotion is vital to our relationship with God and must not be ignored. In fact, the most powerful emotion described in the Bible is LOVE! Love is such a crucial emotion because it is the first requirement in any valid relationship, which also includes our relationship with God.
Just think about it. How can we begin to know God, if we don’t even love Him? The answer is simple. We can’t. And no genuine Believer will desire an intimate relationship without love. The same applies to God. God desires a relationship with us that involves our genuine love. So love must become the primary motivator in our prayer life. Anything less will make for dull and meaningless prayer. For this reason, we should never settle for prayer that does not flow out from a heart of love. And we must always remember that love is the number one requirement in the Christian life: Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind (Mat 22:36-37).
PRAYING WITH HUMILITY
The Scriptures address humility in prayer many times, and it doesn’t take much digging into the Bible to realize that God honors, and expects, a humble heart:
If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray... (2 Chroc. 7:14).
Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up (Jas. 4:10).
But what exactly is humility and what does it look like? Humility is the heart attitude we assume when realizing our corrupt human state in light of God's infinite holiness. It is the condition of helplessness which signals to God that we are trusting only in His grace for salvation and not our good merit. The following Bible passages will demonstrate what a humble attitude looks like and how we can adopt it in order to gain God's approval:
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise (Psa. 51:17).
For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word (Isa. 66:2).
Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner... I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted (Luk. 18:10-14).
And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of ointment. And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment (Luk. 7:37-38).
And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief (Mar. 9:24).
The above scriptures showcase some of the very best examples of biblical humility. Notice how the publican was justified before God when he humbled himself, acknowledged his sin, and pled for mercy. But the pharisee, on the other hand, was summarily rejected for his self-righteous attitude and his stubborn reliance on his own good works. Now consider also the humility of the harlot who washed Christ's feet with her tears. Jesus was so impressed by her clear demonstration of humility that He granted her full pardon of any wrongdoing. Christ also noted that this woman had a greater capacity to love God because she was extended much more forgiveness than the average person: Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little (Luk. 7:47).
So these examples should teach us an important lesson. Those who humble themselves and confess their sin will always receive God's forgiveness and acceptance, but those who try to appeal to their good merit will be rejected just like the self-righteous pharisee (Luk. 18:10-14).
How much do we truly desire intimacy with God? Is it really a profound yearning or are we just casually interested? If our desire is shallow and superficial then most likely we will never attain it. Intimacy with God will elude us. So perhaps the most important feature of spiritual intimacy is the depth of our desire or need for God. Nothing says we want God more than our urgency in prayer. Desperate prayer, therefore, is a subject we will examine in close detail.
It is a fact that when an urgent need arises our prayers take on a desperate quality. These urgent prayers are usually emotionally charged and may be accompanied with weeping or crying. For instance, consider the mother who receives news that her child will soon succumb to terminal illness. Would this mother not cry out to God for a miracle? Would she not employ her deepest emotions to secure God's ear? Yes. Of course she would! Desperate people will pray in a desperate manner until God answers. It is clear from Scripture that desperate prayer is potent and moves the heart of God like nothing else. In fact, there are many biblical instances where desperate prayer is mentioned or God specifically prescribes it. Here are just a few examples:
Let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, Spare thy people, O Lord, and give not thine heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them: wherefore should they say among the people, Where is their God? (Joel 2:17)
Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning (Joel 2:12).
While Ezra was praying and confessing, weeping and throwing himself down before the house of God, a large crowd of Israelites, men, women and children, gathered around him. They too wept bitterly (Ezra 10:1).
So Hannah rose up … And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the LORD, and wept sore (1 Sam 1:9-10).
When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven (Nehemiah 1:4).
When Mordecai learned of all that had been done, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the city, wailing loudly and bitterly (Esther 4:10).
Away from me, all you who do evil, for the Lord has heard my weeping (Psalms 6:8).
When I weep and fast, I must endure scorn (Psalms 69:10).
