I’ve stated repeatedly that prayer is communication with God. It’s not one way – not a monologue, but a dialogue. It takes His voice, His presence, and intimacy with the Lord to really experience Him. This is the reason prayer is boring to most Christians – it’s void of the reality of His presence and voice. Christians must experience God to enjoy Him.
If I met you on the street and just said, “hello, how are you?”, and went my way, would you say that I experienced you? But if instead, I sat down with you and told you how much I loved and appreciated you, and how precious and valuable you were to me, and you reciprocated the same way back to me, could you then better say that we experienced one another? You see, prayer is not just what you say, but what you hear. What are you hearing in prayer? “You dirty backslider, why are you always sinning? Why don’t you get your life cleaned up and start obeying Me?”, or some version of that, is what some people only hear. This is one of the biggest reasons many Christians do not experience or enjoy God. They don’t see Him as He is. They don’t know His character. They are guilt-ridden and always accusing themselves.
“My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him. For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight” (1 John 3:18-22).
Loving in action, and not in word only, produces assurance in the face of our Father. Now, if you are not living right before God, then your own heart will condemn you. You certainly cannot enjoy God living a life that you know is displeasing to Him. You will have no confidence in prayer. But God is greater than our hearts and is always working on our behalf to bring us back into fellowship with Him. He is for us, and not against us. He will never keep us from His presence by pointing out our sins and shortcomings.
If you had an employer who was always reprimanding you and pointing out your mistakes only, would you want to work for him? I think not. God our Father does correct us, as all good earthly fathers do, but that is not all He does? Do you see God as only an employer that you go to work for? If so, that is as far as your fellowship will go. At the same time, if you only see Him as a pie in the sky sort of God – a Santa Claus, a vending machine who beckons at your every whim and whine, then you are still very limited in your image of Him.
Knowing God is a lifelong process. We are all at different stages of growth, and God treats us according to our level of maturity. Again, a good earthly father has that much sense. You don’t treat your 3 year old son like you do your 16 year old. Our heavenly Father is the same way.
I want to help you develop in your hearing so that your communion with God will not be a monologue only. What do you hear in prayer? How do you hear? How do you see God? How do you see yourself in relation to Him? It takes a real knowledge of the Word to understand God’s true manifold character and beauty, and how He sees humanity especially His own children.
For example, one day I read a verse, Mark 16:9, and was arrested. I was intrigued by the fact that Jesus’ first post-resurrection appearance was to a woman who used to have 7 devils. The Holy Spirit highlighted this verse to me and I stopped to meditate on it. The words spoke to me deeply about the otherworldliness and beauty of our God, and it made me want to love Him and know Him more. In the greatest moment ever in human history Jesus did not seek out the king, or governor, or some magistrate or important figure to tell the news of His resurrection to. He went to a former lowly woman of ill repute who probably once lived the gutter life on the streets. Most mere men would never go that route and visit such a one after a marked moment in history of the most glorious resurrection ever. This is just one example of a multitude of others demonstrating just one facet of God’s character.
The magnificent attributes of God should encourage love, faith, prayer, and praise in us. Most sincere Christians love God, but they are not too crazy about themselves. Again, the Word will help us here in seeing ourselves in Christ, no longer as sinners, but as new creations, and His beloved sons and daughters. The problem with many of us is in the area of unforgiveness; not only forgiving others, but forgiving ourselves. Many of us remember our sins of yesterday which we repented of that God has long forgotten. Too many Christians beat themselves over the head for sins of the past. Forgetting the past is one of the great secrets of living free and being able to draw close to God.
When a true believer sins there are two voices that will immediately speak to him. One is the voice of accusation which breeds condemnation. The other is the voice of correction which fosters conviction. Knowing the difference will allow you to jump a major hurdle that keeps many believers out of close fellowship with God. When Satan accuses the believer it crushes your motivation to try again. But when the Holy Spirit convicts the believer it is gentle, peaceable, and easy to be received and motivates you to keep moving forward with God.
Obedience is what will give your heart assurance before God. So once you’ve received God’s mercy and forgiveness, go on and receive His grace that empowers you to obey God.
“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb 4:16).
Mercy is for our sins and failures. Grace is to help us and empower us in our weaknesses. You see, God is always working for us so we can come boldly and confidently before Him and enjoy His presence.