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Drawing Near: Treasuring Communion (Part 2)

draw-near

Do you find it difficult in this age of distractions to disconnect from everything in order to connect to God? How many times a week do you withdraw from other people in order to draw near to God? This includes tearing yourself away from your social media accounts, phone, text messages, emails, television, internet, movies, entertainment, work, and in-person contact with other people.

When you do withdraw to a solitary place and open your Bible, do you find it boring? Do you give up after five minutes and get your phone back out?

It’s so hard to disconnect in this age, even for five minutes. Wherever we go, no matter how many time zones we cross, someone somewhere is alerting us to something ‘important.’ Disconnecting is not as simple as it used to be.

Disconnecting from the World to Connect
to God in Prayer

It’s almost impossible to remember what the world was like before cell phones. There were actually times when no one had the expectation of reaching us, times we were truly “out-of-pocket.” If we were in the car, at school, at church, at a sporting event … people knew we could not be reached until we returned home. Boy has the world changed, and changed rapidly.

In our modern age, it’s difficult to:

  1. Disconnect. It’s challenging to shut out all contact with other people, especially when they’re used to being able to reach us any time they want.

Even when we do manage to withdraw from people, it’s challenging to disconnect from all media. We’re so dependent on electronic devices for our Bible consumption now days that distractions abound. In my prayer time one day this week, I read the Bible on my laptop so I could see several translations at once. I read one chapter, got distracted by something that popped up and “needed” my attention, and never recovered the time.

  1. Focus in prayer. Researchers who surveyed Canadian media consumption found that our attention span has now fallen below that of a goldfish. The average attention span is now down to eight seconds.

In yesterday’s post, we saw what a privilege it is to be able to draw near to God. We considered why it is that we postpone, procrastinate, and piddle when such an indescribable privilege awaits us. (If you missed that post, you can read it here.)

Divided loyalty is one of the reasons we don’t commune with God, as discussed in the previous post. In addition to this, it does not help that we live in such a media saturated age. We’re accustomed to flashing images, nonstop sound, and constant digital input from outside sources.

I live in a rural area. Consequently, we have frequent power outages, even on perfectly sunny days. When it happens now days, if I don’t have devices charged, I’m completely lost. No flashing images on the TV in the background, no phone, no laptop, no internet. I’m just here, within four walls, bored out of my mind and going berserk. I could read a book by lantern light. But a book on a plain page, not a lit screen? What?!!! If my portable power bank is drained, I prefer to go sit in the car, run the motor, and charge something—anything—up. I don’t care what, just give me some form of electronic media!

Just a few short years ago, I was not this way. I had not yet grown accustomed, dare I say addicted, to a non-stop barrage of electronic media. I read regular, old-fashioned books. Had no aversion to hours of solitude. Could be alone with my thoughts (Yikes! What is that?!). And I could pray and meditate on the word for long stretches of time.

But our shrinking attention span, re-wired brains, and aversion to solitude have made it so that we dread prayer … as much as I dread the hours at home with no electricity.

Jesus’ Pattern: Enjoying Prayer

Prayer is one of the most noted characteristics of Jesus’ life. He often withdrew to mountains or to solitary places to pray. Jesus:

  • “was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness” where He fasted and prayed (Matthew 4:1, Luke 4:1-2).
  • “departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed” (Mark 1:35. See also Luke 4:42).
  • “went up on the mountain by himself to pray” (Matthew 14:23).
  • “went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God” (Luke 6:12).

If our Redeemer—the One who spoke this world into place, the Lion of Judah, the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world—found prayer necessary in God’s economy, then who are we to think we can attempt to live without it?  If Jesus found prayer necessary in order to do what He needed to, and He was God incarnate, how do we, mere fallen flesh, think we can do what we need to without prayer?

We think it’s difficult for us to disconnect. How much more so it was for Jesus! Throngs of people followed Him everywhere He went. Constantly surrounded by people who wanted something from Him, He was in much higher demand than you or I could ever be. Yet He managed to regularly withdraw to a solitary place to pray.

In John 13 Jesus said, “You address me as ‘Teacher’ and ‘Master,’ and rightly so…. That is what I am… I’ve laid down a pattern for you. What I’ve done, you do” (v. 13-14, MSG).