Now to further appreciate the power of desperate prayer, let's examine the compelling accounts of two godly kings, Josiah and Hezekiah. It is truly remarkable the way these men moved God to change the fatal verdict over their kingdoms simply because of their humble attitude and their emotional pleas. When King Josiah realized that the children of Israel were in blatant disregard of the Law and that God’s judgment was sure to follow, his heart became responsive and he wept remorsefully before God. This was exactly what God was looking for and His approval of Josiah’s attitude is summarized in the following verses:
Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before the Lord when you heard what I have spoken against this place and its people, that they would become accursed and laid waste, and because you tore your robes and wept in my presence, I have heard you, declares the Lord (2 King 22:19).
A very similar response is recorded in the the story of King Hezekiah. Yet it may be that his account is even more compelling. This man not only managed to avert a death sentence, but also increased his life span by fifteen years and was greatly rewarded just for having an appropriate attitude. Notice:
In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. And the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz came to him, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live. …And Hezekiah wept sore. And it came to pass, afore Isaiah was gone out into the middle court, that the word of the LORD came to him, saying, Turn again, and tell Hezekiah the captain of my people, Thus saith the LORD, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will heal thee: on the third day thou shalt go up unto the house of the LORD. And I will add unto thy days fifteen years; and I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for mine own sake, and for my servant David's sake (2 King 20:1-6).
Now ask yourself what would have happened if Hezekiah’s response was slightly different. What if he simply prayed for mercy without shedding a single tear? Would God have still healed him? Perhaps so. But God may not have added an additional fifteen years to his life span or spared his kingdom. Yet we see that because Hezekiah's response was perfect, and he offered God something that could be heard (prayer) and observed (tears), God answered his prayer and gave him far better than he could have expected otherwise.
So clearly, God’s servants were desperate individuals who knew how to intercede with weeping in order to move God into action. Sometimes using an “emotional appeal” with God is far more affective than the stiff and formal manner we've grown used to. Consequently, it would be wise for us to learn from the examples presented and to fully embrace the power of desperate prayer in our pursuit of spiritual intimacy.
Now let's shift our attention to examine the lifestyle of Jesus in the area of prayer. The book of Hebrews gives us the best snapshot of Christ's prayer life. Notice:
Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared (Heb. 5:7).
It is interesting that this is the only verse in the entire New Testament suggesting that Jesus experienced fear—in that he feared. But what was Jesus afraid of? Was He terrified of experiencing the pain of crucifixion? Was He afraid of being scorned and mocked? No. Of course not. On the contrary, what Jesus feared most was the prospect of failing God. This thought alone was enough to deeply frighten Him. Jesus was fully aware of the magnitude of such failure and its impact on man's salvation. And because of it, He refused to carry out the task of redemption without His Father's help. As a result, He plead for divine assistance in a desperate manner, with strong crying and tears. Perhaps this is why Christ's life was the greatest success story ever. Not because He was given superhuman powers, but because He practiced a dynamic form of prayer (Mark 1:35; Luke 6:12, 13).
But what about Christ's disciples and the first century Church? How would they have prayed? No doubt these men and women were also acquainted with desperate prayer. Not merely because they learned it from their Master, but rather because they understood that after Jesus ascended to the Father He left them with a tremendous task—to make disciples of all men (Mat. 28:19). And so they desperately needed supernatural power to carry out the Great Commission.
It is a fact that the Apostles anguished often and with many tears on account of their love for God and His people. These men were not afraid to express grief or display their emotions when it came to the spiritual wellbeing of the Church:
Serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews (Act 20:19).
Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears (Act 20:31).
For I wrote you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to grieve you but to let you know the depth of my love for you (2 Corinthians 2:4).
For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ (Phil 3:18).
Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy (2 Tim 1:4).
Nevertheless, I realize that sometimes it's easier to neglect fervent prayer and to substitute it for something superficial and meaningless. And I also realize that as American Believers we are much more prone to this fault than Christians elsewhere in the world. The truth is that while foreign Christians are mourning over their affliction and persecution, American Christians are indifferent and hardly concerned. But make no mistake, this does not constitute intimacy with God. Nor does it signal that we are deeply concerned over the things that concern God, or desperate to see this world transformed for His Kingdom.
We must remember that Christ did indeed prophesy that His followers would begin to mourn after His departure from the world. But is this really happening? How many of us mourn over the condition of the world around us? Certainly not many in America. In reality, our lack of intimate prayer is inexcusable, and it will not be blessed:
Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh (Luk 6:21).
Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy (Jn 16:20).
And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bride chamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? but the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast (Mat 9:15).
