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I received this from Fred Heeren:

 

I'm interested in getting your take on an article mostly about prayer titled "Disappointed with Intimacy" by John Koessler in the November Christianity Today.  I'd be curious to know what you think of some of his main points:
- Relationship with God is not like relationship with anyone else.  It's mediated through the Holy Spirit, and it's very different.
- Prayer may thus feel one-sided; His presence cannot be known by sight or touch:  sort of like seeing God:  You don't:  "You have never heard his voice nor seen his form: (John 5:37).
- "The comfort we find in the conversation of prayer is the comfort of being heard more than of hearing (1 John 5:14-15).
-  It's a relationship in which we are known more than one in which we know.
- "It is a relationship where our greatest intimacy will be experienced in the future rather than the present."
What do you think?
My thoughts on Koessler's article are mainly positive.  His main points seem to correlate well with Scripture and with experience.  I have a number of people in my life, both "ex-believers" and struggling semi-believers, who have come to me with claims that either God doesn't care about them, or He doesn't exist, because He doesn't hold up his side of the relationship in any experiential way.  They have been prepped to expect amazing spiritual and emotional and sometimes even physical experiences from prayer, and they have finally given up after trying all kinds of stuff.  
If I could use Koessler's thinking with them, I think these lowered, or at least different, expectations, would line up with reality and might give them second thoughts.  Many of them thought they just didn't try hard enough, even after tremendous efforts, and they keep wondering if God only blesses the super spiritual who were capable of greater spiritual efforts. So they finally gave up.  In a strange way, Koesler's whole idea does line up better with the message of the gospel: it's not what we do to work up to a spiritual experience; it's not our work at all.

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I know many intercessors who would disagree - their experience is truly an intimate encounter with the living Lord. But, many pray-ers speak honestly about a seeming lack of God's presence or response when they pray.

 

In my mind, the issue is not that we have over-reached on intimacy; we have made it sound like a requirement we place upon God if we push the right buttons. The best intmacy is being known and having the confidence of his presence, even when he is silent.

 

Your thoughts?

 People tend to look at what they do to determine what they are worthy to ask for or even have. It's who and Who's you are that determines what you do. GOD is looking at your heart and not your track record. Knowing this should allow for a much closer relationship with our LORD and SAVIOUR.

 

There was a time very early in my prayer experience when I actually received answers and "heard" God speak to me in my spirit. Every encounter was filled with awe and I left feeling very intimately connected with the Almighty. However, as time passed, these encounters became less and less dramatic and less and less frequent. I continued to long for the experience. My prayer times look very different than they did 25 years ago. I am actually in a transition. I actually FEEL so much more connected when I SPEAK out the word, but find this very hard to do alone. I have tried and tried to engage others in prayer, but one of the things I have encountered is inconsistency and I get so frustrated. I don't have the same experience writing out my prayers as I do speaking out loud, but to do so by myself is one of the hardest things. So I believe that my expectation of what I should feel or not feel is the problem. I believe my "prayer life" as I once had it has deteriorated, and yet, in my spirit I know that God and I do communicate. It feels frustrating, however. Any one have any thoughts?
It took me almost a year of praying and giving God a moment of silence after I was finished praying before I ever heard God speak to me. ThisI did without knowing that He would speak to me, just that I wanted a closerwalk with Him. I think we get so caught up in hurrying through our time with God that we fail to try to listen and then when we are unable to hear Himthe first time we give up. God does not promise to give us a special "feeling"But a steady relationship. Our relationship with God should not be based on
whether or not we feel a certain way or even if He talks to us, but should be
based on our obedience to Him and our knowledge that He is a prayer answering
God who loves us and wants to be a close companion to us.

Jesus is calling for those of us who will walk in faith and not doubt Him. We will either accept or reject what He has written in His word! You have a measure of faith so use it even when doubt tries to set in. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5. You gotta trust Him no matter how you feel about it.

Like most things in Jesus' life, His Resurrection drew forth two contrasting responses . Those who believed, had their actions transformed. But those who refused to believe, found ways to ignore the evidence which was right before their eyes.

But notice that it took a personal, in the flesh, appearance before any of the disciples believed that Jesus had risen from the dead. They wouldn't take Mary's word for it. Not even the empty tomb was enough. They had to see Jesus for themselves.

