Corona: A Time To Know God Better
Corona: A time to know God better (1)
This time of crisis and enforced inactivity, gives us the great opportunity to know God better, to deepen our relationship with Him. I hope you agree this is vital, but for a summary, see below.
There are many on-line resources in worship and spiritual support. Generally, I will not be sending out links to any in this time of Corona. In part, because they are easy to find, but more because, generally, they are not what we need to deepen our relationship with God. To know God, essentially we have to pray and receive His word in our lives (read the Bible). We have to give focused time, where it is just God, you and the Bible, (and maybe one or two other aids). This is essential to experience the presence and power of God, be formed by Him. I will be writing over this time in how to go about this dedicated time, how to deepen your relationship with God. The next installment will be sent out tomorrow.
Generally, then, I am not sending links to other resources. I make the exception, though for "Plough", published by the Bruderhof Community. For free, you can subscribe to their "daily dig" - short, beautiful spiritual writings. We have much to learn from communities like the Bruderhof in how to live simply and sustainably.
With my prayers and all best wishes
Deepening our relationship with God
Good News !
God is Love, Strength, Wisdom. In knowing Him better, our lives become better. We become people of love, strength, wisdom. The "fruits of the Holy Spirit" grow in us, we are ever being changed into people of love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5). In God, we find that His grace is sufficient for all our need. In the presence of God, we experience grace, love, sure hope. We experience a fullness of life that the material world on its own cannot give. In God we know that the power of sin, death and the devil has been vanquished. We have eternal life. In the God of Christian faith, we receive all the benefits that Jesus Christ has won for us, and we become more like Him.
There are only two things that matter in life, are the purpose of our lives - to love God with all that we are, and to love our neighbour as ourselves. The first empowers the second. We can experience all of this power of God by simple relationship with Him - loving God with all that we are. We can be with God, through Jesus Christ in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. All it needs is focus, time .. giving ourselves into relationship with God. This dedication of our lives begins with a simple prayer, something like the prayer below. Then, there are several practices to give ourselves to that will deepen our relationship with God, and mean we are experiencing His presence and power in our lives. It starts with dedicated time each day to pray and read the Bible .....
A prayer to dedicate my life to God
Lord God, I want to know you better, to put you first in my life. I pray in faith in Jesus Christ, to whom I give thanks and praise for all the benefits He has won for us.
I am sorry for the things wrong in my life (take a few moments to ask His forgiveness for anything in particular).
Please forgive me. I now turn from everything that I know is wrong.
Thank you Lord Jesus Christ, that you died on the cross for me so that I could be forgiven and set free. Thank you that you offer me forgiveness and the gift of your Spirit. I now receive that gift. Please come into my life by your Holy Spirit to be with me forever. Thank you, Lord Jesus. Amen”
Corona: A time to know God better (2)
So, you are ready to give dedicated time to God to deepen your relationship with Him …excellent. If you are new to this, try 10 minutes to begin with … and work towards the 30 minutes – one hour you ideally need every day. Morning is good as a foundation for the day, but the important thing is to find a time that you can make every day. What do you do with this 10, 30+ minutes ? Jesus said, “when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father who is unseen” (Matt 6:6)
You need to be on your own, then, just you with your Bible and God, in your room. Some may say they can pray better going for a walk or doing the gardening, or some other activity. That’s great as an addition. In fact, in relationship with God, you will find you are talking to Him all through the day. The starting point, though, is to be in a room on your own, no distractions.
Just you, God and your Bible … but some aids may be helpful, – e.g. light a candle, have a Cross. And it can be good to start your prayer with writing in a journal how you are feeling today, what you give thanks for, what you need God’s strength in. You may want to write down the people and situations you are concerned about – writing them down before God is your prayer. You do not need lots of words – “do not keep on babbling” Jesus said (Matt 6:7) “for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” (Matt 6:8).
Jesus goes on in this passage from Matthew to say when you pray, form your prayers around the Lord’s Prayer. See the attached version for some suggestions on what this means..
Now you are off and deepening your relationship with God. Don’t finish early if you get bored (you will at times – such moments are very significant, as we’ll see another time). Stay there in your room with just your Bible and God. Why is the Bible there ? Again, we will see another time. For now, just talk to God … and don’t forget, don’t use too many words .. silence is good, In fact silence is great (Something else for another time… there’s so much to learn in developing your relationship with God.) More to follow next week…
Corona: A time to know God better (3)
How is it going? Each day, you are giving time to being in a room on your own with God .. and a Bible? You are giving at least 10 minutes a day? And you are using the Lord’s Prayer to form your prayers? And you are not babbling/using loads of words? (Remember Jesus told you it’s not necessary because God knows what you need before you ask Him). If you are doing all this, great… you are on the way. If not, do not beat yourself up, it can take time to establish the rhythm. It’s a bit like physical exercise – quite hard to do every day at first, but in time, you find it becomes integral to who you are, the day feeling incomplete without it.
So, commit yourself again to this time each day.. on your own with God… and a Bible. Do not worry about “feelings”, thinking you should be sensing the presence of God – you may or may not. And anyway, how do you know what the presence of God feels like? (Something else for another time). Just pray in the ways suggested so far, focusing on praying through the Lord’s Prayer. As you do so, your worship (“Hallowed be your name”!) and prayer will be developing your relationship with God, being formed by Him – think about each line, how it shapes your priorities and invites God to meet your needs. (We might look at this more extensively another time, too .. this could become a book!)