Over the course of my spiritual journey, I've noticed that while Western Christians enjoy comfort and leisure, it is the persecuted Believers in disadvantaged countries that are experiencing the most revival. Yet they also exist in extremely desperate conditions. While we are filled with laughter and mirth, persecuted Christians are suffering and dying for Christ. It is no wonder, then, that their prayer style is so radically different to ours. To observe these men and women pray is truly impressive. Their desperation compels them to cry out to God with tears and anguish of heart. But make no mistake, God is acting swiftly on behalf of these dear Believers. And for this reason, we are hearing reports of great miracles taking place in these faraway places and thousands of Believers being added to the Church daily. Yes, indeed. The Lord is still moving in these regions the same way He did for the first century Church in Acts and the power of the Holy Spirit is being displayed in ways that are hard to imagine.
So the question remains, is there any hope for the Church in the West? Can God move in America with the same kind of power He does elsewhere? Most importantly, is it possible to experience desperate prayer apart from persecution and extreme hardship? These are all very good questions. To be succinct, I don't believe persecution and hardship are the only means through which we can experience God in a transformative manner. God is able to to increase our desire for intimacy and deepen our fellowship with Him in whatever circumstance we exist. All we must do is display a genuine desire for Him to do so.
The very first time I encountered desperate prayer was when I met my wife’s Slavic people right here in America. These people immigrated to the US from Russia and various other parts of the former Soviet Union many years ago, just shortly after the “Iron Curtain” collapsed. They experienced first-hand the horrors and suffering that persecuted Believers endure on account of their steadfast Faith. Yet even after immigrating to the free world they still retained the habit of praying in a desperate manner, unconcerned that their emotions were openly displayed. And when I encountered this for the first time, I was deeply impressed and yearned to enjoy the same power in prayer. It was through their compelling stories and testimonies that I would eventually learn to experience the many benefits of desperate prayer in my own life, and the impact it had on me was truly remarkable.
PERSEVERING PRAYER: THE KEY TO SPIRITUAL INTIMACY
Perseverance is another important component of spiritual intimacy. When exercised in prayer, perseverance proves that our spiritual desire is genuine and solid. A good example of persevering prayer is Jacob's mighty struggle with God. According to Genesis 32, Jacob “wrestled” with a heavenly angel until he prevailed and received the blessing he was after (Gen. 32:22-32). But he wasn't only materially blessed. Something else happened which was of far greater value. Jacob's name was changed from “Jacob”, meaning crookedly in Hebrew, to Israel, which may be translated as straight with God in the same language. Yet how in the world did Jacob engage in a physical struggle with God? After all, is it really possible to “wrestle” with the Almighty? The answer to this question is located in Hosea 12. Notice how it reads:
He took his brother by the heel in the womb, and by his strength he had power with God: Yea, he had power over the angel, and prevailed: *he wept, and made supplication unto him*: he found him in Bethel, and there he spake with us (Hos 12:3-4).
Here we see that by Jacob's strength “he had power with God and prevailed over the angel”. But we must not imagine for a moment that it was superhuman strength that helped Jacob prevail in this struggle. No. Such thinking would be foolish. If we read on, we discover that Jacob wept and supplicated (prayed with a request). Jacob knew how to wrestle with God on his knees! He knew how to pray with such powerful emotion that God was compelled to respond. So this was Jacob’s special power. This was how he persevered with God in prayer, and prevailed!
PRAYER BREAKTHROUGHS ARE THE RESULT OF GENUINE EFFORT
So far we've demonstrated that God is looking for individuals who will compel Him to act on their behalf. Individuals who will “wrestle” with Him through prayer until they persevere. It is clear that God is looking for wholehearted people who will not draw back from advancing His Kingdom. This means we should prepare to be fully engaged, physically and emotionally, in the process of spiritual intimacy. Perhaps this is why Jesus alluded to the great effort involved in laying hold of His Kingdom:
And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force (Mat 11:12).
Notice Christ mentioned that the Kingdom of Heaven was "suffering" "violence" and that “the violent take it by force”. But this language seems rather bizarre and confusing. Obviously, God’s kingdom is spiritual and cannot “suffer” physical violence from mere men. So what did Jesus really mean? I believe the word “suffer” is pertinent to understanding this verse. Suffer is used in the King James Bible similar to how we would use the word permit or allow in today's English. Here is an example:
But Jesus said, suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven (Mat. 19:14).