And we all know the story of "doubting Thomas"--he wouldn't even take his fellow disciples' word for it! In the same way Mary's testimony wouldn't convince the disciples, Thomas insisted that he had to see "the imprint of the nails" and that he needed to "put (his) hand into (Jesus') side" before he would believe(Jn.20:25).

What is amazing in all of this is that Jesus painstakingly condescends to meet their level of skepticism. For even the doubtful Thomas gets an invitation to touch Jesus' scars with his fingers(Jn.20:27). And what is Thomas' response? . . . "My Lord, and my God!"(Jn.20:28).

Thus, a true believer is one who receives the testimony of God and who believes that whatever God says must be true!

GOD SAID IT!

    I BELIEVE IT!

       THAT SETTLES IT! Blessed are those who believe!


The key to intimacy with God is consistency. It takes a while to build a relationship in prayer because God's ways are so different from our ways. I don't think we should seek to have intimate encounters and experiences - we should simply be consistent in seeking the Lord daily. The experiences will come.

We have been influenced by our culture far more than we realize.  We can have it our own way, we can have immediate results and instant gratification with drive-thru pharmacy's, dry-cleaners, and instant coffee.  I can download a book in a moment and begin reading instantly, I can order a movie on my smart phone and watch as I commute.  Our culture has been teaching us that we don't need to wait for anything and we can have whatever we want.

Scripture leads us to trust in a God who is not limited by our preconceived notions or by our understanding of Him.  Sometimes God will remove all evidence of His presence so that we will seek Him, not His presents - as cliche as that sounds.

Early in my walk with the Lord, He graciously blessed me with some amazing encounters.  He then removed all sensory experiences - I could not feel Him, I could not hear Him, I could see evidence of His provision, protection, and power, but my previous intimacy with Him was apparently gone for good.  During that phase, I began to learn about the spiritual disciplines and how the practice of them keeps me in position to experience God.  I also read biographies of spiritual "giants" who went years without feeling God's presence.  Mother Teresa went 40 years without feeling the presence of God and the intimacy she experienced in her early years.  Her feelings wavered but her faith did not.

I have learned that God is God.  His ways and His thoughts are not mine.  He may condescend to meet me in a moment of need or He may not but that does not minimize or negate the depth of His love for me.  If I believe He sent His Son to provide the way for me to reconnect with Him, for the relationship that was severed in the Garden to be restored, then I can trust He will allow it to occur.  I have to allow God to be God - "be still and know that I AM"

If I find myself disappointed with intercession, the question does not lie with God but with my perceptions and expectations of God - do they align with the God of the Bible or with the God of my imagination?  Romans 8:26 states that we do not know how to pray - that is precisely why Jesus sent the Holy Spirit, to help us in our human weakness.

I heard a teaching one day on the radio where the preacher said "Adam knew not his wife and they traveled on".  if I did not know a woman I would not be traveling with her. Then the preacher said to know or knew was the words used to explain an intimate relationship with another person. How can we have an intimate relationship with GOD the father and CHRIST the son? First we need to invest some time in getting to know who GOD and CHRIST are. Then we have to determine if we want to have a relationship with GOD the father and CHRIST the son, by learning what they like and dislike, by understanding what they want from us. Then we need to move closer to him by communication from our heart.Knowing that GOD wants a relationship with me far more than i could ever understand. Assures me that GOD and CHRIST are very anxious to hear from me. So are my feelings of doubt about our relationship a trueth that i should heed or realize it for the lie it truely is and then reject that doubt? Then again how often do or can my feelings change in less than an hour? Feelings should not dictate the reality of my relationship with GOD the father and CHRIST the son.

A relationship is based upon two-way communication.  Without that, no relationship is possible.  I mean try to have a relationship with Martin Luther.

Jesus told us to "ask, seek and knock" for gifts of the Holy Spirit.  James said to ask by faith for the Gift of Wisdom.  Paul told us to keep seeking the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, especially that you may prophesy.  Three witnesses.  I am a fourth.  I became a Christian out of the Bible with no Christians available.  I earnestly prayed for God to speak to me because I wanted Truth.  When I claimed it by faith, God the Holy Spirit replied, "Welcome, son."  I have been following Him ever since, checking guidance against the Bible so Satan couldn't deceive me.

Since God is spirit, we must have a relationship through our spirits.  He often uses the spiritual analogue of seeing and hearing so we can 'understand' it, but it really is spirit to spirit.  We don't really hear with our physical ears.

