When I read the narrative of the gospels, I often wonder at the contents of Christ’s most intimate times spent with the Father during his incarnate 33 years on earth. The account of His agony in the garden (Luke 22) provides us with an unpolished and gripping window into the candor of Jesus’ prayer life. Several other seasons of prayer are referenced, but rarely expounded upon. Woven seamlessly through the accounts is Jesus’ seeming intent to seek times of solitude with the Lord – times where he consciously removed himself from the demands and distractions of the rhythms of day-to-day life.
After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone…
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.
One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.
About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray.
But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
The intimacy between the Persons of the Trinity is truly astonishing to consider. Even Christ, who embodied the very fullness of God in human frame, demonstrated the vitality of drawing near to God. If it was vital to the Son of God, surely it is a crucial pursuit for you and I. The pursuit of intimacy with God is arguably the defining identity of the believer (Jeremiah 9:24). Pastor and Author Tim Keller says it this way:
“When you talk to folks about Christianity, a lot of people will say, ‘I’m a Christian.’ When you press them, they mean, ‘I believe in Christ; I believe in the truths of Christianity basically.’ But when you press and say, ‘Would you say you have intimate fellowship with Him?’ a lot of people would back up and say, ‘Well, I don’t know, who am I to say something like that?’ And when somebody says that or you feel that way — ‘caught ya.’ It’s a very important indicator of whether you’re a Christian or not.”
(Tim Keller, “When I Survey,” Sep 16, 1990)
True intimacy with God seems elusive, does it not? Here at CVC, the discipline of drawing near to God is included in the practice of “self-feeding.” It would be naïve to assume that this practice comes naturally to us, especially amidst our many obligations, appointments, and engagements. In CVC student ministry, we dedicate one weekend a year specifically to instilling the value of self-feeding in the lives of our high school students. This year’s Fall Retreat took place at Hocking Hills, Ohio. I like to think of the cozy log cabin lodges, rolling hills, and sunrise-graced mornings as our equivalent to the solitary mountainsides where Jesus sought the presence of His Father. We didn’t schedule a speaker or select a guided devotional. Instead, our students opened the Book of James and fervently studied its contents. I can’t tell you how refreshing it was to listen to them reflect upon the weekend, recalling specific passages God used to speak into the circumstances of their lives.
When we’re not afforded a free weekend, a peaceful environment, or a quiet hour, Jesus invites us to meet Him in the most unpolished, messy, and demanding moments.
Moments waiting at the bus stop, sitting at a red light, washing the dishes, changing the oil, composing an email, and taking the elevator could stir our affection for Christ. Let Him meet you there.
Sometimes the barrier that prevents us from seeking intimacy with God is far less pragmatic and far more vulnerable. Hectic schedules and pressing demands aside, I think we become our own barriers.
I think we sometimes forget the preciousness of our access to the Father that Jesus purchased for us with His own blood. I think we sometimes forget that we didn’t earn it. I think that we sometimes fool ourselves into believing that God is more passionate about communing with us when we’re playing our “A-game” than He is when we’ve fallen. Sometimes we settle for arms-length encounters with God when His closest embrace is readily available to us. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16). And let us approach it often.