We sought, through confident praying and the wisdom of Scripture
for an ongoing growth in our relationship with God
and a humble acceptance of His guidance for our lives.
Most of us tend to go to extremes. It has certainly been so for many of us in our relationship with God. Sometimes we acted as if all we needed to do to find freedom was to fellowship with Him. When that didn't work, some of us began to ignore Him, seeking freedom in human rela- tionships alone. That didn't work either, and we may have been sorely tempted to give up.
The truth is that we need God to work in our lives both directly and through others. We need both a good relationship with our Lord and good friendships with other people.
Steps 1-7 concentrated on relating to God; Steps 8-12 on relating to others. Step 13 is a timely reminder not to allow our quest for friendship to lead us to neglect our walk with God. "Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it; except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain" (Psalm 127:1).
As in all friendships, our relationship with God is either growing or shrinking! If it is to grow, we must learn how to talk to God in prayer and listen to Him in Scripture.
As we commune with God, He will meet us with both compassion and challenge. When Jesus rescued the woman taken in adultery from those who would have stoned her, He asked, "'Woman, where are...thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?' She said, 'No man, Lord.' And Jesus said unto her, 'Neither do I condemn thee: go and sin no more'" (John 8:10, 11). Here is One whose love will forgive all our sins, wipe away all our tears, and challenge all that which is hurtful in our lives. He who says, "Neither do I condemn thee" also says, "Go and sin no more." Love can do no less.
"If we believe in a personal God at all, we must believe that He sees and cares.... He sees the deadly harm we do to ourselves and to one another.... He will never be content with the traves- ties of humanity that we now are. He made us to be wholly human, wholly beautiful, wholly like Himself.... We are inescapably bound to the necessity, the demand, to love God with all our hearts and our neighbors as ourselves. There is no alternative. No way out. The demands of love are inexorable." [Joseph Cooke, Celebration of Grace, p. 19-20]
When God lovingly points to areas where change is needed, we are faced with a choice. We may rebel against the One who loves us more than life itself, and thus must challenge our destructive habit patterns; or we may choose the way of humility and gratefully accept His guidance for our lives.
Long ago God challenged His people, "Can two walk together except they be agreed?" (Amos 3:3). Because God loves us so deeply, He must hold us to the best. To do otherwise would be to abandon us to that which will only bring pain to us and to others. When God speaks, we may choose to walk with Him in the way of truth, or we may choose to walk away from Him in the paths of darkness.
While God will not abandon us, we need desperately to stay close to Him. Step 13 explains how.
1. Should my friendship with God be static or growing?
I Thessalonians 3:12,13
"Love...is the one grace in which all others are comprehended; we can never have too much of it; we can never have enough.... It is a power and an exercise of our own souls..., yet we are not the fountain of it; it is the Lord who is to make us rich in love.... Paul seeks love for his converts as the means by which their hearts may be established unblamable in holiness.... A selfish, loveless,....cold heart is not unblamable, and never will be; it is either pharisaical or foul, or both. But love sanctifies. Often we escape from our sins by escaping from ourselves; by a hearty, self-denying, self-forgetting interest in others. It is quite possible to think so much about holiness as to put holiness out of...reach: it does not come from concentrating thought upon ourselves at all; it is the child of love, which kindles a fire in the heart in which faults are burnt up. Love is the fulfilling of the law...; the end of all perfection." [James Denney, "The Epistles to the Thessalonians," The Expositor's Bible VI, p. 336-337]
II Thessalonians 1:3
"If we wish to be rational, not now and then, but constantly, we must pray for the gift of Faith, for the power to go on believing, not in the teeth of reason, but in the teeth of lust and terror and jealousy and boredom and indifference that which reason, authority, or experience, or all three, have once delivered to us for truth." [C. S. Lewis, Christian Reflections, p. 43]