Here's how to seek the gifts and authority of the Holy Spirit: http://orderofsaintpatrick.org/PDF/gifts-of-hs.pdf

I must offer the thesis that the discussion errors if it goes to either side.  God cannot be put in a box.  And should he allow you to think you have him in a box, you'll soon notice, the next time to go look into your box where you expect to "find" God, that he is not there!


Christianity IS of course experiential.  We really DO experience God, a new birth, an indwelling presence of the Spirit, etc.  It is just that the experiences of God are NOT controllable by us.  God may allow us to "contribute" through prayer and fasting and witness for example.   But ultimately, there is NO guaranteed "formula" for experiencing God.


I was brought to faith in Jesus Christ, 38 years ago.  During that time I have experienced very deep "intimate" times with God, times that affected me emotionally and physically.  I have also experienced very "lonely" times where God did "seem" to be absent or withdrawn, perhaps even uncaring.  Sometimes these were quite long periods of time.  But by his grace and working of the Holy Spirit he sustained me.  I have come to know these times as times of testing; times where I am required, and privileged, to remain faithful to my confession simply on the basis of faith in what I have come to believe in God's word, the Bible.  But even more than these times being a time of testing my faithfulness, they have proven to be times of God demonstrating his own faithfulness.  Remember, it was not when Israel was at the springs of Elim that they "experienced" God's miraculous presence to meet their needs, but rather when they were in the sparse realms of Marah.  I have learned that the lonely places, devoid of many natural resources--the places we would NOT choose to go, but are sometimes sent to, are the places where you later look back to and then see the gracious hand of God and his providing presence, both of which you might not have even been aware of during the time of your sojourn in those dark and lonely places.

To the question of the article's title, "Are we over promising on intimacy in prayer?"  Generally I would answer "yes."  But not just in prayer; pretty much in all areas of the Christian message--Bible study, worship, fellowship, evangelism, etc.  And I think such over-promising does lead to disappointment in the Christian life.  It does so, because inappropriate expectations are not met.  We are making promises to people about what God will do in their lives, which God himself is not making.  We need to be careful about this.

So much more could be written on this subject, and probably should be.  For example, we should consider, the message of "taking up our cross," "laying down our lives,"  "sacrifice," "laying up treasures in heaven," "looking to heaven as our true place and time of reward and bliss," "the continuing NT ministry of the Holy Spirit today," etc.

In closing I would reiterate that error is found on either side of the discussion.  The truth, it seems to me, is to be found in the center, embracing both "intimacy" as well as "loneliness and wilderness."  Such is the full walk of the Christian.  And in both types of "experiences," God DOES prove HIMSELF faithful, which enures to our benefit and His glory.

Grace to all through Christ our Savior and Lord,

We have leverage with God through the great and precious promises He gave us by His free will.  Thereafter, He limits his own absolute free will to make room for our free will in interacting with His promises, positive and negative.  This is the "box" He puts himself in for us.  This is the formula He has given us.

As we take time to hear the rhema word of God and obey it, we find that God comes through.  Our confidence or Faith grows.

As we mature through the stages of maturity in 2 Peter 1:5-7, we hit a Romans 7 experience, where our old nature gets in the way and blocks our communication with God.  We need to renounce iniquity and ask God for His grace to dispel it, to get back into the daylight.

There have been times when I have felt that my prayers went no further than the ceiling.  Times when I wondered why bother praying at all. Times when I knew in my heart that if I didn't pray I would be disobeying God. Times when I felt bold in prayer and times when I have been weak. BUT GOD promises in His Scriptures to hear and answer our prayers.  He promises to be our God, our Shepherd, our Comforter and so much more.  So in the times that I don't "feel" like my prayers are effective and times when I don't "feel" God's presence or hear His voice. I go to the Holy Scriptures and there He speaks to me. A sheep knows the voice of his Shepherd.  I know when God has spoken to me.  He doesn't always speak to me in the same way but when He does I know it is God. So when God is silent, I just rest in faith of His promises. They are Yes and Amen.  Then when I least expect it God will speak through me to another or give me understanding or give me a sense of peace, or even a sense of urgency concerning a matter. I can't define intimacy with God, I don't put my expectations on Him, I let Him put His exceptions in our relationship on me.

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