On a Sunday night, just a few weeks after the “If/Then” series came to an end, I walked into pre-service prayer at The Voice. What I had asked God for during that period of fasting and prayer hadn’t exactly come to pass, but I felt peace nonetheless. In His timing it would happen. I had done my part in asking. Besides, I felt refreshed and renewed, and I was okay with that. But God still had something else to show me.
That night when I arrived, I set my things down, closed my eyes and set my mind on prayer. Except that last part didn’t occur as quickly as it sounds like it did. The day had been good, and it was filled with excitement, but placing my focus solely on God now was proving difficult. Determined to center my thoughts, I began to pace in my row and praise God aloud, using the words I at least knew to be true about Him. If I couldn’t get my mind aimed in the right direction, certainly my words of worship would lead me to the right place in prayer.
That’s when an unexpected thing happened. The following phrase came to my mind, swiftly, clearly: God is not just a concept. He’s not merely someone you have head knowledge of. Well … okay, I thought. I didn’t think I needed that clarified. I know this, God. You know I know this. I know You’re real, You’re alive, and Your word is active. I have a personal relationship with you. But the phrase still rang in my head, and the more it did the more I realized it wasn’t a spontaneous thought. God knew exactly what He was doing bringing it to mind.
Even after such an amazing month of prayer and fasting at The Voice, He had felt something akin to distant. But I hadn’t been able to pinpoint why or what He felt like exactly, until just then in pre-service prayer. It became clear. Despite my efforts — the words I spoke in prayer — He had felt like a fleeting idea, a distant memory, and now, I understood, he had somehow become a concept.
Though I’ve been in church my whole life, when I started college I truly started to pursue God wholeheartedly, and I haven’t stopped following Him since. But for all my years reading the Bible, worshipping God, praying, going to church and honoring God with my life through ministry, I have so often arrived at seasons where God is quiet and I look around and wonder in a moment of panic, Wait, how real is He to me right now? How close is He really? Am I simply going through a string of motions, basing what I do in prayer and in church only on what I know about God, what I feel? Those are scary questions, but at that moment in prayer, they were silenced once and for all.
God is not just a concept. He’s not merely someone you have head knowledge of. You see, so often we begin our prayers, our worship, from a place of head knowledge, using the phrases and concepts about God we know are appropriate, the phrases that bring Him praise and honor. This is all well and good, of course. We should absolutely praise God using what we know from the Bible and our experiences, even our personal relationship with Him, especially when we feel stuck or when we’re trying to steer our hearts back to God after a busy day.
But here’s the thing. We don’t have to start there. We don’t have to strive to get to that place. No matter how long we’ve been in church, how long we’ve been reading the Bible, or how great of a devotional life/prayer routine we have in and out of church, we absolutely shouldn’t seek God, or request anything of God, from our humanity. We don’t need to. We have to remember that our connection with God doesn’t simply come from the fact that He created us, that we know who He is or even that He saved us. There’s more to it.
Let’s break it down. We were made in His image and likeness, right? (Genesis 1:26-27). And John 4:24 says, “God is spirit…” He is spirit and we are made in His image. So, we are spiritual beings. Got it. Romans 8:9 says that once we are saved His spirit dwells in us. Ok, awesome. But, 1 Corinthians 6:17 says: “But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit”. Wait, it says we are “one with the Lord”. We are one with Him! We have a connection to God that the angels who reside with Him in heaven can only wish they had (Hebrews 1-2). So, here’s my question: If we are so closely linked with God on such a deep level, why in the world do we communicate or relate with Him with anything but our spirit? That is why the rest of John 4:24 says that “those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” I must, must, must commune with God in spirit.
Yes, we are His children, and He has redeemed us, forgiven us and draws us to Himself daily. But our everlasting connection to God goes so much deeper! It comes from the fact that as Christians we are intricately bonded with Him. There’s a part of us that is spirit, just like God, and that spiritual connection is where our praise and our prayer have to stem from. And that should make us feel more grounded as we begin to praise and pray.
Ask and seek from your spirit man. Fight temptation, doubt and pain in the spirit. Along with putting on the armor of God, the apostle Paul tells us to pray in the Spirit on all occasions (Ephesians 6:18).
This is just scraping the surface. There are dozens of verses in Romans and Hebrews that help us understand this and put it into practice. But the point is simple. Continue to make your requests known to God. Grow close to Him. Pray. Pray without ceasing. Pray in the spirit. As you seek God, do it in humility, but don’t do it from your humanity. Approach Him boldly as what you are: made in His likeness, a child who has an intimate bond with the Father (with Abba), a co-heir with Christ, a spirit that is one with God but merely housed in an earthen vessel.
At home, in pre-service prayer, during worship at The Voice … Don’t panic at the initial moments of silence or distance inside. Just go after God. Trust me, He is as close as your very spirit. Let that make you more excited and confident as you speak to God and lift praises up to Him today. Let that keep you grounded in Him always.