"...The Apostle gives thanks....because the faith of the Thessalonians grows exceedingly, and their mutual love abounds.... It is the very nature of life to grow; when growth is arrested, it is the beginning of decay.... There is room for (spiritual life) to grow...unceasingly, because it is planned for eternity, and not for time. It should be in continual progress, ever improving, advancing from strength to strength. Day by day and year by year Christians should become... stronger in faith, richer in love." [James Denney, "The Epistles to the Thessalonians," The Expositor's Bible VI, p. 362-363]
I Peter 2:2,3
"...So long as the believer is in the world, his childhood lasts..." [John Lillie, Lectures on the First and Second Epistles of Peter, p. 92]
"He has been born again by the word of God. From this he is to seek his constant nurture, as instinctively as the babe turns to its mother's breast.... The healthy condition of the life of the soul is evidenced by these two signs: longing for proper food and growth by partaking thereof." [J. Rawson Lumby, "The Epistles of St. Peter," The Expositor's Bible VI, p. 694]
II Peter 3:18
"The New Testament word for sanctification is hagiasmos. All Greek nouns which end in -asmos describe a process; and sanctification is 'the road to holiness'." [William Barclay, Daily Celebration, p. 75]
"Such as do not grow in grace, decay in grace.... 'Not to go forward in the Christian life is to turn back.' Bernard. There is no standing in religion... If faith does not grow, unbelief will..." [Thomas Watson, A Body of Divinity, p. 276]
2. What is one way I can grow in my fellowship with God?
I Chronicles 16:11
"Prayer is not getting things from God, but getting into communion with God." [Henrietta Mears, Thoughts For All Seasons, p. 28]
"Retire from the world each day to some private spot, even if it be only the bedroom.... Stay in the secret place till the surrounding noises begin to fade out of your heart and a sense of God's presence envelops you.... Stop trying to compete with others. Give yourself to God and then be what and who you are without regard to what others think.... Practice..childlike honesty, humility. Pray for a single eye.... Call home your roving thoughts. Gaze on Christ with the eyes of your soul. Practice spiritual concentration." [A. W. Tozer, Of God and Men, p. 106]
I Timothy 2:8
"Prayer is a sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of the heart or soul to God through Christ, in the strength and assistance of the Holy Spirit, for such things as God hath promised, or, according to the Word, for the good of the Church, with submission, in faith, to the will of God." [The Complete Works of John Bunyan I, p. 655]
"In prayer the heart of man empties itself before God, and then Christ empties his heart out to supply the needs of his poor believing child. In prayer we confess to Christ our deficiencies, and he reveals to us his fullness. We tell him our sorrows, he tells us of his joys. We tell him our sins, he shows to us his righteousness. We tell him the dangers that lie before us, he tells us of the shield of omnipotence with which he can and will guard us. Prayer talks with God; it walks with him. And he who is much in prayer will hold very much fellowship with Jesus Christ." [C. H. Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit XLIV, (1898), p. 255]
It has been suggested that we remember the components of prayer by recalling the word ACTS:
A -- Adoration
C -- Confession
T -- Thanksgiving
S -- Supplication
Note these elements of prayer in the examples given below and in the model prayer Christ gave His disciples.
"He knows little of himself who is not much in prayer, and he knows little of God who is not much in praise." [Bishop Wilson in Lenten Sermons, p. 13]
"...All enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise unless...shyness or the fear of boring others is...brought in to check it. The world rings with praise--lovers praising their mistresses, readers their favorite poet, walkers...the countryside, players...their favorite game--praise of weather, wines, dishes, actors, motors, horses, colleges, countries, historical personages, child- ren, flowers, mountains, rare stamps, rare beetles, even sometimes politicians or scholars.... We delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment... It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed.... Fully to enjoy is to glorify. In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him." [C. S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms, p. 94-97]
"The petitions of vv.1,2 teach us how the psalmist thought of sin.... 'Transgression' is... rebellion; 'iniquity' that which is twisted...; 'sin,' missing a mark....
"We note, too, how the psalmist realizes his personal responsibility. He reiterates 'my'--'my transgressions, my iniquity, my sin.' He does not throw blame on circumstances or talk about temperament...or bodily organization....
