Being With God, Part 1
I sort of feel like Tiger Woods’ golf coach in writing this blog about learning how to be with God (AKA prayer). Who’s really qualified to coach Tiger Woods, a guy many would say is the best golfer on the planet? And if such a person exists, why is this person coaching and not playing? Like seriously. If you’re good enough to coach Tiger Woods, surely you can play against him!
It’s not that simple, though. As extraordinarily gifted as Tiger is, he still needs another set of eyes on his swing. He needs someone who’s been studying the nuances of the sport for a long, long time to help him see his own flaws - flaws that have left him without a major championship for a while now.
Similarly, by electing to write on prayer for the next few weeks, I’m not claiming to be an expert practitioner. God knows that there are many people who have crossed my path over the years whose prayer lives challenge and convict me. I don’t even come to you as a “coach,” per se. I come to you, rather, as a journeyman. Yeah, I think that term is a bit more accurate. Journeyman. In the world of sports, “journeyman” is the term typically used to describe a player who’s just good enough to remain in the league, but that’s about it. He can fill a roster spot. Journeymen are guys who might be in the league for a decade or longer, but few fans know who they are. They have no recognizable name. No memorable stats. They’ve worn a lot of different jerseys. They’ve lived in a bunch of different cities. They don’t own houses. They rent them. But they can get a bucket or two and play a bit of defense so the starter can catch his breath. That’s sort of how I feel in regards to my own prayer life.
So what qualifies me, then? I’ve spent a lifetime blundering around in the dark. But if one looks long enough, no matter how dark the room is, that person is bound to find something! And I feel like I’ve stumbled upon a few jewels that can give you some traction in your own prayer life like I’ve experienced in mine. And not only traction, but delight.
Here’s the first thing that I’d tell someone - especially an American - when it comes to cultivating a relationship with God. We live in a culture that is decidedly opposed to anything mystical or spiritual. Our culture has all but decided for us that if there even are such things as spirits and a corresponding spirit world, they all belong in church buildings or our homes. There’s no room for this stuff in the “real world.”
This is one reason why many of the most sincere followers of Jesus struggle cultivating a life of prayer. To pray is to be with God, and “God is Spirit” (John 4:24). So to be with him means that we are to access a part of ourselves - our spirits - that have been dormant our whole lives. The ancients didn’t have this problem. This is why the Biblical writers could speak of the Holy Spirit and the reality of the spirit world without qualification. “Keep in step by the Spirit.”1 “All who are led by the Spirit…”2 “Be renewed in the spirit of your minds.”3
I firmly believe that prayer is not difficult “just because.” It can be difficult because we’re learning a new kind of communication with a person unlike any other we will ever know. But make no mistake, those of us who are in Christ can learn and we can become quite efficient at it!
If you’re reading this, you’ve probably thought on more than one occasion that you just don’t know how to pray. You’ve probably thought that prayer is some sort of gift at which only a select few can excel. I’m telling you that is a lie. I’m telling you that you can know God and he can be your closest friend. I’m telling you being with God is your native wiring. It’s your default setting. It’s what you were created to be. I’m telling you that you can mature to a place in which you feel a need for God every single day. I’m telling you that you can become so close to him that the psalmist’s cry becomes your own: “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.”4
Do you believe me?
1 Galatians 5:25
2 Romans 8:14
3 Ephesians 4:23
4 Psalm 42:1-2