So the meaning of Mathew 11:12 is simply this: God is allowing His Kingdom to be seized by courageous men who will employ all of their physical resources in apprehending His Kingdom. There is a requirement to overcome in the Christian life (Rev. 21:7). And there is also a requirement to wage war against the principalities of darkness so as to remain in close fellowship with God. (2 Cor. 10:3-5; 1 Tim. 6:12; Eph 6:12).
The fact is that Christians are not merely living in a physical sphere. Rather, we are stuck in a perpetual struggle with the forces of evil. Like it or not, the devil is devising every tactic possible to extinguish our spiritual zeal and lull us into a drowsy or passive condition. In such a condition, Satan knows that he can easily defeat us and keep us from experiencing true intimacy with God.
James 5 gives us further insight into the kind of prayer that prompts God's response. Notice:
The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months (Jas. 5:16-17).
It is interesting that the word “effectual” is energeo in the original Greek. The English counterpart to energeo is energetic. It should also be noted that the word “fervent” is synonymous with passion. So here again is a clear indication that God prioritizes prayers that are passionate and borne out of special effort or energy.
[Note: Passion is often an indication of our love for something. If we lack passion for God or passion in prayer, it is an obvious sign of our poor spiritual condition.]
So here's a question for us to ponder: When is the last time we heard Christians praying together in an energetic or passionate manner? Sadly, it rarely happens. The truth is that most of us prefer to pray in either hushed tones or in a highly sophisticated and polished style. And do we wonder why God is not moving in our Churches? Why He refuses to grace us with His presence? Perhaps our lack of passion in prayer is the very source of our spiritual impotence and maybe it's time to acknowledge it.
But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that **diligently** (persistently) seek him (Heb 11:6).
It is a fact that the greatest rewards in life are only obtained with a fair share of persistence. You will not graduate university, climb the ladder of financial success, or attain to any significant level of authority without it. But what about our prayer life and our desire for spiritual intimacy? Must we persist in order to be rewarded spiritually? Yes! Of course. Our prayer life is only as good as the time spent on our knees persevering in prayer. God has made it clear that He is looking for persistent individuals who are not lazy in seeking Him. Therefore persistence is a valid requirement in the Christian life and necessary for obtaining the many blessings of the Christian Faith. Persistence is important if we wish to obtain such things as the fruit of the spirit (godly character), wisdom and understanding of God’s Word, the baptism in the Spirit, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and of course, spiritual intimacy. All of these require persistent prayer. Notice the following Scriptures:
…ye have not, because you ask not… And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me. And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith. And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry *day and night* unto him, though he bear long with them? (Jas 4:2b; Luk 18:1-7).
And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves; For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him? And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee. I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth. And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him? (Luk 11:5-13).
Notice that in both parables Christ draws a very vivid picture of persistence. The importune widow refused to give up and tirelessly pled for justice until her pleas were answered. She refused to take “no” for an answer. Likewise the man who needed bread for his guest demonstrated the same unwavering persistence. He sought bread from his friend at a late hour of the night and refused to give up until his friend relented and accommodated his request.
Now after Jesus spoke the above parables, He clarified their meaning as follows: Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. In other words, we ought to be "seeking" and "knocking" persistently.
But what is it that Jesus wants us to seek after so persistently? Is it wealth? Health? Or prosperity? Absolutely not! Verse 13 gives us the answer. It tells us that we should diligently ask our Heavenly Father for the Holy Spirit without giving up: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?
After all, if we truly desire intimacy with God then we need the power of the Holy Spirit to make that desire a reality. Only God's Spirit can empower us to seek after God wholeheartedly.
According to 1 John 3:4, sin is the transgression of God's Law. Therefore when we disobey God we are guilty of sin. The consequence of disobedience is that we are separated from God (Is. 59:2). This is why Jesus died on the cross. To become the atoning Lamb that takes away the world's sin and enables us to be freely pardoned and justified before God (John 1:29; 3:16). But Christ's sacrificial act provides forgiveness for sin ONLY after we accept Him as Savior and Lord of our life and ONLY after we genuinely repent or abandon our sin (Act. 2:38).
