An Intimate Relationship
By Frank Tully
Workplace Ministry – Sydney
An intimate relationship with another person often begins with a conversation, a sharing of heartfelt words in honest dialogue. Developing intimacy with the Lord is no different, as we seek to hear and be heard by our Loving Father. Yet we may often feel unequal to the task of listening for His voice and despair of ever engaging in meaningful conversation with the Creator of the Universe.
King David had confidence God would respond: “I call on you, my God, for you will answer me” (Psalm 16:7). And the prophet Jeremiah heard the Lord’s invitation: “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know” (Jer. 33:3). Their experience wasn’t unique.
We see Jesus telling his disciples: “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me” (John 10:27), and the Holy Spirit reminding us in Hebrews: “Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts” (Heb. 3:7). God desires to speak with us and He fully expects to be heard. So we should anticipate hearing from God and cultivate a listening attitude.
In his book, Knowing the Face of God, Tim Stafford poses the question:
“We may say the Holy Spirit speaks personally to us, but how? Where in ourselves, in our inner processes, may we locate his voice? The question has many answers, for the Spirit of God is not limited to one way of working. Yet there are predictable patterns to his spiritual work, just as there are patterns to his physical creation. “
(NavPress, 1996, p.63)
A good way to develop intimacy with God and listen for His voice is to learn His name. Just as we introduce ourselves by name to others – either formally with titles and full proper names or casually perhaps by nickname – so also God has revealed His names to us in various Bible passages. Whether El Shaddai to Abram, Yahweh at the burning bush of Exodus, the incarnate Jesus meaning “the Lord saves”, or the Advocate as Holy Spirit, each person of the Trinity possesses names with rich meaning. It is definitely rewarding and worthwhile to study, meditate upon and call out to God by His revealed names. (Check out navigators.org.au/nav-tools/ for a resource on this.)
Getting to truly know someone is never a rushed process; it’s not simply a matter of checking out their Facebook profile. True intimacy requires devoted time to be with them. Getting to know God is no different; it will require solitude – just you and God. Consider the wisdom of Ecclesiastes:
“Guard your steps when you go to the house of God.
Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know what they do wrong.
Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God.
God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.” (Eccl. 5:1-2)
If Jesus found it necessary to set aside time to be alone with the Father, even though He is one with the Father, how vital is it for us to carve out moments of solitude with God? We live in a crowded world, yet many are still surrounded by loneliness. “Jesus calls us from loneliness to solitude. … Our fear of being alone drives us to noise and crowds. … Loneliness is inner emptiness. Solitude is inner fulfillment.” (Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth, Richard Foster, HarperCollins 1998, p.96) As we seek to deepen our intimacy with God we need to resist the pull of busyness and the trap of loneliness, and instead embrace the joy of solitude.
Try out these 4 practices to cultivate intimacy through solitude:
- Capture daily “little solitudes” – 5 minute pockets of uninterrupted time.
- Create a “quiet place” – your private sanctuary in/outside home.
- Curtail needless speech – limit yourself to few & full words at times.
- Contemplate on God – set aside periodic extended time to simply reflect upon God and His Character.
Each day, let us follow the example of Micah:
“But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord,
I wait for God my Saviour, my God will hear me.” (Micah 7:7)