"These petitions show also how the psalmist thought of forgiveness.... 'Blot out'...conceives of forgiveness as being the erasure of a writing, perhaps an indictment.... 'Wash me thor- oughly'....means....'Do anything with me, if only these foul stains are melted from the texture of my soul.'... 'Make me clean'...is the...word for the priestly act of...making as well as declaring clean from the stains of leprosy. The suppliant thinks of his guilt not only as a blotted record or...polluted robe, but as a fatal disease...and as capable of being taken away only by the hand of the Priest laid on the feculent mass. We know who put out His hand and touched the leper, and said, 'I will: be thou clean.'
"The petitions for cleansing are, in ver. 3, urged on the ground of the psalmist's consciousness of sin.... 'Sin is always sin, and deserving of punishment, whether it is confessed or not. Still, confession of sin is of importance on this account--that God will be gracious to none but to those who confess their sin' (Luther).
"Ver. 4 sounds the depths... ...The psalmist shuts out all other aspects of his guilt, and is absorbed in its solemnity as viewed in relation to God.... David's deed had been a crime against Bathsheba, against Uriah, against his family and his realm; but these were not its blackest char- acteristics. Every crime against man is sin against God.... So....he makes no excuse for his sin, but submits himself unconditionally to the just judgment of God." [Alexander Maclaren, "The Psalms," The Expositor's Bible III, p. 138-139]
"The formula, 'Bless the Lord, O my soul,' is so familiar to us that we do not notice how odd it is. It is the self summoning the self to praise, i.e., the self reminding self of the fact that all of life must be finally referred to God's goodness.... The basis for praise is the marvelous series of participles in verses 3-6 ....: 'forgives, heals, redeems, crowns, satisfies.'" [Walter Brueggemann, The Message of the Psalms, p. 160]
"In vss. 1-5 the psalmist urges his innermost being to thank Yahweh for five blessings: the for- giveness of sins, the healing of illnesses, rescue from Sheol, admittance to a blessed afterlife, the eternal enjoyment of God's beauty in heaven." [Mitchell Dahood, "Psalms 101-150," The Anchor Bible, p. 24]
In adoration we praise God for His marvelous attributes and His mighty deeds. In thanksgiving we bless Him for the blessings He has bestowed on us. "Gratitude felt and expressed becomes a healing, life-building force in the soul." [A. W. Tozer, The Set of the Sail, p. 162]
In supplication we face our limitations. We acknowledge that we are not all-powerful and ask God to help those we love and to meet our own deep needs. Here we humbly admit that we are but children and go to our heavenly Father and confidently give Him our burdens.
"Reading the other day...I came across....a review of a book just out whose title probably indicates that popular piety has just hit an all-time low. The book is called, I Prayed Myself Slim, but according to the reviewer a better title might be 'The Power of Positive Shrinking.'... Out of some fifty-eight prayers offered by Miss Pierce only four acknowledge the existence of other people." [William Sloane Coffin, Jr., "The Call," Sermons To Intellectuals From Three Continents, p. 9-10]
"Intercessory prayer is loving our neighbors on our knees." [Robert Hastings, A Word Fitly Spoken, p. 87]
In addition to the elements in prayer we have seen above, this prayer our Lord taught His disciples calls us to forgive those who have wronged us. Review the material on "FORGIVE- NESS of others" listed in the index for more help on this subject.
"In each prayer to the Father I must be able to say I know of no one I do not heartily love." [Andrew Murray, With Christ in the School of Prayer, p. 39]
"Hannah Moore used to say, 'If I had an enemy whom I wanted to punish, I would teach him to hate someone.'" [Clarence Edward Macartney, The Lord's Prayer, p. 66]
3. What is a healthy attitude to maintain when one prays?
"This promise....assumes that a believer will ask things which are not sinful, and which are in accordance with the will of God. When he asks such things, he may confidently believe that his prayer will be answered." [J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Mark, p. 237]
Many of us engaged in neurotic rather than confident praying. We desperately pleaded with God, "Oh, PLEASE help me," all the while feeling that He was at best disinterested and at worst angry with us. We did not really expect Him to help us, but asked anyway because we did not know what else to do with our problems.
