I’ve never written about supernatural experiences before. Nor have I ever written about my personal worship experiences, or really even much about my prayer life. This is mainly because I’ve experienced very few such events worth mentioning.
That is, not much out of the ordinary the like of which you haven’t heard before. There are a few exceptions, however, some of which I will share in this post.
In the past (and still sometimes today) I wondered how to be intimate with God. How to get intimate with God. Truly intimate. Like, Eden intimate. Okay, maybe that’s a bit lofty.
Let’s Be Honest
To be exceptionally honest I sometimes wonder if I’m actually close to God. I mean, I like to think we’re pretty tight-knit, but what do I have to compare it to? Can I bring in some brutal honesty? How do I know if I’m really in communion with someone who doesn’t talk back?
I may have lost some people there. Maybe you’re slightly offended or at least taken aback. Or perhaps you’re more interested now. Perhaps you’re silently empathizing, relieved that you aren’t the only one who feels this way.
You want to sit down and have your “quiet time” or as my youth group put it at one time, TAG (Time Alone with God). You’d like to be able to just get on your knees or dive into your Bible or, I dunno, go sit in a field somewhere and just FEEL God’s holy presence embrace your fragile human soul!
I Get It
We read and hear about these super saintly people who just “heard God speak” to them or “felt His presence so powerfully:” how do we get in on that without being a victim of sociopsychological manipulation?
I know the feeling. After all I do want to be intimate with God. I want feel close to Him, like a good and loving father. Like… Sinai close. Okay, maybe not that close.
The chance of you hearing the audible voice of God in your lifetime is slim to none. Even in scripture when God speaks it is rarely clarified to be a literal, actual sound. Many if not most Christians often have a difficult time even understanding how and when God does speak to us.
This seems to create for us a sardonic oxymoron: a personal, loving God which we can pray to whom is… not going to talk back? Maybe God is not so personal after all? Am I missing something here? Isn’t this supposed to be a two-way conversation? Do I have to play guessing games to figure out how to be intimate with God?
My First Memorable Experiences with Closeness
Alright, I know it already seems like I’m dragging this out. Still, let me divert for a moment. I’ve never really been one of those people that gets into the worship service. Maybe it’s because when I first started going to church it was at a highly reserved Southern Baptist congregation. Maybe I’m irreverent.
I’m just not a hand-raising, hip-swaying kinda guy. Don’t get me wrong: I like music. It’s just that music isn’t generally how I prefer to worship and isn’t usually how I feel close to God. With a small handful of exceptions…
Let me share a couple of personal experiences with you. A couple of years ago I was driving home from work in my car, simply listening to music. I began thinking about how good and gracious and generous the Lord truly is.
Out of nowhere, a rush of emotion overwhelmed me and I began to cry and laugh at the same time. If this sounds foreign and freaky to you then trust me: I felt like a madman myself. What was going on? Had this Christian thing made me delirious?
I don’t think so. I was just feeling particularly thankful and joyous, and I was praising God for it. Some might say the Holy Spirit came upon me. Others might just assume my sensitive self was having a strange emotional episode.
To be honest, I’m still not completely sure how I feel about that particular incident myself. It happened once or twice again after that, at seemingly random times. Interestingly enough, though, it’s not an event I can willingly replicate. Listening to the same songs and thinking of the same things on purpose won’t tear me up or have me heartily laughing. It just sort of… happened.
In With the New
Fast forward to some more recent scenes. I just mentioned above how I’m not much of a musical worship kind of Christian. It’s just not normally a setting when I feel any closer to God than I usually do. I love to hear preaching so most of the time I’d be okay with skipping right to the message.
Just last week I was deeply distraught over something, forcing introspection on my own faith while also questioning God. “Why don’t you talk to me?” I asked rashly. “Even though I don’t talk to you sometimes, why don’t you talk to me?”
My prayers were shallow and sorrowful that night. I ended the conversation with the assumption that God didn’t have an answer for me. And He would have been right, of course, not to answer me. Sometimes we speak in such foolish ways that the Lord chooses not to dignify our nonsense with response. Not that He is ignoring us, but sometimes you cannot answer a child when all they are doing is babbling.
The next day was Easter Sunday and at the evening service we attended, during worship, I was overcome again. I began to cry and I felt an indescribable power fill me with peace and loving reassurance. It was gentle and familiar, mighty and supreme all at once. That’s really about all I can say and as well as I can put it; there are so few human descriptors for the divine and the infinite.
God had answered me after all. And yet He had responded not with words but with something so much better. Of all the emotions and mumblings I had mindlessly hurled toward Him, His answer was simple and overwhelmingly magnificent. “Everything will work out for good. I am with you. I will guide you. Trust me. My grace is sufficient for you.” Thank you, Lord.
Intimacy with God is a Gift From God
I’m not sure how much sharing my experiences can do to actually help you. I guess I’m just trying to say that if you’re fumbling around trying to figure out how to be intimate with God then you’re not alone in that. You’re definitely not abnormal and it doesn’t even necessarily mean you’re doing anything wrong.
One thing I’ve figured out is that intimacy with God is a precious and sometimes rare gift from Him. Don’t misunderstand: it’s not that God is fickle and randomly chooses to sprinkle bits of Himself into our lives when He is in a good mood. Rather, God knows exactly when and what we truly need and is always working to meet with us in the midst of life.
It is not God who is nonreciprocal of our hopeful grasping. Sometimes we don’t feel connected to God because we are so focused on a small self-centered world of our own without even realizing it. This is why prayer and reflection on scripture are so important: they help us to re-center our lives and actualize our hope and joy in Christ.
Praxis, Praxis, Praxis
Of course, there are all kinds of practical passages in scripture we can learn from. James 4:8 tells us “draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” This means that when we actively work toward intimacy with God, He will actively work toward intimacy with us.
And in Matthew 7:7 we see “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” Of course this doesn’t mean God will do whatever you ask Him to or give you whatever you want (see Myths About Christianity). But as we strive toward the will of our Lord we will find that our desires look more like His. We can meet Him in His mysterious workings and watch Him open the widest doors and perform the most incredible miracles.
I can sit here and quote Bible verses at you all day long but the most important first step to find intimacy with God is to ask Him to be close to you. Sit down and ask Him to fill you with His Spirit and overwhelm you with His presence. Pray in the morning. Pray for an hour. Pray on your way to work.
And don’t just endlessly mutter in your prayer but pause and allow Him to intercede. Sit and enjoy the company of Jesus. When the Bible says “pray without ceasing” it’s not talking about kneeling all day with your palms touching. It’s talking about being in constant communion with God, opening your mind and sharing your thoughts with Him. This is intimacy.
When praying becomes a habit you will also over time learn to hear from God. He will speak to you through music, preaching, and even the wise words of Godly friends and teachers. God speaks through scripture and as we learn scripture it will come to us in our thoughts. Like I said before, God rarely speaks audibly. But do not limit the infinite ways that our Lord can communicate closeness and oneness with us.
Are you seeking the Lord? Have you asked yourself recently how to be intimate with God? I’d love to hear your story. How do you get intimate with and feel close to God? Let me know by commenting right down below!