GOOD NEWS FOR A MODERN WORLD

HOW CAN YOU DRAW CLOSE TO GOD

December 15, 2012

 

 

         When we accept the reality that there is a God, it is natural and appropriate that we would want to draw close to Him. It is ingrained in the human psyche to search for our maker.  We observe that children who are abandoned or adopted at birth eventually seek out their natural parents.  Even non-believing scientists go to great lengths to explore the universe.  Consciously or unconsciously, they are searching for their origin, their life-giver, their Father.

 

      The sons and daughters of God have a keen, undiluted and unmistakable desire to draw closer and closer to the Father until we actually attain to His presence.  Here, we will discuss a few ways that we can do this.

 

The Benefits of Prayer

 

    Prayer is the technique by which every person, no matter their earthly accomplishments, social status, or national origin, can effectively and immediately approach and communicate with his Maker.  We cannot imagine that a loving and merciful Creator would not make himself easily accessible and approachable by his creations.  The Father/Child relationship is the preeminent relationship in the universe of universes, so much so that God himself reaches down to the human realm, past all spirit personalities (even past the Christ), to personally indwell the minds of his earthly sons and daughters. 

 

“Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?”

– 1 Corinthians 3:16

 

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own.”

– 1 Corinthians 6:19

 

     It is by means of this indwelling spirit that God is aware of every action and reaction of His earthly children. He does not look down from His heavenly station and peer into our lives.  He actually goes through our lives with us as a part of us. Thus, not one of us can do anything that God does not know about.  Jesus told us:

 

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

– Matthew 10:29-31

 

     So clearly God hears all prayers. But does He listen, or give heed and respond, to all prayers? The answer is no. While God makes Himself available to His children at all times and under all circumstances, man must open the human end of the channel of communication in order to make available this ever-flowing stream of divine ministry.  When man hears God's spirit speak within the human heart, inherent in such an experience is the fact that God simultaneously hears that man's prayer. However, when the human heart deliberately and persistently harbors the concepts of sin and iniquity, there gradually ensues the loss of personal prayer connection between man and his Maker. 

 

      If man turns away from the divine will, the very act of such deliberate and conscious disdain by the creature figuratively turns the ‘ears’ of God away from hearing the personal petitions of such lawless and disobedient humans.

                                                           

“If anyone turns a deaf ear to my instruction, even their prayers are detestable.”

– Proverbs 28:9

 

      Jesus, quoting from the Hebrew prophet, tells us:

                                   

“This is why I speak to them in parables: “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: “‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’”

– Matthew 13:13-15

 

     Even the forgiveness of sin operates in this same unerring fashion. The Father in heaven has forgiven us even before we have thought to ask Him; this is an established fact. 

 

“When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.”

– Colossians 2:13-14

 

     But such forgiveness is not available in our personal religious experience until such time as we forgive our fellow men. God's forgiveness in fact is not conditioned upon our forgiving our fellows; but in experience it is exactly so. We might understand that by saying that God’s forgiveness has already been sent and is at the door.  But it is our forgiveness of our brothers that opens the door so we can receive it.  So we see that prayer does not change the divine attitude toward man; but it does change man's attitude toward the changeless Father.

 

     Jesus established the fact of the synchrony of divine and human forgiveness by way of the prayer that he taught the apostles.

 

“Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’ For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

– Matthew 6:11-15

 

      This rule also applies in the area of mercy:

 

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”

– Matthew 5:7 

 

“Whoever shuts their ears to the cry of the poor will also cry out and not be answered.”

– Proverbs 21:13

 

      And also to judging:

 

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

– Matthew 7:1-5

 

     In fact, it applies to all areas of our lives:

 

“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”

– Matthew 7:12

 

    Thus, when we have become wholly dedicated to doing the will of the Father in heaven, and to treating others fairly by forgiving them, showing mercy, and not judging them, we can be assured that He will listen to our prayers.

 

     But listening to our prayers does not mean that He will grant every request.  Many times, the things we ask for are things we are not prepared to receive.  We have not truly counted the cost and the unintended consequences of our prayers being answered in the way we request.  For example, we may pray for a marriage mate.  But are we really equipped to receive a good and compatible partner?  Have we developed patience and the ability to compromise? Can we trust? Can we be faithful? It would be better to pray for those qualities first, and when we have acquired them, then we will be in a position to receive a loving, thoughtful and compatible mate.  Until then, answering the prayer may subject the praying individual and the acquired mate to unnecessary grief and tribulation. 

 

     As a wise father does not literally answer the foolish prayers of his ignorant and inexperienced children, neither does our heavenly One, albeit the children may derive much pleasure and satisfaction from the making of such absurd petitions. No, the Father gives to us the things that are best suited for our needs.

