I’ve been both teaching and learning about prayer since I came into a personal relationship with the Lord back in 1971. In fact, I was taught a lot about prayer in the particular church background I was raised in; but I don’t think what I learned was anything I would have called Intimacy with God.
It wasn’t until I became involved with a para-church ministry called Young Life that I realized God actually liked me… even loved me! Through this realization, prayer took on a whole new meaning for me as I had to learn, unlearn and relearn what the Bible taught about our relationship with God and God’s desire for us to be in communion with Him.
In this journey of mine in the pursuit of relationship with God, I have had many “ups and downs” along the way. Questions like …
- Do I have what God wants to have a relationship with me?
- Does God communicate with us? And if He does, how will I know it?
- What if I mess up in my hearing His voice?
You could probably add a whole bunch of your own!
Two particular heroes of prayer who have helped me along the way with their writing are people like Richard Foster (“Celebration of Discipline”, “Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home”), and Dick Eastman (“Heights of Delight”, “Rivers of Delight”), and a third author and songwriter who has a King-David-like-heart- for worship, Matt Redman.
But still the struggle went on until a particular break-through I had in one of my prayer times. It came not long after I was doing some prayer-walking in a neighborhood surrounding a church I was serving, and is the result of a conversation I had with a neighbor I was sharing with about the Lord.
This neighbor believed that there was “a God and Creator” since he was very passionate about flowers, gardening and nature. But he did not believe he could trust the Bible since it was “written by fallible and fallen people. God put it upon my heart to ask him a few questions. Here is our conversation as best as I can remember (from back in the early 1990’s):
I asked him, “You believe there is a God and that He is also the Creator of all we have. Do you also believe that He is all-powerful?”
He replied, “Yes!”, emphatically.
I then said to him, “If you believe He is all-powerful, then wouldn’t He have the ability to protect His communication with us, enough so that the Bible tells us exactly what we need to know about Him?”
Here is where he “hedged”. He replied, “I believe God could, but I am not sure if He would!”
I realized that he, like many others, believed in humanities ability to sin to be greater that God’s ability to save. I also came to realize that this “false-belief” was also in operation in my approach to my times of prayer with God and intimacy with God.
That is, until, one particular time of prayer several years ago where I was “fearing failure” in hearing God’s voice accurately, and in a very clear “inner voice”, I sensed God saying to me, “Why are you more impressed with your inability than with My ability?” Ouch!!!
It was then that these three following truths became more real to me, and have greatly encouraged me in my own prayer times and in my encouragement to others for pursuit of intimacy with the Lord. These three truths are listed in the opening part of the Foundations for Prayer Ministry in the Local Church study guide:
- God’s ability to communicate with us will always be greater than our inability to hear – God is not limited by our ability when God wants to communicate with us.
- God’s desire to communicate with us will always be stronger than whatever we may believe about God at any given moment – God is not deterred by our lack of desire when God wants to relate to us.
- God’s delight to communicate with us will always be ‘immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us’ (Ephesians 3:20) – God is not disappointed in us, because God chose us to be His children. (I will primarily be using the New International Version for Scripture quotations.)
Know this, Beloved in the Lord, that God chose to love us and have relationship with us. He never turns His back on us, even when we try to turn away from Him. His ability to save will always be greater than our ability to sin!