Spiritual Growth

Closeness to God

Closeness to God is something every Christian rejoices in and ought to desire more. We yearn for God when we feel God’s absence and wonder what caused the separation. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve walked and talked with God in the cool of the day. Jesus taught his disciples to pray to God using the intimate word Abba. Jesus taught the heart of God in the parable of the prodigal Son. The Father runs to his wayward son when he sees him walking slowly up the road. Such is God’s eagerness for closeness with us. The whole of scripture is filled with explicit references to God’s desire for intimacy with us.

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.
(James 4:8a ESV)

The problem started with Adam and Eve when they sinned and hid from God. Sin is a barrier to closeness with God. This is often a surprise to people. I remember a young woman who had just moved in with her boyfriend telling me that recently she had felt her closeness with God dim and asking me for advice on how to restore it. It was a sad conversation.

What is Sin?

We all sin. And closeness with God is still possible. First let’s consider what sin is and then reflect on God’s nature. Sin is something that distracts us from the love of God and from living according to his will. Archery is a helpful way of understanding this. Our target is to imitate Christ. If we miss the target we sin. Now we can miss the target by aiming elsewhere. Repentance is the process of re-aiming.

One of the most comforting things about the New Testament is that it includes so many of the Disciple’s missteps and mistakes. There is hope for us too. We do not have to be perfect before experiencing closeness with God. God rewards our desire with his presence but also uses his absence to encourage us onward. God’s desire is to see us made whole and in a holy relationship with himself.

God’s Mercy

Thanks be to God that God is so desirous of closeness with us that he loves us while we sin. Now truthfully most of us are a bit of a mess. I don’t like to dwell on my particular brokenness. It’s there though. Our journey into Christ seems to be a slow pilgrimage of healing. One brokenness healed at a time. and then another. The church has a word for this: “sanctification” the process of being made holy or whole. This journey is often punctuated by moments of closeness with God. What can we learn form this?

God is faithful. When we seek to draw near, by turning from whatever has distracted us and reorienting our life on him, he draws near to us. Many times in my life I have prayed for closeness with God and had an awareness of the thing I needed to turn from “pop” into my head. These are unwelcome answers to prayer that call us deeper into Christ.

The Place of Prayer

So what are the things we can do to seek closeness with God? How do we draw near? This is not a secret. Achieving anything in life requires some effort. We have to “draw near”. Daily prayer with confession coupled with a discipline of scripture reading and prayers for others is a foundation. In the Anglican Church we have a tool for this called the Daily Office or Morning and Evening Prayer. I use Legereme.com which is the daily office and lectionary of the ACNA. I’m currently helping to develop an iPhone and Android app for the ACNA daily office similar to one I produced several years ago.

I also pray the Jesus Prayer often during the day. It is one of the oldest prayers of the church and is quite simple. I pray it silently and meditatively over two breaths.
* (in breath) Lord Jesus Christ,
* (out breath) Son of God,
* (in) have mercy on me
* (out) a sinner

In future posts I will explore tools that help us build on this essential foundation of prayer.

“Draw near to God in humility, by walking in his footsteps, and he will draw near to you in his mercy, setting you free from all anxiety. For nobody is far away from God in terms of physical distance; the problem is one of attitudes and emotions. For the person who is anxious to do what is right is always near to God, whereas the one who is lost in his wickedness is far away from him, regardless of where either one happens to live.” (Concerning the Epistle of James, Bede, the Venerable, Saint, 673-735. AD)

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