           

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

– Matthew 7:9-11

 

     The lessons Jesus gave as to prayer show that it is appropriate to include in our prayers petitions for our own needs, including the forgiveness of our sins. (Matthew 6:11-12) But the larger portion of our prayers should focus on giving thanks and seeking help to do the divine will, trusting that the Father will provide everything we need.  As Jesus said:

 

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

– Matthew 6:33

 

“[P]ray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

– 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18

 

       When we practice these things in connection with our prayers, we can be assured that the Father will not only hear our prayers, but listen and respond according to our needs. 

 

        And we do not want to forget that the Father sees us as eternal beings.

                                               

“Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”

– John 17:3

 

“Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life.”

– John 6:47

 

    This means that the answers to some of our prayers may come after we begin the heavenly assent to the Father, when we are more prepared and better able to receive the responses we seek. If we do all things mentioned above and do not receive what we are asking for, then we can be assured there are other factors that come into play that perhaps we are not aware of.  Instead of being ‘no,’ the answer could be ‘not now.’ 

 

     Notwithstanding, the children of the Father should not hesitate to offer our prayers of thanksgiving, as well as our petitions for spiritual growth, spiritual insight, even our daily needs.  We should be comfortable in communicating all things, even foolish things, to our heavenly Father.  In many cases, the very vocalization of our absurd petitions reveals to us their folly and thereby we answer our own prayers. 

 

      Know, too, that our God is not a sensitive egoist, or a harsh potentate who must be placated and appeased by our self-deprecation.  He is a loving, caring Father who wants our association, who seeks our association.  He reached down to us first; He indwelt us before we even asked for it; He sent His son to reveal His true nature because He wants us to truly know Him; and He wants us to pour out our hearts to Him.  

 

“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us.”

- John 4:16-19

 

      We can, therefore, have faith that whatever we pray for, He will always provide exactly what we need.    And He will never be late.

                                   

How to Pray

 

     In what is referred to as the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gave specific instruction on how to pray.  Here is his counsel:

 

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

– Matthew 6:5-6

 

     Prayer is a personal matter between the praying individual and the Father.  It is a sincere undertaking whose primary purpose is to connect and commune with the Father.  It is in these private moments that we pour out our hearts, and reveal our most intimate concerns, even as did Jesus:

 

“During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.”

– Hebrews 5:7

 

     If we were to make such displays in public, our motives could easily be questioned, and moreover, our pure unadulterated honesty could be stifled or misunderstood.  Better to take Jesus’ counsel and follow his example, and offer our personal prayers in our private rooms.

                                                                                               

    But that is not to say that we cannot offer prayers of thanksgiving to the Father in public, as when we are about to partake of a meal.  But we should be cognizant of our motives.  Are we praying to draw attention to our godly devotion? Or are we sincerely giving thanks?  If we are giving thanks in behalf of a group, it is necessary and appropriate to vocalize such prayers. But if we are offering personal thanks, we should remember that silent prayers are just as effective.

 

     Neither does the counsel in Matthew mean that we cannot pray as a group or as a congregation.  Group or congregational praying is very effective in that it aids in bringing the group closer together.  When a group engages in community prayer for moral enhancement and spiritual uplift, such prayers positively effect the individuals composing the group.  They are all made better because of participation.  Even a whole city or an entire nation can be helped by such prayers.  Confession, repentance, and prayer have led individuals, cities, nations, and whole races to mighty efforts of reform and courageous deeds of positive and audacious achievement. 

 

     Jesus also warned his followers against thinking that their prayers would be rendered more effective by ornate repetitions, eloquent phraseology, fasting, penance, or sacrifices.

 

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

- Matthew 6:7-8

 

     No, prayer is not a magical incantation.  Nor it is a means whereby we ask God to solve all of our difficulties.  Prayer is not a substitute for action; instead, prayer should be a stimulus to action.  We pray to have the courage, wisdom and ability to know how to act – not asking God to act for us, but with us. 

 

     Our prayers should also be fair.  We should not expect God to show partiality – to love us more than His other children, our friends, neighbors, even enemies.

 

“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” 

– Matthew 5:44-45

           

     Remember, while prayer does not change God, it very often effects great and lasting changes in the one who prays in faith and confident expectation.  Prayer has been the ancestor of much peace of mind, cheerfulness, calmness, courage, self-mastery, and fair-mindedness in the men and women who are seeking to do the divine will.  We should pray as Jesus taught his disciples — honestly, unselfishly, with fairness, and without doubting.

 

      If we are to engage in effective praying, we should bear in mind these thoughts:

 

  • We must be sincere and courageous as we face the problems of life.  We must develop spiritual stamina.

 

  • We must have honestly exhausted the human capacity for achieving what we seek.  We must have been industrious.

 

  • We must surrender our desires to the transforming embrace of spiritual growth. We must allow the Spirit of Truth to do its work in our lives.

 

  • We must make a wholehearted choice to do the divine will. We must obliterate indecision in this regard.

