by Chuck Hetzler (This article was originally published in the Ivy League Christian Observer, Fall 2012.)
Have you ever thought that prayer just isn’t your thing? You know other Christians who love to spend lots of time with God in prayer. It seems easy to them. But that’s not you. You’ve tried, but it doesn’t click for you. After trying time and again to work through it, you have settled in your mind (maybe only subconsciously) that you aren’t made to connect with God in prayer. There are other areas where it’s easy for you to serve. You’re a good student of the word or you’re eager to help behind the scenes. These ways are your service to Christ, but not prayer.
I want to encourage you to rethink your assumptions on the basis of the Bible and the testimony that I have heard countless times and even experienced personally.
Prayer wasn’t my primary way of relating to God for most of my life as a follower of Christ. For me, I sought God primarily through his word. I was fixated on learning the Bible. I was captivated by the idea of knowing every page of Scripture, and in its original languages. I wanted to understand every doctrine of God and be able to explain difficulties with biblical support and with ease. I thank God for this pursuit he put in me! Don’t misunderstand me; this kind of quest for God’s truth is wonderful. However, I let my personal preferences dictate my relationship with my God.
Prayer is not a spiritual gift that only some people have. Prayer is the lifeline that every believer has with God. Every person by virtue of being human has the capacity to connect with God directly, personally, without the aid of any other person oir thing. One of the worst consequences of sin is that we resist being in the presence of God.
We see this in the story of the Garden of Eden. Immediately after Adam and Eve sin, we see how sin disaffected their relationship with one another (feeling shame over their nakedness) and with God. We read of the latter in Genesis 3:8, “And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden” (emphasis added). This verse is meant to shock us. Presumably God would regularly come to the garden and spend time directly, personally with Adam and Eve. We imagine that prior to sin’s entrance, God would come to the Garden and Adam’s and Eve’s hearts would beat a little faster and they would rush to their Father just to be with him. This is prayer. This is how we were meant to relate to our Father, with thrill, wonder, and intimacy.
As surprising as it is, God really wants to be with us. He has been working throughout all human history to restore his relationship with us.
-He did it with Israel via the Temple.
-He did it by taking on flesh as Immanuel, “God with us.”
-He has done it by giving his Spirit to be “in us” (John 14:16).
-He will do it fully at the new creation: “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God” (Rev 21:3).
God doesn’t need our companionship but he has been on a fierce pursuit, sacrificing himself to the fullest extent to restore what he created to begin with – unhindered, personal relationship with you and me. Don’t believe anything less.
Surely, God has made each of us unique in our gifts, passions, and inclinations. These individual distinctives will affect the way that we relate to the Father, but they won’t make us more or less fit for friendship with him. Prayer isn’t the only means by which we come to know our God, but it certainly is a primary one.
I have been immensely encouraged in past months by a verse in Psalm 105. Verse 4 says, “Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually!” Do you know who authored that verse? God did. He is pleading with us to seek his presence relentlessly. He isn’t a God who withholds himself or chooses to show himself to us on rare occasions. He wants to be with you more than you know. So, don’t deny your Savior. He bought you for fellowship with him and he with you. Now go and discover more of him through prayer and may your experience of what “prayer” can be never be the same.