This past weekend, Arlene and I attended a women’s retreat in La Crete, Alberta, where Arlene was the guest speaker. It was an amazing time together of worship, prayer, and intimacy with God. During one of her sessions, Arlene gave this beautiful definition of prayer by Tim Keller:
In his book, Prayer, Tim Keller goes on to say that prayer is both a conversation and encounter with God. It is not merely a way to get things from God, but a way to get more of God Himself. A striving to ‘take hold of God.’
This makes me think of the passage in Mark 5, where a woman who had been bleeding for 12 years comes to Jesus. Scripture tells us, “She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, ‘If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.’”
At the beginning of this passage, Mark tells us about a great crowd that had gathered and pressed around Jesus. Picture the scene: crowds so large, the One they are looking for, cannot be seen. People are pushing and shoving just to get a glimpse of the One they had heard about. The One who could heal. The One who gave life.
But to this woman, in her desperation, her pain, and her suffering, seeing wasn’t enough. She needed more of Him. To touch Him. To take hold of Him.
It wasn’t easy. There were obstacles in her way. Yet for her, God was worth the effort. Worth the fight that lay ahead. And in the end, because of her faith, because of her efforts, she would discover for herself the almighty power of the only One who can save.
This is the image we’re given here for prayer. When we consider prayer in this context, it changes everything. When we pray to encounter God, our focus becomes God, not ourselves. Our prayers flow out of Scripture – for that is where we discover God. And rather than present circumstances and life happenings dictating our prayers, a longing for more of who He is drives them.
When we come to God with a list of all we need from Him, we miss Him entirely because our gaze is fixed on ourselves and what we don’t have. But, when we come to God to encounter Him, to enter His presence and discover who He reveals Himself to be, we begin to lose sight of ourselves. Our circumstances, our flaws and misgivings, our needs, and all that weighs us down starts to fade and we begin to see God.
We see Creator God, Faithful God, the God who provides, the God who saves, Mighty God, God of mercy, God our Refuge, All Powerful God, Father God and the God who reigns on high, to name just a few. As we encounter God this way, prayer becomes a means of intimacy with God. A way to dialogue with Him and get to know Him. And through knowing Him, we learn to love Him.
So, as you read your Bible this week, slow down. Take time to meditate, reflect and ponder on who God is revealing Himself to be. Strive to discover more about the God who loves you, knows you, and calls you by name. And then, let your heart respond.