The Bible urges us to pray confidently, knowing that Christ has made us wholly acceptable to God through His death on the cross for our sins and His righteousness imputed to us when we came to trust in Him. God is not angry with us. We are His children through faith in Jesus Christ. He cannot be indifferent to our needs. He loves us with a love that passes knowledge (Ephesians 3:19).
When such a faith undergirds our prayers, they are offered, not with desperation, but with con- fidence; not in anxiety, but in serenity.
"These phrases import such cheerfulness and confidence as may remove fear and dread of wrath ...and make us without staggering rest upon God's gracious accepting of our persons and grant- ing our desires. For Christ our priest hath done to the full whatsoever is requisite to satisfy justice, pacify wrath, procure favor, and obtain acceptance; on which grounds we may well go to God with an holy boldness and confidence." [William Gouge, Commentary on Hebrews, p. 340]
"The Jewish high-priest was shut out from access to the Holy of Holies by the veil, which hung in front of it. How then did he pass into it on the Day of Atonement?... He entered in by virtue of the sacrificial blood (ix.7,25). This alone enabled him to draw aside the veil, which separated between sinful man and the Holy God. The atoning blood formed (for a brief interval) a way of approach to God. But whatever the typical virtue of this entrance into the Holy of Holies might be, it could not 'give life' (Gal. iii.21). The 'living way' of reconciliation was 'consecrated for us' by the blood of Jesus. So long as the Word tabernacled in flesh, sin was not atoned for. But, when that flesh was rent, so that the life-blood poured forth from it, the way into the Holiest was 'made manifest' and 'dedicated:' a 'living' way, endued with 'the power of an endless life' (vii.16); allowing man to enter into communion with the Living God." [William Kay, "Hebrews," The Bible Commentary X, p. 79]
"We have 'boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus,' and in no other way. We take the crown off Redemption as the ground on which God answers prayer and put it on our own earnestness." [Oswald Chambers, So Send I You, p. 126] When we rest on anything in ourselves, we leave the solid rock (Christ) for the mire of self-sufficiency. Small wonder our prayers are hindered.
I John 5:14,15
"Prayer is request. The essence of request, as distinct from compulsion, is that it may or may not be granted. And if an infinitely wise Being listens to the requests of finite and foolish creatures, of course He will sometimes grant and sometimes refuse them." [C. S. Lewis, The World's Last Night and Other Essays, p. 4-5]
"Prayer is a mighty instrument, not for getting man's will done in Heaven, but for getting God's will done in Earth." [Robert Law, The Tests of Life, p. 304]
"If you cannot find that God has promised a blessing, you have no right to ask for it, and no reason to expect it. There is no use in asking money from a banker without a check. Christians take their arrows from God's quiver and shoot them with this on their lips: 'Do as thou hast said. Remember thy word unto thy servant upon which thou hast caused me to hope.' True prayers are like...carrier pigeons... They cannot fail to go to heaven, for it is from heaven that they came. They are only going home." [C. H. Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit XX, (1874), p. 514-515]
4. What is another way I can grow in my fellowship with God?
"I never saw a useful Christian who was not a student of the Bible. If a man neglect his Bible, he may pray and ask God to use him in His work, but God cannot make use of him, for there is not much for the Holy Ghost to work upon. We cannot overcome Satan with our feelings. The reason why some people have such bitter experience is that they try to overcome...by their feelings and experiences. Christ overcame Satan by the Word." [D. L. Moody in Great Texts of the Bible IV, p. 423-424]
The Navigators suggest that those who want a good grip on the Bible think of a hand. It takes all five fingers to get a good hold on anything. Five elements are needed for a strong grip on God's Word: (1) hearing, (2) reading, (3) studying, (4) memorizing, and (5) meditating. Note these elements in the passages below.