 

  • We must not only recognize the Father's will and choose to do it, but we must have made an unqualified consecration, and a dynamic dedication, to the actual doing of the Father's will.

 

  • We must pray with a view to obtaining divine wisdom that would help us solve the specific human problems we encounter now, and the wisdom that will carry us throughout our heavenly career. 

 

  • And we must have faith – a living faith.

                                                                                               

     Finally, when we have made our prayers to the Father, we should remain for a time in silent receptivity to afford the indwelling spirit the better opportunity to speak to our listening soul. The spirit of the Father speaks best to man when the human mind is in an attitude of true worship. Yes, effective prayer involves the ministry of the Father's indwelling spirit and the illumination of the God-oriented human mind that is saturated with truth, goodness, fairness and love. 

 

Why Christians Meet Together

                                               

      The apostle Paul, in speaking with the Hebrew Christians, admonished:

 

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another —and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

– Hebrews 10:23-25              

 

      This is the main reason Christians should meet together – to encourage one another to hold fast to their hope – the heavenly hope, the only hope for survival after human death.  We need that encouragement because it is so easy to get sidetracked and put spiritual matters on the back burner while we deal with the pressing affairs of earthly life. 

 

     Of course, we can gain encouragement by reading our Bibles and by personal prayer.  But there are distinct advantages to meeting together with those of like minds. 

 

      For one, we gain the benefit of the thoughts and ideas of our fellows:

 

“I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong— that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.”

– Romans 1:11-12

 

    Spiritual growth is mutually stimulated by intimate association with other believers. And love, which supplies the soil for spiritual growth, is multiplied when in association with others of like faith. 

                                   

    By meeting together, we also learn to cooperate with other minds.  We learn to harmonize our thinking with others. 

 

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”

Proverbs 27:17

                                                                                               

     When we live an isolated life, we can become selfish and severely socially handicapped. We might begin to develop strange ideas about life and God and man, ideas that are not challenged by others so as to be sharpened and refined, all of which will lead to calamity.

 

“An unfriendly person pursues selfish ends and against all sound judgment starts quarrels.”

– Proverbs 18:1

 

      From the beginning, God acknowledged:

 

“The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” 

– Genesis 2:18

 

     This counsel remains true throughout our earthly and our heavenly careers.  We must look at ourselves as the Father looks at us, as future spirit beings with eternity in view:

                                                                       

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”

- Colossians 3:1-2

 

     Consider this: When we begin the heavenly ascent, we will no doubt encounter a variety of advanced beings and we will have to know how to adjust ourselves to cooperative living.  Better that we develop this skill now to ensure the greatest success in our new abodes.

 

    But the most profound benefit of meeting together is to gain access to the mind of Christ.  He told his disciples:

 

“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” 

– Matthew 18:20

                                                                                                           

     Yes, Jesus Christ himself, in the form of the Spirit of Truth, is with us when we meet together.  And that Spirit moves us to a realization of truth in a manner that is exponentially more potent than any singular association.

 

     And of course, the highest purpose of gathering together is to honor Christ and partake of the evening meal that he instituted as a remembrance of him.  (Luke 22:14-20)

                                                                                                                                   

Benefits From Drawing Close to God

 

      We discussed how to draw close to God in Chapter 2.  We pointed out that we are already physically close to God because a portion of His Spirit dwells within each of us:

 

“Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?”

– 1 Corinthians 3:16

 

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own.”

– 1 Corinthians 6:19

 

     So the need to draw close to God is not physical, but spiritual.  We need to align our spirit with the Father’s Spirit.  As Jesus said:

 

“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

– Matthew 5:48

 

     We do that by prayer, by meeting together with like minds, and by imitating his only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ:

 

“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

– John 14:6

           

     The benefits of drawing close to God are far too numerous to state.  So we will simply share some scriptural thoughts:

                       

“You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.” 

– Psalms 145:16

 

“However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived” — the things God has prepared for those who love him.”

– 1 Corinthians 2:9  

            

      Jesus enumerated some of the benefits in his Sermon on the Mount:

                       

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

– Matthew 5:3-12

 

     And there are many more ideas scattered throughout the Christian Greek Scriptures:

 

“Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life.”

– John 6:47   

 

“But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.”

- John 16:13

 

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

– 1 Corinthians 10:13

 

“For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs-heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”

 – Romans 8:14-17

                                   

“For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that[h] the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.”

– Romans 8:20-21                                                     

                       

“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.”

– Philippians 3:20

                       

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

– Philippians 4:6-7

 

“For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

- Colossians 1:13-14                                                 

 

“Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.”

– 1 Timothy 4:16

                                                           

“For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.”

– 2 Corinthians 1:20

                       

      And in summary, we encourage you:

 

“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.”

– Psalms 34:8               

                                  

“Your Brothers in Faith”

 

Good News for a Modern World Introduction

 

 

 

 

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