Debbie Salter Goodwin
Practices that Cultivate Intimacy with God
When I think of people who modeled an intimate relationship with God, it always showed up best in their prayers. They were talking to a friend. There was ease and openness. No strain to get the emotion right or the words perfect. Listening always made me feel like an intruder. That’s when I began to recognize an important principle. Prayer is not about getting answers from God, it is about getting ourselves to God.
How do we cultivate that kind of intimacy? How do we keep from treating God like a visiting dignitary or worse, like the inspection police come to point out everything wrong? How do we develop a relationship where fear is never welcome, and honesty comes unforced?
While I don’t have many answers, I have found some practices that help. They are not formulas or requirements. They prepare my heart for an intimate conversation. I can’t use all of them every time I talk with God. Some of them help me most when I am confused or stressed. They curb my natural inclination to monopolize the conversation. They help me remember that there is more intimacy in what God says to us than in what we say to Him.
Use silence as a tool to prepare to listen.
We are not people of silence. Not in our heads or hearts. Especially not with our words. Learning how to be silent before God is an exercise in practicing the presence of God to prepare us to hear from God. It’s starts a few seconds at a time because we are so easily distracted by our own head talk.
How can I silence my thoughts and words that I may hear from you?
Let God talk first.
When you meet with a friend or family member you love dearly, do you monopolize the conversation from the very beginning, or do you want to hear what the other person has to say first? Come to God wanting to know what He has to say. Use your first words in prayer to ask Him what’s on His mind because He already knows what’s on yours.
What have my words prevented God from saying to me?
Review the character of God.
We find it easier to review God’s gifts and there’s a place in prayer for that. However, when we want to experience the Emanuel Presence of our Creator and Sustainer, it can be helpful to review His character. Such a review humbles us as we understand Who our conversation partner is through prayer.
Where have I forgotten who you are? Help me remember.
Ask one sentence questions.
What should I do about ___________? How should I respond to ______? Where am I mixed up in my perspective? This gives God a chance to point us in key directions He knows will make a difference. While it doesn’t mean instant resolution about anything, this practice makes us more observant in our day, looking for the answers God wants to bring.
What questions about me am I afriad to ask? Help me ask them first.
For many, music is a salve for the soul. However, sometimes even good words distract us from what God longs to say. If you are a music lover, keep a few wordless pieces that have a special way of quieting you so that you can hear God’s words better.
What song do you want to sing to me? What harmony have I missed from you?
Do a favorite activity with God.
Isn’t that the way you like to spend time with your friends? Sharing favorite activities? Take a walk with God. Cook with God. Make something out of wood with God. Do what you like best with God. Let the action be your wordless prayer, your joy, your thanksgiving. Let your mind wander with God as your enjoy something He gave you to enjoy.
What should we do together today?
Keep the conversation open.
Prayer should never be a fixed time only. Where’s the intimacy in that? Our lives become the way we interact with God. Turn head talk to God talk. Instead of asking ourselves questions about priorities and practices in our day, ask God. See something beautiful? Tell God about it. A quick concern clouds our thoughts, talk to God about it. But always make it a dialogue. That means if we say something to God, let Him respond before we say something else.
Forgive me for not keeping our conversation open. What did I miss?
Notice that these practices reduce our words and give God more space for His. That’s where intimacy grows. These practices are for developing intimacy; not getting answers. However, the more intimate our relationship with God, the easier it is to pray the prayers when we need answers.
Choose one of these ideas to try in the next few days and share your experience. Or maybe you have a practice that cultivates intimacy with God. Share it below in the comments.
God invites us to take a walk with Him for unforced conversation. Isn’t that what you long for? Intimacy begins when you recognize that He’s always waiting for you to join HIm.