"Abraham Lincoln, burdened by the unbearable responsibilities of the Civil War, wrote to a friend: 'I am profitably engaged in the reading of the Bible. Take all of the book upon reason that you can and the balance on faith, and you will live and die a better man.'" [Walter Maier, The Radio for Christ, p. 58]
A wise Christian will not only read, but will hear what others have learned from Scripture. "Come from your knees to the sermon, and from the sermon to your knees." [Joseph Alleine, Alarm to the Unconverted, p. 29]
Reading and hearing must result in keeping God's Word if one is to be blessed. "You know the story of Donald's coming home a little sooner from kirk than usual and his wife enquiring, 'What! Donald! is the sermon all done?' He replied, 'No, no; it is all said, but it has not begun to be done yet.'" [C. H. Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit XXV, (1879). [p. 200]
"'Doing' makes a new thing of 'hearing.' The statute obeyed becomes a song. The command-ment...a beatitude. The decree discloses the riches of grace. The hidden things of God are not discovered until we are treading the path of obedience.... God has wonderful treasures for the dutiful. The faithful discover the 'hidden manna.'" [John Henry Jowett, My Daily Meditation, p. 126]
II Timothy 2:15
"The true Christian should be, indeed must be, a theologian. He must know at least something of the wealth of truth revealed in the Holy Scriptures." [A. W. Tozer, That Incredible Christ- ian, p. 21]
"It is good to have the Book in the hand. It is better to have the Book in the head. It is best to have the Book in the heart." [Andrew W. Blackwood in Ian MacPherson, Sermon Outlines From Sermon Masters: Old Testament, p. 147]
"The word meditate...literally means to murmur or to mutter...to talk to oneself. When we meditate on the Scriptures we talk to ourselves about them, turning over in our minds the mean- ings, the implications, and the applications to our own lives." [Jerry Bridges, The Practice of Godliness, p. 53]
J. Wilbur Chapman said we have not finished with Scripture till we have studied it through, prayed it in, lived it out, and passed it on!
5. What is a healthy attitude in Bible study?
I Samuel 3:10
"The difficulty we modern Christians face is not misunderstanding the Bible, but persuading our untamed hearts to accept its plain instructions." [A. W. Tozer, The Divine Conquest, p. 114]
"Wise men strive for blessedness...fools wish for it." [C. H. Spurgeon, Metropolitan Taberna- cle Pulpit XXXII, (1886), p. 516]
"It is a...shocking thing, but I have known the case of a man...knowing such-and-such a thing to be right, yet not attending to it, but saying that he was praying about it. He wanted it to be 'brought home' to his conscience... ...Such conduct is...rebellion against God, a shameful piece of hypocrisy, pretending to honor God in one duty while...neglecting another." [C. H. Spur- geon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit XLIX, (1913), p. 471]
God "has a heaven and earth of his own making, and a temple of man's making; but he over- looks them...that he may look with favor to him that is poor in spirit, humble and serious,...self-denying, whose heart is truly contrite for sin..., and who trembles at God's word...with an habitual awe of God's majesty and purity..." [Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible IV, p. 389]
I Corinthians 3:18,19
Should you be tempted to doubt something you find in the Bible, you would be wise to doubt yourself and trust God's Word. You may have misunderstood what you read or may be misin- formed.
"In...1861 the French Academy of Science published a list of fifty-one so-called scientific facts each of which, it was alleged, disproved some statement in the Bible. Today the Bible remains as it was then, but not one of those fifty-one so-called facts is held by men of science." [Loraine Boettner, Studies in Theology, p. 35]
Dr. Peter Stoner, an astronomer and mathematician who taught at the University of California and Westmont College, wrote, "While a graduate student in the University of California, I was asked to teach a Sunday School class of Chinese students...who were pursuing their studies under government sponsorship.... They did not wish to become Christians, but wished to learn about the religion of Christianity and how...it had influenced American culture. The pastor thought I should organize and instruct this...class, and somewhat hesitantly I agreed....
