Divine Intimacy
by Russell A. Morris
O

ne of the truisms I heard growing up is, “Prayer is one of the most talked about and least practiced elements in the church.” Sadly, through years of church experience, I have found this to be accurate.

In theory, few sincere believers would discount the importance and benefits of praying. However, many of us have failed to develop an intimate relationship with God through prayer.

How does this failure affect us? First, prayer becomes a token practice, used only in times of need, during a crisis, or when convenient. Second, our communion with God becomes anemic, sparse, and limited at best. Third, by not taking advantage of all God has made available through prayer, we seldom reach the level of communion needed for victorious Christian living.

If we are to have the communion with God that He desires, we must pursue purity, encounter God personally, and seek intimacy.

Purity

I marvel at the capacity of the omnipotent God to inhabit our finite mortal bodies. Scripture teaches that we as believers, both individually and collectively, comprise the temple of the Holy Spirit (see 1 Cor. 3:16-17). Being saved by God’s grace, “we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” (2 Cor. 4:7 NIV).

The first step in developing and maintaining intimacy with God is to approach Him with a heart that is pursuing purity. This is not to suggest sinless perfection, but it does imply a heart that is continually seeking to please our Lord. We should “pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Tim. 2:22 NIV).

Consider the following questions in relation to your lifestyle choices and behavioral practices:

• Is there anything in my life that would displease Christ?

• Do I treat others with respect and dignity?

• Do I insist on having my way, regardless of the consequences?

• Are my moral convictions defined by culture or by the Word of God?

• Do I defile myself physically by abusing my body with alcohol, drugs, or an unhealthy diet?

• Is my language and vocabulary under the control of the Holy Spirit?

• Do I bring my integrity into question by engaging in unethical practices?

• Do I entertain myself with questionable literature, movies, television, or websites?

• Is my thought life pure and under the control of the Holy Spirit?

• Do I engage in secret sins?

The above questions may seem archaic, unrealistic, and even out of touch with a tolerant culture that diagnoses itself as “enlightened.” However, the New Testament reveals that such questions are relevant for Christians in every generation.

Yes, great treasure lives within us. As a result, we should endeavor with heart, soul, mind, and strength to please Him who abides within. Such an approach to Christian living facilitates communion with God.

How can you pursue a heart of purity in an impure world? Spend time daily in sincere prayer, enhancing your intimacy with God. Read, study, and reflect on God’s Word each day, asking the question, “Father, what are You saying to me personally?” Ask for guidance in life’s situations. Refuse to compromise your integrity—it’s one of the few things you really can control. Seek the fellowship and accountability of fellow Christians. Faithfully attend and participate in the ministries of your church. Because the Holy Spirit resides within you, purity is a priority you cannot discard.

Personal Encounter

Scripture is replete with those who experienced personal encounters with God. Adam spoke with God on a personal level. Noah encountered God and was given a divine mandate to build an ark. Abraham experienced God and received a promise. David’s encounter empowered him to kill a lion and a bear, as well as a Philistine giant. Paul was apprehended by God, resulting in a transformation of his character and ministry.

However, in our scientific era, to speak of experiencing God raises eyebrows. Skeptics scoff at the concept of experiencing God, with many denying even the possibility of His existence.

Students of Scripture soon recognize not only the possibility but also the importance of personal experiences with the God of creation. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is also the God of contemporary Christians.

Experiencing God is much like breathing air; it happens in every arena of life. You may have a personal encounter through a blinding crisis, as did Saul of Tarsus; or through a still small voice, as did Elijah. The objective is to develop the kind of relationship that enhances communion with God.

Seeking an encounter with God is not to focus on mystical or metaphysical experiences. It is an intentional endeavor to experience God in the everyday, even mundane, issues of life. Scripture clearly teaches that God continues to speak, but we must be willing to listen.

Intimacy

Traveling with Jesus for three years, the disciples observed countless acts of ministry. Yet, we never read where they asked Jesus to teach them to heal the sick, cast out unclean spirits, or raise the dead. The Bible reveals that only once was an appeal made by the disciples for Jesus to teach them something specific. In Luke 11:1, one of Jesus’ disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray.”

Jesus’ answer to this vital question is one of intimacy and relationship. He said before asking for anything, they were to acknowledge “Our Father Who is in heaven (v. 2 Amp.).” Before asking God, “Give us daily our bread,” “forgive us our sins,” and “bring us not into temptation but rescue us from evil” (vv. 3-4 Amp.), we are to initiate the process with an acknowledgment of the intimate relationship we have with God.

The person I know who best characterizes intimacy in prayer is my maternal grandmother, Eva MacRae. From childhood through my early teen years, I spent numerous weekends in “Maw Maw’s” home. Her custom before retiring each evening was to pray. We both knelt—she prayed, while I listened. The room became a most holy place. Her prayer began with praise, then petition, usually followed by weeping and praying in the Spirit. As a child, I was filled with awe at her communion with God, which became a model for my prayer life.

Maw Maw, now 94, continues her intimate walk with her heavenly Father. What step will you take today to enhance your level of communion with God?

Russell A. Morris, D.Min., Ph.D., serves as lead pastor of Harvest Hills Church of God in Burlington, North Carolina, and also as a post-graduate supervisor at South African Theological Seminary.