7 Steps Toward Experiencing Intimacy with God in Prayer

In the eighth grade at Hobgood Elementary, my science teacher asked us to write a research paper on a science topic of our choice. I didn’t know what to research, so he suggested archaeology. I didn’t know what that was, so I did the research and wrote the paper. Then he invited me to go arrowhead hunting with him in Canon County. We found a small sack full of arrowheads that day, and I got hooked.

A friend told me he found an arrowhead on the Hoover farm near Todd’s Lake where Kensington subdivision is today. All through my four years of high school, I scoured that field and others looking for arrowheads. I actually decided I wanted to be an archaeologist because of the thrill of finding artifacts left by previous civilizations. But something happened out in those fields that changed the trajectory of my life.

Since watching for arrowheads and other artifacts was not mentally demanding, I had hours in the fields alone with God. I talked to Him about everything. I talked about problems. I sought His counsel about relationships and decisions. I prayed for others in my circles of relationships. I praised and worshiped Him for the beauty I saw in creation. I reflected on the things I read in my Bible daily about His character and what He had for me. I came to love Him deeply, and I wanted to obey Him fully.

After spending a summer working on an archaeological field crew with the University of Tennessee in the Normandy Dam area, I went to UT planning to become an archaeologist. I knew I needed to get actively involved in a church, because all summer long my coworkers were telling me to dump this religion stuff and have a good time. I knew my faith was far more important than the “good times” they had to offer. My college group at church got actively involved in witnessing on campus. On Sunday, November 19, I realized that God wanted me to work with live people rather than dead things. I didn’t know what that would look like, but I surrendered my future to my Lord.

Fast forward 14 years where I met Henry Blackaby as he was teaching what would become Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God. Henry taught me that God pursues a continuing love relationship with me that is real and personal. I realized that was what God was doing out in the fields while I hunted arrowheads. He was cultivating a personal love relationship with me through prayer.

An Epidemic of Loneliness
I just learned that the U.S. Surgeon General has declared a major health crisis in our country that he calls an “Epidemic of Loneliness.” Evidently loneliness can cause a variety of negative health problems, and they have reached epidemic proportions. Have you or your family members been impacted by loneliness? I have some good news. God has a cure for loneliness.
God created human beings to be relational. In the very beginning, He saw that man needed a companion so he would not be alone. So God created woman. But He also created human beings in His own image, so they could have a relationship with Him. Evidently, Adam and Eve would walk and talk with Him in the garden during the cool of the day. But after their sin, that intimacy was ruptured.

When Jesus gave His life on the cross, He paid the price to reconcile us (make us right) with God. The curtain of the temple, that symbolized the separation of God and humanity, was torn in two. We now are encouraged: “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16, ESV). Now we can experience intimate fellowship with God through prayer. But there are things that hinder that intimacy. Sin, pride, and a lack of love for the Lord which results in a lack of obedience can all hinder our prayer lives. But one issue may be less obvious.

Woundedness in Your Past
A college student came up to talk with me after a devotional I had led. She began, “I’m wondering if you can help me with my problem. I became a Christian when I was nine, but I don’t want to pray, and I don’t want to read my Bible. What is wrong with me?”

I asked her about her salvation experience, and that sounded genuine. Her dad was in the military, and they moved frequently. She had asked six different pastors the same question she asked me. “They all told me I wasn’t saved. I’ve been baptized six times. I’m humiliated. I know I got saved when I was nine. I just don’t know what is wrong with me,” she explained as she wept.
I asked her about her what it was like growing up with her father. She explained, “Oh, he was an alcoholic. He never hurt me physically, but his words always hurt. He told me how ugly and lazy I was and that I would never amount to anything. His words hurt so bad that I never wanted to be around my dad, and he never showed any interest in wanting to spend time with me.”

I asked, “Do you think it is possible that you unconsciously have attributed your father’s characteristics to your heavenly Father? Consequently, you want to read the Bible because you think His words will only condemn you and hurt you. And you don’t want to pray because you think God doesn’t care about you or have time to care about you.” Her eyes got real big. She reached up and grabbed my shoulders and started shaking me.

“That’s it!” she exclaimed. “You’ve got to help me!”

I prayed and shared with her. “Your heavenly Father is not like your earthly father. He wants to cultivate a love relationship with you that is real and personal. He loves you and wants what is best for you.”

Years later I spoke to a Christian writer’s conference. I realized that many of the attendees had experienced something bad in their lives and thought they ought to write a book. But I sensed that most were still on the hurt side of the story. They needed to experience God’s healing touch. Then they would have a story to tell. I spoke on the need for God’s healing of wounds of the past. When I extended an invitation for those needing prayer for God’s healing, most of the amphitheater of about 400 attendees emptied into the floor in front of the stage. I didn’t have enough people left to pray for them, so I guided them to pray for one another. That experience made a deep impression on me. The body of Christ is filled with wounded people in need of God’s healing touch. When God, your heavenly Father, heals the wounds in your past, you can experience a close relationship with Him in prayer that may be deeper than you have ever known.

Steps toward Intimacy with God in Prayer
The Apostle Paul wrote that “The weapons of our warfare… have divine power to destroy strongholds” (2 Cor. 10:4, ESV). God has the power to heal your past and set you free from bondage to those memories.

My friend and mentor T.W. Hunt once said, “A Christian is not a product of his past; he is a product of his future.” When God saves us, He places His Holy Spirit in us. He begins the process of transforming us into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. And when we enter eternity, He will have finished the task! Here are some steps you can take to experience the intimacy you desire with your heavenly Father.

1. Keep in mind that God is pursuing a continuing love relationship with you that is real and personal.

2. Examine yourself with the help of the Holy Spirit. Confess and turn away from any sin that keeps you at a distance from God. (See. Ps. 139:23-24.)

3. Tell God about your need for His healing touch regarding brokenness in your past. Ask Him to heal your broken heart and wounded spirit. (See Jer. 24:7.)

4. Tell a close Christian friend about your need and ask him or her to pray for your healing.

5. Get alone with God for extended periods of time and allow Him to reveal His love to you.
a. Take time to thank Him for the things He has done for you. “Count your many blessings, name them one by one” (Johnson Oatman, Jr.).
b. Remember how you came to faith in Christ and all He has forgiven.
c. Don’t try to earn or deserve God’s love. It is freely given because He is love. His love is not for sale.
d. Don’t worry about trying to claim the right promise or pray the right prayer. Receive the love He desires to reveal to you.

6. Ask Christ to enable you to forgive the offender(s) no matter how great the offense.

7. Turn away from dwelling on your past. Fix your eyes and thoughts on Christ and His work in and through you now and into eternity. (See Phil. 3:13-14; 4:8; 2 Cor. 10:5; and Heb. 12:2.)

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