Years ago, when I was a child, the Lord brought a new pastor to our church, along with a parsonage full of children. One of those “pastor’s kids” became a dear friend. Although years of time (nine years since the last face to face visit) and miles of distance had passed between us, when opportunity came, we were able to pick up our friendship right where we left off. So what builds such a friendship? For us, it was time together: riding bikes, telling stories, playing Monopoly, laughing, crying, listening and planning. Now our time is often spent over coffee at some Perkins wherever our paths unexpectedly cross.
My friendship with God grows in much the same way—time together. He already knows me—my past, present and future. Still, he patiently listens while I share the concerns of my life. He shares in my joys, and cares about my sorrows. However, this would not become much of a friendship if it were to stay so one-sided. How can I get to know him? Do I listen to what brings him joy, and to what causes him grief? Jesus says in John 14:21 that “…he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.”
God has always wanted us to know him. He reveals himself through his Word. As I read, I have learned to ask, “What difference does it make that God works like this?” If he means what he says—and he does!—then how should I live or think? When God shows me his power, do I allow him to expose the areas of weakness in my faith? When I see his ability to provide, do I acknowledge his gifts, and live with contentment? Am I quick to be grateful? When he shows me his holiness, do I allow the Spirit to examine my life for unconfessed or unconscious sin? Do I agree with God about what he calls good or evil, and alter my life’s choices accordingly? Jesus says in John 15:14, “You are my friends if you do what I command.” I want to be known as his friend, and obedience is key.
Time in his presence also builds our friendship. Jesus says, “Abide in me,” as if to say, “Pitch your tent in my presence and live with me.” Unfortunately, my life has not been characterized by sitting still for long periods of time. There is always so much to do. Still Jesus invites me. I can imagine him sitting and waiting for time together with me, but I only give him a quick nod, and run off to the next thing on my list. Thankfully, God has often stopped me in my busyness, by showing me my emptiness. I remember when my children were small, praying that God would “give me a day that no one else knows about,” so I could have uninterrupted time with him. Amazingly, someone called and asked to take my children for a day. What a blessing to be refreshed with time to read, time to pray, time to worship! God is so good!
God has also changed how I understand prayer, teaching me that I need to be a better listener. He tells us to pray, for everything, and to not be anxious, and like any father, he loves when we run to him for help. Sometimes I empty my heart and mind of my concerns, but then I run off before he can speak. I am learning to intentionally listen, for there are times his Spirit answers in a still small voice. There are times when he prompts me to act, or to speak, or to be silent, in order to see his answer. I just have to stop and pay attention.
Recently I had to prepare a message for a women’s luncheon. I spent hours in the Word. I was so full of truths to share that we would have needed a whole weekend to scratch the surface. I had been praying for God to filter my preparations, and to give me his message for this particular group of women. So I sat down at about midnight with a pen, my Bible, and a notebook and prayed for God’s direction. I dozed off for a few minutes only to be awakened with a specific part of my studies in mind. I wrote them down and fell back asleep. A few minutes later, I knew what needed to be said next. And so it went all night. By morning, I had the whole message ready to share, and I knew this was his message. I was intentionally listening!
One of my favorite verses is Psalm 5:3, “In the morning, O Lord, you will hear my voice; in the morning I will order my prayer to you and eagerly watch” (NASB). It may be early in the morning before I go to bed, or else when I wake up, that I stop and sit in his presence. This starts a conversation that continues throughout the day. God delights in our time together. Someone once called this time of fellowship “an uncommon communion” with the Lord. I am learning not to take this time for granted, but to treasure it as a meeting between special friends.
He is waiting for time with you! Pitch your tent in his presence, sit at his feet, and get to know him better!
Ruth Christenson attends Mount Bethel Lutheran Brethren Church in Mount Bethel, PA.