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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Intimacy With God

Why is it so important that you are with God and God alone on the mountain top? It's important because it's the place in which you can listen to the voice of the One who calls you the beloved. To pray is to listen to the One who calls you "my beloved daughter," "my beloved son," "my beloved child." To pray is to let that voice speak to the centre of your being, to your guts, and let that voice resound in your whole being. - Henri Nouwen

Seeds of Desire
It seems to me that there are three kinds of pray-ers: those who don't; those who do, but out of duty; and those who love to pray because they have discovered that it is the doorway to intimacy with God.

When the Holy Spirit plants in our heart the seed of a desire for greater intimacy with God the only thing that can satisfy our soul is to experience the love of Jesus in a deeply personal way. As St Isaac the Syrian is quoted as saying in "Listening to God" by Joyce Huggett,

Thirst after Jesus and He will satisfy you with His love.

It is clear from Paul's prayer in Eph 3:14-21 that this was his desire for the Ephesian believers.

Song of Songs
Throughout Scripture, both in the Old and New Testaments, the relationship between God and his people is described in terms of a marriage. The word "bride" is frequently used as, sadly, is "adulteress" when there is a turning away from the Lord to foreign gods. In Paul's teaching on marriage in Eph 5:22-33 he makes it clear that marriage, including in the "one flesh" aspect of the relationship, is designed as an illustration of Christ's spiritual relationship with His Church. As Paul says, this is a profound mystery but, if the physical intimacy between husband and wife is intended as an illustration of the spiritual intimacy the Lord desires with His people, our longing should be to co-operate fully with the Holy Spirit in developing our prayer lives.

Many of us as evangelicals are uncomfortable talking about personal prayer in these terms. Perhaps the language sounds too close to that used in Catholic mysticism or monastic spirituality. But then we are faced with Solomon's Song of Songs. What is this account of passion doing in our Bibles? I have been told it is there to show us that physical intimacy between a husband and wife is a God-given gift to be enjoyed. If that is the sole reason for its inclusion then we evangelicals have an even bigger problem because, as Anne Atkins points out in her book "Split Image", the wedding doesn't occur until the end of chapter 3 and there is much lovemaking before that! The primary reason for the inclusion of the Song in Scripture is that it is, like the relationship it portrays, an illustration of the depth of spiritual communion possible between the believer and their Lord.

Too Indulgent?
Is it too indulgent for a Christian to take time simply to develop their love relationship with the Lord? Shouldn't prayer be for intercession on behalf of others? Wouldn't an hour that has been given to basking in the love of Jesus be better spent performing some act of service?

It is impossible to have an encounter with God and not be changed. The mark of whether genuine intimacy with the Lord has occurred in prayer (or whether it is purely a self-satisfied delusion) is the extent to which the rest of our lives are different. The evidence will be a greater awareness of sin and increased desire for obedience to the Lord; more heartfelt intercession; a longing for corporate worship; a passion for Scripture; and an increased, divinely inspired love for people which shows itself in practical ways.

Prayer College Assignment
Ask the Lord to teach you how to pray and to plant in you the seed of desire to pray. Don't just pray this once, pray for it daily until you begin to feel the first stirrings of that desire.