14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:14-16
The Christian life is not so much about our relentless pursuit of God as it is about His pursuit of us. The cross is evidence of this; God proactively entered into our World and made a way of salvation where there was no way. The message many of us have swallowed is all about what we must do to be accepted and loved by God. Then of course we sometimes find religion and enter into a cycle of striving, failure, guilt and shame, sorrow and then striving again. This cycle happens when we don’t know who we are in Christ. It can affect, all believers, pastors, politicians, lawyers, and tradies alike.
Developing a healthy spirituality helps us mature in our relationship with God so that we can more easily receive His love.
Some years ago, I began practicing prayer intentionally differently. At the advice of a close friend, I began spending large chunks of time sitting in a quiet place and listening for God’s voice. What did His voice sound like? Well, it sounded a lot like mine, only it began to change gradually over time…
In the waiting process I identified three transitions, through four stages in my prayer life:
1) Talking at God – This is a barrage of words directed at God in order to impress Him, and anyone who happens to be listening. This model of prayer was the first point of failure when I started spending hours alone with God. It’s surprising how shallow our prayer lives can become until we are confronted with the stark reality of solitude. I’m a type ‘A’ kind of person so I like to get the job done!
Myers-Briggs type A personality
Type A personality likes to be in charge and be in control of their environment and their lives. They’re normally not very detail-oriented, choosing to delegate details to others. They’re usually very goal-oriented and practical in their solutions.
2) Talking to God – This is when we have become somewhat comfortable finding our own words to talk to God. This is where most Christians land in their prayer lives. But, it’s generally one way traffic; we do the talking He does the listening.
3) Listening to God – This happens when we have learned to pause and hear the still small voice of the Holy Spirit. Dialogue has developed. When believers reach this stage of prayer life, we think we’ve finally made it. This is the high water of a mature relationship with God, or is it?
4) Being with God – This is when we enjoy just being with God. This is a more permanent and sustainable relationship that doesn’t always demand answers but is based on mutual love. His presence makes our lives fulfilled, its really all we need.
When the writer to the Hebrews says: “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need”, the emphasis is more on the experience of being in God’s presence than storming the gates of heaven for answers to our prayers, good as that is.
Like me, you might say, “I don’t have time to sit and spend hours with God, just give me the executive summary”. It sounds trite until you commit to it, but the truth is, we can’t afford not to spend time waiting on God.
Start today. And be prepared for a long journey, but its well worth embarking on.