Now when we first come to know Christ all of our past sins are forgiven. But what happens when we sin after we begin a relationship with Jesus? The good news is that God's forgiveness continues to cover the sin we commit even after we accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. So if we fail God in some way during our Christian journey we must immediately confess our sin and request God's forgiveness in the name of Jesus and thereafter rest in that forgiveness (1 Jn. 1:9). However, this doesn't mean that we have a "get out of jail free" card or that we receive a special license to habitually sin and disobey God (Rom. 6:1-2). In fact, if we take Christ's sacrifice for granted in this way and maintain a perpetual pattern of disobedience we are simply proving that we have never genuinely repented, and therefore we are still lost (Rom. 6:1-2; 1 Cor. 6:9-10).
So obedience is imperative to our pursuit of spiritual intimacy because it signals to God that we are willing to satisfy all of His requirements [as defined by the New Testament] and abide in His favor. And while we can never expect to be sinlessly perfect in our Christian life, we can definitely overcome most of our sin with the grace and help of Christ Jesus (1 Jn. 1:8; Phil. 4:13; Col. 3:5). The process of becoming more like Jesus and less sinful is called sanctification and it's an extremely important feature of the Christian life. It is also how we become righteous and holy before God and our prayers more effective:
The effectual fervent prayer of a *righteous man availeth much* (Jas 5:16).
TO KNOW GOD INTIMATELY WE MUST READ THE BIBLE
In order to befriend God we must first get to know His character. All friendships are built upon a good knowledge of a person's character. In fact, we can never hope to appreciate another person unless we are intimately familiar with their individual characteristics. The same applies to our relationship with God. After getting to know God's character, we can relate to Him and please Him far better, just as He does with us.
Now the only way to really understand God's character is by reading His Word, the Bible. The Bible contains everything we need to know about God's character and His dealings with mankind. So only by reading the Bible can we truly learn about God's requirements and how to satisfy them. Therefore it is our key to being able to communicate with God more effectively.
But if reading the Bible is so vital to this issue, why don't we make it a top priority? Why does it seem we can never find time for this essential spiritual exercise? Let’s be honest, most of us are indifferent to the study of God's Word because we simply don't care. Is it no wonder, then, that our relationship with God is often languishing and doesn’t seem to progress anywhere?
It’s important to realize that by reading the Bible we not only deepen our understanding of God's character and requirements, but also gain an essential spiritual attribute called faith. Just notice how the following verses qualify this statement:
So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Rom 10:17).
But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him (Heb 11:6).
GETTING OUR HEARTS IN SYNC WITH GOD'S
Without doubt, Jesus was a man dedicated to prayer and intercession. He spent many hours in prayer for His disciples and for those to whom He ministered. So deep was Christ's burden for His fellow Jews that He wept over Jerusalem: And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it (Lk. 19:41-42).
To be intimate with Jesus, we must have the same all-consuming burden He did. We must be smitten with grief over those who are perishing. Like Jesus, it is often that I am moved by the Holy Spirit to weep and travail for the lost individuals in my life. Sometimes the tears flow for only a few moments and at other times much longer. Yet afterwards I always experience the same sweet feeling of reprieve, knowing God has brought my heart in sync with His. I truly believe that this is the greatest expression of intimacy with God. Taking on His burden and feeling His pain.
WORSHIP & THANKSGIVING
Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name (Psa 100:4).
By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name (Heb 13:15).
Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God (Php 4:6).
Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving (Col 4:2).
Praise and thanksgiving play a vital role in spiritual intimacy because they satisfy the heart of God. The verse quotations above demonstrate this very clearly. Those who desire to advance in their Christian walk should practice worship and thanksgiving as often as possible.
It is interesting that while Old Testament Saints offered up blood sacrifices to atone for their transgressions, New Testament Saints are called to "sacrifice" unto God with “the fruit of our lips”, which represents our worship and thanksgiving. Therefore we should engage in worshiping God continually, just the same as prayer.
REPENTANCE & SIN CONFESSION
Behold, the LORD'S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear (Isa 59:1-2).
He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy (Pro 28:13).
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 Jn 1:9).
Sometimes Christians forget that God is holy and will not commune with unrepentant sinners. But it's important to remember that unless we repent of our sin, God cannot listen to our prayers. So those who wish to have an intimate relationship with God would do well to realize this.
