Why would an omnipotent God want to meet us — mere fallen creatures in a fallen world? Why should he care whether or not we want to spend time with him? A powerful, omniscient God could run the universe just fine without us. Jesus didn’t have to die on the cross, reaching out to us in saving grace. He didn’t have to come from behind the veil that we put in place by our sin. In his final hours on earth, he didn’t have to tear the curtain in two to restore our relationship with him. Why did he do all this for us? He did it because we were made for relationship with him.
Why do I continue to pray? Because I know that a loving God is with me working everything for the good. An indifferent God would most likely give us whatever we ask. It would be far easier for him to grant our requests than to deny them. But a loving God chooses, instead, to give us his best answer. He even loves us so much that at times he says no.
A loving God has also given us the Holy Spirit to guide us in our prayers, hoping that we will come to desire more and more what benefits us spiritually. As Richard Foster reassures us, “God is not destroying the will but transforming it so that over a process of time and experience we can freely will what God wills. In the crucifixion of the will we are enabled to let go of our tightfisted hold on life and follow our best prayers.”[i]God hopes we will pray our best prayers. Yet he remains ever attentive to the unspoken desires of our heart.
When we fall to our knees in prayer, perched on the threshold between this life and the next, what do we desire most? We wish, first and foremost, for God to be with us. Mercifully that is the prayer he always grants. Just as he answered us long ago by coming to earth, he is answering us still every moment of every day simply and miraculously by being there in loving relationship with us.
Why should I empty myself, relinquishing myself to God? Because I know God loves me and wants to fill me with his presence. In fact, Jesus loves us so much that he emptied himself so that the power of God could work in him. Paul told us, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:5-8). Jesus could have called in legions of angels to avert his dreaded fate. Instead he submitted obediently to the will of the Father, praying, “If you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).
Why should I fall silent, believing that I will hear God’s voice? Because Jesus talked to sinners, tax collectors, and outcasts, so why not to me? Jesus didn’t concern himself just with creating masses of followers but forged a relationship with each person individually, especially the ones with whom others didn’t. In reaching out to all of us, he demonstrated that he loves each of us too much not to embrace every one of us.
Why should I believe that if I practice the presence of God, Jesus will meet me in the muck and mire of my everyday life? Because he loved us enough to leave heaven to meet us in a fallen world. It would have been easier for God to stay in paradise or to show up exclusively in the beauty of a majestic cathedral. Jesus could have remained in the
Why should I meditate on God’s Word? Because that’s how a loving God speaks to us. In fact, his love is so great that he was willing to die to bring us the Word.
Why should I fast in hopes of encountering God? Because Jesus gave his body and blood for us — gifts we feast upon spiritually during Communion. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (John 6:32-33). There is no greater love than this — that Jesus gave his life for us, even calling us his friends.
Why do I seek God’s presence in nature? Because I know that a loving God desires to meet me there, escorting me up mountains when I can barely walk. He didn’t have to make the world beautiful and give us five senses to enjoy it. Nor did he have to make
John wrote, “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Loving us first, God breathed himself into us before we could take a single breath. He came to earth to be the Answer to our prayers, and he answers our prayers still with his presence before we even ask. And in an act of ultimate sacrificial love, he died on the cross for us, forgiving us before we sin, giving us eternal life in his Kingdom before we enter heaven.
God can manifest himself in big displays or in subtle movements. It is up to us not to be so busy trying to make a divine encounter happen that we fail to notice that the one who loved us first is reaching out to us first in love.
Everything Jesus did, he did out of love. He could have performed spectacular miracles in front of the priests and teachers of the law. He could have stood outside the
Why do I, born and raised Jewish, believe that while lying in a sickbed, Jesus’ presence actually came over me? It’s because I know that what I was experiencing was not some indifferent supernatural entity overtaking my body. It was the presence of a God who personally came to seek a relationship with me. Does that guarantee I will always experience his presence? Not necessarily. None of us can presume to understand the mysterious ways of communion with God. What we can know for certain, however, is that God loves us enough to move heaven and earth to reach us in this fallen world — in thin places.
Simone Weil wrote poignantly, “God wears himself out through the infinite thickness of time and space in order to reach the soul and to captivate it. If it allows a pure and utter consent (though brief as a lightning flash) to be torn from it, then God conquers that soul... The soul, starting from the opposite end, makes the same journey that God made toward it. And that is the cross.”[ii]
The night of my friend’s visit, I prayed in front of a wooden cross someone had given me when I first became a Christian. It spells out the name Jesus and has nails fastened to the back to symbolize his crucifixion. I prayed so fervently that I actually began to see a halo around the cross. It grew brighter and brighter until it shone with the most beautiful golden luminescence I had ever seen. It was as if God were responding to every syllable I prayed, every tear I shed. Or were the tears in my eyes causing the light to appear that way? I don’t know.
What I do know for sure is why I am here. Jesus reaches out to me in miraculous ways every day because he lovingly made me for relationship with him. That is more than sufficient for me.
[i] Foster, Prayer, 54–55.
[ii] Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace (London and New York: Routledge Classics, 1999), 88–89.
Excerpted from So Close I Can Feel God's Breath, by Dr. Beverly Rose, (Tyndale, 2006). Used with permission.