Christians often associate prayer with intimacy because it is interaction in close, personal communication. I believe that the desire to feel close to God is perhaps the strongest motivation driving women to invest themselves in the practice of hearing God extrabiblically “in the heart.” We want feelings of intimacy. There are other means of enjoying intimacy with God. For this post, I’d like to focus on prayer, specifically on one way to increase intimacy with God in prayer time.
Who’s talking how?
First we have to distinguish between hearing God and talking to God–a distinction rather essential to good conversation. It isn’t hard to find someone teaching that prayer is a two-way conversation. Ask God for what you want and then get quiet and listen. It is even suggested that you journal the thoughts He (supposedly) brings to mind. This method is actually a practice of mysticism.  Jeremiah 17:9 says that our hearts are “deceitful more than all else.” If we truly believe Jeremiah then it should be obvious that listening in one’s heart means listening to someone you can’t trust.
Prayer is not two-way communication. Jesus never taught His disciples that in prayer they should listen to God. Nowhere does the Bible instruct people to listen to God in prayer. In prayer, people do the speaking. We have the privilege of telling God our most intimate thoughts and desires.
Where do we hear God? We hear where His words are–in the written, objective Word of God.
So how can we enjoy a two-way conversation? We listen to God in His Word and talk to Him in prayer.
Do you read the Bible and pray but it still seems disconnected? One reason may be that you are changing the subject. You and God are not talking about the same things.
A few weeks ago, in the church nursery, I was playing pitch and catch with a toddler, sort of. I tossed the ball to the child. As long as she tossed the ball back my way, we were playing. When she held the ball or threw it in the opposite direction and ran after it herself, she was playing. We weren’t really playing together. I was pitching, she was off in her own game disconnected from me. Not until she again tossed the ball my way were we truly interacting. In the same way, good communication requires reciprocity.
Typically, Christians spend prayer time with God like the toddler played ball with me. We let God pitch, but we don’t throw back. We read the Bible to hear from God. Then we pray about topics unrelated to what God told us. Like the toddler, we hold the ball and throw the conversation in a different direction. In essence, we ignore what God said, change the subject of the conversation, and talk about what we want. It disconnects communication. This kind of interaction among people is considered rude.
Intimacy in communication with anyone is built when there is reciprocity, when each party pitches the ball back to the other. With God, here is how that can be practiced. Listen first to God by reading and meditating on His Word. Then stay on topic. Talk to God first about what He said. There may be praise for an attribute revealed, giving of thanks for a promise or a blessing that the passage mentioned, requests for understanding the passage, or requests for wisdom on how to implement a command or principle in the passage. Only after discussing God’s Word with Him, then say or request what is on your agenda.
This is a reciprocal conversation with God. It can be carried on all day as you meditate on a verse and then talk to God about it. As you put His Word into your memory, verses or truths from Scripture should come to mind to guide you. You can talk to Him about how they apply in the decisional moments of your day.
This kind of interchange can also work in reverse. Jesus said, “If you abide in Me and My words abide in you, ask…” (John 15:7). If His words abide in your mind, you will know what He says. Therefore, you will know His will and can form your requests in accord with it. Say you have a particular decision to make or problem to solve. Ask God for wisdom: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (Jas. 1:5). Asking for wisdom expresses trustful dependence on God, which delights Him.
Then, consult His wisdom. Where? The Word of God is certainly wisdom given “to all generously and without reproach.” The Word is “wisdom from above,” “a lamp to my feet” so you can know what to do (Jas. 3:17; Pr. 119:105). Trust the Holy Spirit to guide your study so that you find Scriptures that provide His solutions. Ask Him to illumine your mind to understand His Word and how it applies. During that process, you can be talking to God about His wisdom as it relates to your need. This is two-way communication for resolving a problem in your life.
Scripture is the words of the Holy One Himself. Come reverently.
Do not underestimate the effects of your sin nature. We tend to assume that we naturally interpret correctly. Sin in your life can affect your interpretation. Perhaps we ought to confess sins to God before reading.
(Thanks to The Navigators and to Abner Chou for certain concepts in this post.)
 “Mysticism is the search for unio mystica, personal union with God.” http://tottministries.org/mysticism-part-1/
Union is pursued by non-intellectual experiences apart from the Bible such as inner voices, impressions, visions, and feelings of ecstasy.
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