We must also remember that unless we agree to forsake our sin, repentance is incomplete. In other words, those who say they have repented and go on repeating the same offense over and over again are only deceiving themselves (Rom. 6:1). The Scriptures are clear that unless we confess our sin and FORSAKE it, we cannot prosper or hope to find favor with God (Prv. 28:13). So only after we are willing to confess our sins and forsake them will God cleanse us from all unrighteousness, just as He promised (1 Jn. 1:9).
Shortly after coming to Faith in Christ, I was introduced to members of the persecuted Church from the former Soviet Union. These Slavic Believers placed a lot of emphasis on the need for sin confession and repentance, and it deeply impressed me. In fact, few of these dear Christians will proceed in prayer without first confessing their sin and requesting God's forgiveness. It is truly remarkable that they were willing to confess their sin before their fellow Believers in such a public manner. But they did so because they well understand the raw power of humility and biblical transparency. They understood that the key to incurring God's favor had to do with their willingness to walk before God and men in humility. Perhaps we should consider their example. After all, consider the fact that James 5:16 exhorts us to confess our faults one to another so that we can be healed from our infirmities. So maybe God instituted this practice to keep the Church both humble and accountable.
As Western Believers, we have a lot to learn from the persecuted Brethren around the world. But if we refuse to acknowledge our failure and modify our approach accordingly, we will find ourselves stuck in a spiritual rut with no one to blame but ourselves.
While fasting may not spark our enthusiasm, the Scriptures reveal it as one of the most powerful weapons in our spiritual arsenal. Coupled with intercession, it is especially useful in breaking free from demonic bondage and oppression.
Christians may often experience some type of hinderance in their attempts to connect with God more intimately. Something refuses to “budge” and our hearts are left void and empty. Sadly, this condition may linger much longer than expected, leaving us feeling desperate. I can personally testify to having this experience more times than I care to admit. I've had the feeling that my prayers were bouncing off the walls or ascending only as high as the ceiling above me. However, it's important to take serious action the moment this begins to happen. We must not take it lightly or ignore it. And we must recognize it as a direct attack by satan on our relationship with God. If we allow him, the devil will gladly rob us from all spiritual energy and deplete us completely from the joy and peace God has promised as a benefit of serving Him.
So what should we do? The answer really depends on how much we value our relationship with Jesus. You may not realize this, but the spiritual “blockage” you are experiencing could be a test. The Lord may be testing your resolve to pursue intimate fellowship with Him. In this way He is also testing your love and willingness to serve Him. He may look to see what price you are willing to pay in order to experience a dynamic season in His presence. If you are indifferent about your spiritual “sickness”, then you’ve just proven that your concern for God is minimal. Perhaps you enjoy appearing spiritual before men like the Pharisees, but inside, you care very little for the things of God.
But if we are genuine and sincere in our love for the Lord then the following verses will encourage us to try a season of fasting in order to succeed in our spiritual efforts:
Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning (Joe. 2:12).
And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting (Mar 9:29).
And Cornelius said, Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and, behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing (Act 10:30).
Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency (1 Co 7:5).
In closing, let me summarize the major highlights of our study so far. We began this study by focusing on prayer's principle role in our relationship with God and our desire to experience spiritual intimacy. We then went on to describe how dry and meaningless prayer could be without the presence of certain spiritual elements such as love, humility, persistence, and obedience. The bulk of our study dealt with the power of desperate prayer in the form of brokenness and weeping. But we recognize that this is not the only thing required in order to meet with God more intimately. Confession of sin and repentance also play a vital role in our ability to have a successful spiritual breakthrough because we realize that sin hides us from God and obstructs our ability to fellowship with Him. And finally, we examined the power of fasting in relation to surmounting spiritual barriers.
You see, what I hope you realize is that this article was written as a sort of manual for those who may be trying to connect with God but feel hopeless in their struggle. If that describes you, then I pray you will test the principles outlined in this writing as you endeavor to meet with God in a more meaningful way. Do not give up without giving God a fair chance to prove that He's no liar and that when we follow the prescription provided in His Word, He is always faithful to uphold His end of the promise:
And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart (Jer 29:13).
God bless you!