I love getting things done. I love being efficient and checking off my to-do list and having a productive day. But this tendency can be deadly when it comes to spending time with God. I can easily view prayer and time in the Word as merely a spiritual habit—an end in itself, a box to tick off for my day.
But Andrew Murray reminds us, “Christian! there is a terrible danger to which you stand exposed in your inner chamber. You are in danger of substituting Prayer and Bible Study for living fellowship with God, the living interchange of giving Him your love, your heart, and your life, and receiving from Him His love, His life, and His Spirit.”
“Personal devotional time is to serve as a means to an end. And that end is—to secure the presence of Christ for the whole day.”
To secure the presence of Christ for the whole day. To have fellowship with the Living God and participate in a living interchange with Him. This is what we are made for—not going through the motions, but meeting with the God who sees us and knows us, and wants to remind us every single day how loved and treasured we are. The time we spend in prayer and the Word should be aimed at this end—receiving from Him, hearing from Him, abiding in Him, and growing in our love and obedience to him.
And yet, all too often, we settle for less than we are offered. We forget that Jesus died to reconcile us to the Father and to inaugurate the new covenant, one that would be written on our hearts so that we could know God himself, not just things about him.
This new covenant tore down the dividing wall of hostility that separated us from the presence of God, making us friends of God who are invited into his presence, who can know him intimately, enjoy him, and worship him.
In Exodus 33, Moses pleads with God in the tent of meeting (a holy place only he could enter) that the presence of God would go with Israel. He says, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?”
It is the presence of God dwelling and going with His people that makes Israel God’s people. And today, it is the presence of God dwelling and going with His people that makes the Church God’s people. Without the presence of God, we have nothing.
Every day for 40 years, Israel rose in the morning to collect the manna they needed for the day. In the same way, we need to pursue the presence of God every day, to, as Murray says, secure it in our hearts so that we have what we need.
Tim Keller in his book, Prayer, exhorts us to a similar truth: “We must not settle for an informed mind without and engaged heart.”
I have settled for an informed mind on and off for my whole life because it’s easier. It’s easier than coming before a consuming fire, the one who judges hearts perfectly, who sees us and knows us and wants to offer us a more abundant life. Because that abundant life comes with sacrifice–it comes with the cost of a whole life, nothing less.
We want an easy faith, an easy relationship with the Creator of all things. One that doesn’t ask too much too often. But that is not what the Christian signs up for. As Christ humbled himself unto the point of death, so too are we to follow in his footsteps, dying to ourselves, putting our sin to death, and walking in the newness of His life.
It is easier to know things about God than to sit in his presence, attentive to what he is asking of me, the sins he is calling me out of, the sacrifices he wants me to make. For a long time, I imagined that at some point my faith, I would snap into some kind of auto-drive that wouldn’t take so much effort. But that day has not and never will come. To walk with God and abide in his presence takes effort. It takes showing up.
In Christ, we have been bought with a price and we no longer live but Christ lives in us.
As Paul puts it to the Corinthians, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” In Christ, we are not our own. We have been bought with a price. And in response, we glorify God in our bodies. We do that first and foremost by showing up and spending time in his presence every day.
That is difficult, challenging, and costly. He will ask things of us that we do not want to do. That scare us. That make us feel overwhelmed. So why would we do it? Why follow him? Why sit at his feet and obey? Why move past knowing things about God to knowing God himself?
Because, as David says in Psalm 63,
Oh God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips (63:1-5).
We pursue his presence because his love is better than life. Because he satisfies our deepest longings and hungers. Because he alone has the living water that we need to never thirst again. Because in his presence is fullness of joy (Ps 16).
Today, don’t settle for knowing about God. Push in deeper. Pursue his presence—it is available to you, and he wants to meet with you.