"Since these young men had no faith in the Bible, ordinary Bible teaching seemed useless. Then I hit upon an idea. I had noticed...a very close relationship between the first chapter of Genesis and the sciences and decided to present this picture to the group. The students and I naturally were aware of the fact that....many of the teachings of people back in the days of Moses and for thousands of years thereafter were...absurd when looked at in the light of modern know- ledge.... Nevertheless...we spent the whole winter on Genesis I. The students took assignments to the university library, and...brought back papers marked by a thoroughness such as a teacher usually only dreams of.
"At the end of that winter the pastor invited me to his office and told me that the entire group had come to him saying that they wished to become Christians. It had been proved to them, they...said, that the Bible was the inspired Word of God... I am now going to be very frank. Up to this time...like many others I considered the Bible to be a book giving...necessary instruction in spiritual matters, but perhaps not reliable in many parts. I myself was as much impressed by our findings as were the students." ["Genesis I in the Light of Modern Astron- omy," The Evidence of God in an Expanding Universe, p. 137-138]
"...It is a poor sort of faith that depends on the absence of difficulties. Treat your Bible as you would...your friend. A friendship that cannot bear the strain of a misunderstanding does not deserve the name; nor a faith that gives way in the presence of a difficulty." [Sir Robert Anderson, The Bible and Modern Criticism, p. 259]
"The Bible looks on sin...as red-handed rebellion against the domination of the Creator. The essence of sin is--'I won't allow anybody to "boss" me saving myself', and it may manifest itself in a morally good man as well as in a morally bad man. Sin has not to do with morality or immorality, it has to do with my claim to my right to myself, a deliberate and emphatic independence of God, though I veneer it over with Christian phraseology." [Oswald Chambers, Our Portrait in Genesis, p. 7] Review the material on "HUMILITY" listed in the index.
7. What will show whether or not humility is a part of my life?
Verses like these are not aimed at those who sincerely struggle against sin, but sometimes fail; but at the proud rebel who is determined to do as he pleases instead of as God wills.
"The proud man is placed in the very worst company in Proverbs, heading the 'seven abomina- tions' in 6:17, and assured of judgment, in company with the adulterer (6:29), the perjurer (19:5), and similar scarlet sinners whom he doubtless thanks God he does not resemble.... The special evil of pride is that it opposes the first principle of wisdom (the fear of the Lord) and the two great commandments. The proud man is at odds with himself (8:36), his neighbor (13:10), and the Lord (16:5)." [Derek Kidner, "Proverbs," The Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, p. 118,120]
"God is looking for the heart that knows how little it deserves, how much it owes." [Derek Kidner, "Psalms 1-72," The Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, p. 194]
"Judas betrayed the Lord with a kiss, not a slap. Our Lord is betrayed with a show of affection perhaps more often than in any other way. We call Him Lord, Lord, and do not what He says. He that keepeth His commandments, he it is that loveth Him, not he that just sings 'O, How I Love Jesus.'... To be sure, He welcomes our kiss...but...the test of love is loyalty." [Vance Havner, Day By Day, p. 49]
"It will benefit no one to honor Him merely by word of mouth (verse 46) while they do not do His bidding. But he who comes to Him, surrenders himself to his Lord, follows Him as Guide, listens to His words, and carries them out in practical life, will reap the richest benefit. Just as surely as a house which is built with its foundations firmly fixed upon a rock will brave all storms, so surely will those whose life is governed by obedience to Christ's teachings emerge triumphantly from all storms..." [Norval Geldenhuys, "Commentary on the Gospel of Luke," The New International Commentary on the New Testament, p. 215]
"No instructed Christian will waste his time praying for things that are within his power to obtain. To do so is to deceive ourselves and make a farce of the whole concept of prayer. If work will get it for us, then work it is or we can go without it." [A. W. Tozer, The Next Chapter after the Last, p. 110-111]