If you have all this in place, you have the basis for knowing God better.
It is likely that if you are to go further you will find a “prayer book” very helpful – set words to follow, rather like the words in a Sunday service. There are various ones available, all good. I recommend the Church of England’s, “Common Worship Daily Prayer”, and will very happily show you how to use it – albeit by phone at the moment. More simply, I attach a “Prayer Booklet” (cover and inside pages) with forms of prayer through the day. Let me know if you would like a hard copy. I hope you will agree the prayers are lovely. Following this, you really will be on the road to a life-time of developing your relationship with God.
You then, in a room on your own, with God … nothing else .. except the optional aides I mentioned before, a journal, Cross, candle.. and a Bible… and a prayer book. You are right, I have not talked about yet what the Bible is doing there … there’s a lot to come.
Corona: A time to know God better (4)
A week’s gone by .. you are in the rhythm? Every day, setting aside time in a room on your own, with God? You are enjoying sharing this time with God, bringing all that you are, your life, your concerns? You are praying through the Lord’s Prayer and being formed by God’s “agenda” for you? Perhaps you are using set forms of prayer like I sent out last week, or a prayer book? You may be bored at times but you persevere, keeping the set time you have given?
If yes, to all this, great, terrific in fact. You are forming the basis of a life-time of getting to know God better. If you are struggling, know that God is still there for you, He loves you… ask for help in developing your relationship with Him. I am very happy to chat on the telephone.
Now, what about the Bible you have been taking into these focused times with God? God speaks in the time of prayer, speaking through the Lord’s Prayer, and in the set prayers of a prayer book – He is shaping and forming you, bringing you His “Good News” (Look back to the first of these sessions to see how glorious this is.). And God supremely speaks through the Bible.
The Bible is God’s story, from Genesis to Revelation about how He works in and through His creation, especially mankind. The story tells of God bringing back mankind that has gone astray from Him, through Jesus Christ. There is a glorious ending to the Bible with the vision of a “new heaven and a new earth” where suffering is gone and God’s Kingdom of peace, love, justice and righteousness is established. (You could have a sneak preview – read Revelation 21). All through the Bible, God speaks into our human condition, bringing hope and comfort, and also challenge and instruction. The Bible is the “Word of God”
So, to really get to know God better, you have to get to know the Bible. You need a Bible that is a modern translation. I recommend the NIV (New International Version). And you need a “lectionary” – a reading plan for each day. We send out on e-mail daily readings from the Church of England or see the attached resources sheet for more information.
The main thing is you need a structure that will give you a variety of readings through the Bible. We send out three readings a day, including a Psalm, but do not worry if you can only manage one reading. And do not get hung up on bits you do not understand or sound strange … move on, the answers will come later. There are four questions that are good to ask of a Bible passage. We do not have to consciously go through them, but it’s good to bear in mind that these are the things to be thinking about. Again, do not worry about what you are doing – just read. In time you will know that God is speaking to you.
You now have all the essentials to develop you relationship with God. I’ll leave you to it for a couple of weeks before we look more at what is going on in this time. We will address, then, those questions about, why boredom is part of prayer and is not to be avoided, and how do you know you are sensing the presence of God?
Corona: A time to know God better (5)
It’s been a couple of weeks. I hope and pray the rhythm of spending time with God to know Him better, grow your relationship with Him, is going well for you. All the great saints of Christian faith tell us that we need this daily prayer.
I recommended if this is new for you that you start with 10 minutes a day. But, as I hope you are realising, this actually is not enough. There is so much to do! A reminder of the “exercises” that can be part of your time with God:
Write in a journal/notebook how you are and people/situations to pray for.
Pray through the words of a Prayer Book.
Centre on the Lord’s Prayer
You may have written down particular Bible verses that have spoken to you, in your notebook or on a card (so you can carry it with you through the day).
During this time, you have probably been distracted, being reminded of concerns/things you need to do today. That is good – you can write them down, committing those issues/things to do, to God.
If you are doing all this, you are really building the elements of a rich relationship with God. God will be speaking through the exercises – in the prayers and the scriptures but, ideally, do not stop there. I want to suggest that you really start praying (communing with God) after you have been through all these exercises. The exercises will lead you in to a place of stillness, quiet, into the presence of the Holy Spirit, silence. Enjoy this time! Be in silence, allow God to love you, hold you, speak deep within your soul. You may find you are giving yourself in adoration of God.
Coming to this point of stillness/adoration is a great blessing.. you may find you do not want to leave! So, you see why 10 minutes is not enough. I suggest 20-30 minutes is good for the exercises, and then allow at least 10 minutes for basking in the presence of God that you are lead into. But there are no “rules”! Again, do not beat yourself up. Just enjoy growing your relationship with God.
What if you get bored? Of course you will. We are so activity/stimulus focussed it will be hard to give this time, especially at first. See these times of boredom/distraction as highly significant, promising a richness of simply being. Bring yourself through the boredom, to re-centre in God. You can do this by talking to God about the boredom/distraction- perhaps write down what you are thinking/feeling. You can refocus on a particular Bible verse, maybe praying it as a “mantra” eg “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want” (Psalm 23), “The heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19). You are sure to find a verse from your daily Bible reading.
As you work through any boredom, as you experience God in the stillness/silence, there will be a great healing going on in your soul. God can truly fill you with His Spirit.
Which reminds me – you may well want to be praying “through the Spirit”. More on this next time.
God bless..enjoy these focused times with God..