Due to sickness, I went on a run tonight for the first time in a week. As I started my jog, I felt the aches of joints that had been content in lethargy. My muscles echoed their complaints. The rhythm of my pace was inconsistent and my form did not feel natural. The lack of practice caused a delay in my body falling into a natural rhythm and sync. Instead it felt awkward and unfamiliar. Why am I telling you this? Many times I have gotten ‘out of practice’ with developing intimacy with God. This lapse in ‘practice’ causes an awkwardness and unfamiliarity when i approach Him in prayer and worship.
This lapse is not always caused by not devoting time to God (although sometime it is). You see, I study God’s word like most people study their school work. When my friend goes off to study her college work, I go to study the Bible. The problem is that many times I dissect God’s word without cultivating intimacy with God. I get so caught up in the knowledge that I miss the call of God to prayer and interaction with the spirit. Sometimes, I wrap up my study times with a quick prayer at the end after hours of studying.
After several days of doing this, I realize that something is missing and I can’t figure out what. I don’t feel the presence of the Spirit as strongly as the week before. This used to puzzle me. After all, I was spending hours reading and studying the Bible not to mention many other books, online resources, and magazines about current religious topics. I would listen to sermons for hours. But still in prayer, God seemed more distant than usual. Prayer seemed a task.
Prayer should be a delight but sometimes it is a discipline first. One of the Hebrew definitions of the word delight is to bend or be moved. We delight in God out of obedience and we obey out of love and holy fear. In delighting in Him, we are bending to His will and desires. We are being moved by God. Through conversation and prayer, we are cultivating intimacy that will even better equip us with wisdom to interpret His scripture and other resources. Prayer is a necessity if we require intimacy with God, direction from God, and the anointing of the Spirit. Even if it feels uncomfortable, keep at it! I wanted to stop my run by the 3rd step; but by the end of the run, I finished with strength and runner’s grace.
Here are some of the things that have come to help me if my time with God feels awkward or unnatural. These methods revive intimacy with God in my life :
- Praise God. Talk to God about His goodness, and I don’t mean general qualities. “God, You are so Good”. Be specific. Thank Him for the strength that He gave you when you were confronted this morning by one of your enemies. Or thank Him that you were able to finish a 2 mile run. Thank Him for his voice and kindness in a specifically difficult moment. Think about the qualities that you love about God and then tell Him.
- Fast. I know you don’t want to hear this. But fasting stretches your spiritual capacity and increases the tenderness of your heart. While you fast, in your weakness, pray to God for strength and feed on His word. I highly recommend the book The Rewards of Fasting by Mike Bickle and Dana Candler
- Read a Psalm aloud to God. If you are brave enough, sing a Psalm to God. David was a beautiful poet and a man after God’s own heart. Let the words of the verses permeate and wash over your spirit.
- Eliminate distractions. Just as the scripture says, distractions will come in and choke the ‘seed’ of the spirit. When a distraction comes to your mind, either dismiss it or discuss it with God if it is something that is troubling you. God wants you to have the faith to give Him your cares.
- Pray for faith, intimacy, any quality whose lack is keeping you from drawing near to God. The bible says that you have not because you ask not. So, ASK. God will not withhold these things from you.
- Confess your doubt, weaknesses, sin. Be real with God. He who knew you in your mother’s womb and knows the number of hairs on your head and atoms in your body is not anyone from whom you should be withholding secrets. It is an honor that we can go to God and confess these things with the advocate Jesus Christ who stands for us. If you are having trouble thinking of any sin that is dividing you from God, PRAY. Ask God to reveal these to you.
- Pray on your knees. It’s not just for children! This might seem silly, but there is something about praying in this position that positions your heart towards God.
- Tell someone your testimony. Something amazing happens when you share your testimony and what God has brought you through. It sets your heart ablaze for your first love and savior. An added bonus: hearing someone’s testimony will move the other person too. You can deny a lot of things, but not personal encounter and experience.
- Be still with God. Go outside take a walk. Get away from the distractions of your dirty house, cute kids (or in my case dog), ringing phone… and let the God of the universe speak to you in that still, small voice.
- View yourself through God’s eyes. Read the promises of God or the many verses where He talks about how much He loves your specific qualities (Song of Songs is a great place to start). Listen to God’s voice and see yourself through His eyes. Imagine yourself as a child learning something exciting and new, and God rejoicing over you, as scripture tells us He does. After you are able to view yourself through His eyes, you will be amazed at how you are able to view others through His eyes. (This can be frustrating if you really want to be upset with that person :))
- Pray without ceasing. Now this can be difficult (and dangerous when driving a moving vehicle), but what this really means is to stay in constant communion with God. Pray before your meals and talk to Him about how the day is going. Tell Him when something frustrates you. Thank Him when something makes you happy. Pray to Him about a friend that just told you some sad news about his/her life.
I’m sure that each person is different and develops their own methods for drawing close to the Father. Find your own ways to pursue intimacy and nearness to Him. This is so important in this day and hour!