Jesus says "that, in the same way as the Father loves him, he loves the disciples. This is a wonderful and surprising thought... His love is no shallow emotion, easily aroused and as easily dispersed. It is a love that...is an expression of his innermost being. Jesus leaves no doubt that he loves them and that they should take care to 'remain' in that love. There is a sense, of course, in which it is impossible to stop Christ from loving us.... But there is another sense in which we can so live and feel and think that we cease to find that love the center of our being. We can turn our thoughts...to the things of this life and be so caught up in that life that we cease to 'remain' in that love. As far as it concerns us, we are thereby no longer in love and are cutting ourselves off from some of the blessings that Christ offers us." [Leon Morris, Exposi- tory Reflections on the Gospel of John, p. 520-521]
"...We must not misunderstand our Lord's words when He speaks of 'keeping His command-ments.' There is a sense in which no one can keep them. Our best works are imperfect...and when we have done our best we may well cry, 'God be merciful to me a sinner.' Yet we must not run into the other extreme, and give way to the lazy idea that we can do nothing at all. By the grace of God we may make Christ's laws our rule of life, and show daily that we desire to please Him. So doing, our gracious Master will give us a constant sense of His favor, and make us feel His face smiling on us, like the sun shining on a fine day." [J. C. Ryle, "John," Expository Thoughts on the Gospels II, p. 341]
MY EXPERIENCE WORKING STEP 13
I was raised when children were to be seen but not heard. We were taught that children were to listen to their elders, but not to do much talking to them. We were also told not to let others know about any neediness we might perceive in ourselves. It was our problem and we were to solve it by ourselves as best we could. To do otherwise was to admit to personal weakness, and that, we were told, was something of which one should be ashamed. That's why I have always found it easier to listen to God as He speaks in Scripture than to talk to Him and tell Him of my needs.
I have a friend whose parents were very demanding and who communicated with him mainly to gratify their own selfish egos. He has always found it easier to pray than to study the Bible.
To the extent that my friend and I yield to our natural inclinations, we suffer a warped relation- ship with God. Real communication is a two-way street. Both parties must share themselves. Both must receive what the other offers as a gift of self-disclosure. That's what love is all about!
As I examined the pattern of my devotional life, I realized that I needed more work on Step 2. So I went back (as I expect to be doing for the rest of my life) to gain a deeper insight into the true nature of the great, loving, Father-heart of God. As I saw His love, concern, patience, and grace revealed in Jesus Christ, I was able to pray more often and more easily.
Not that it was, or is, always easy. There are still times when I approach God and feel, "I'm imposing. He's not really interested." I still, on occasion, have to fight feeling foolish and ashamed.
I do so by recalling that God Himself urges me to come to Him and pour out my needs before His throne of grace. He wants me to cast all my care on Him, because He cares for me (I Peter 5:7). Only God is totally self-sufficient. I am not God, nor am I supposed to be. I am only a human being. To be human is to be limited and needy. What I heard as a child was wrong! What God says in His Word is right!
As I pit the truth of God's Word against the distortions of my emotions (something I've had to do all through my recovery), I have been enabled more and more to really enjoy prayer. God has shown me that He really wants to meet my needs, and this has given me a new, felt sense of His love and care. As I have shared my weakness with Him, He has shared His great heart of love with me!
HOW YOU CAN WORK STEP 13
1) Listen to the tape Secrets of Drawing Near to God under "STEP 13" on the "HA Book Ministry" list. Read Experience, Strength and Hope up to Step 14 and continue reading the book your step coach recommended to help you with Step 12. Continue to work in your workbook. Journal about what you are learning from all this and share your findings with your step coach.
2) Set aside at least 30 minutes a day for prayer, Bible study, and writing in your journal what you learned and how you are responding to this time with God.
3) Ask you step coach to check with you every week to see if you are spending time with God daily. Do not become legalistic or perfectionistic, but do try to improve both the amount and quality of your time with God. Discuss what you are learning, how you can put it into practice, and any problems you are having.
4) Memorize one of the verses you found helpful in this chapter.