Jesus found it not only necessary to disconnect—to withdraw to a solitary place—so He could commune with His Father, He found it enjoyable. Drawing near was a delight to Him.

With His life is living in us, how can we not find prayer enjoyable, too? If Jesus enjoyed withdrawing to a place of prayer, and we have His life at work in us—His mind, His heart, His feelings dwelling in us—how can we not join Him in this delight?

Treasuring Communion

In Taste and See, John Piper writes:

The Puritans called this drawing near “communion with God.” We need to learn from them. J.I. Packer says that the Puritans differ from evangelicals today because for them:

Communion with God was a great thing: to evangelicals today it is a comparatively small thing. The Puritans were concerned about communion with God in a way we are not. The measure of our unconcern is the little that we say about it. When Christians meet, they talk to each other about their Christian work and Christian interests, their Christian acquaintances, the state of the churches, and the problem of theology—but rarely of their daily experience of God.[1]

According to Packer the greatest of the Puritans was John Owen (1616-1683). Owen’s experience of communion with God is a great example for us. God saw to it that Owen and the suffering Puritans of his day lived on God in a way that makes most of our experience look shallow. Writing a letter during an illness in 1674 he said to a friend, “Christ is our best friend and ere long will be our only friend. I pray God with all my heart that I may be weary of everything else but converse and communion with Him.” [2] God used illness and all the other pressures of Owen’s life to drive him into communion with God and not away from it.

But Owen was also very intentional about his communion with God. He said, “Friendship is most maintained and kept up by visits; and these, the more free and less occasioned by urgent business….” [3] In other words, in the midst of all his academic and political and ecclesiastical labors, he made many visits to God.

And when he made these visits, he did not go only with petitions for things or for deliverance from his many hardships. He went to see his glorious Friend and to contemplate his greatness. [4] (Emphasis added)

A Prayer

Jesus, thank you for the privilege of communion with You! Thank you that I can actually walk into your presence any time day or night.

You’re the King of Kings… but I don’t have to wait for permission to enter your presence, like I would an earthly king. And oh how infinitely superior you are to an earthly ruler. If I wanted to see the President of the United States, I’d have to know someone with access… I’d have to make an appointment far in advance … then I’d have to clear security…. And my time would be extremely limited. But with You, I have instant, free access with no time-limits! Without hesitation I can walk right in to the Holy of Holies day or night.

Please help me grasp what a privilege communion with You—a holy God—is! Help me treasure it, not only because You promise to hear my heart’s cry, but also because I get to hear Your heart.

Help me want to draw near to You just for the sake of knowing You more. It’s a given that I want You to know me, to know all about my desires, needs, and requests. But forgive me for not wanting to know You! For not wanting to know Your heart—what You care about, what concerns You, what matters to You. Would You give me the desire to know You more?

Jesus, I don’t want communion with You to be a “small” thing to me. Help me prioritize and cherish time alone with You—not just during this fast but every day the rest of this year! May I live on You, by You, fed and sustained by my relationship with You. May I not settle for life lived at a distance from You.

Help me make You my best friend. May I be weary of everything else but conversation with You. In this day of high tech gadgets and media bombardment, may communion with You be the most interesting, most compelling, most engaging part of my day. Right now, when I try to shut everything out—cell phone, TV, computer, other people—in order to shut myself in with You, it feels agonizing! Modern day media has rewired my brain … and seemingly my spirit. So re-wire me, Jesus! Would you make the time I spend with You so charged with Your presence that it makes me wonder why I was ever bored in prayer? Help me hear You so clearly that I feel I can carry on a conversation with You as I would my best friend on this earth.

Help me maintain my friendship with You. Help me come to You at times other than when I have requests and needs. Help me talk to You for the sake of being with You and hearing Your heart.

Thank you for answering my prayer. I’m excited about how my friendship with You is going to grow in the coming year! I’m looking forward to hearing Your voice in our two-way conversation! I can’t wait to know You more deeply! In Your name I pray.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

We’re drawing near to You, Jesus. The only thing we want is You! Nothing compares to YOU! As Kristian Stanfill sings, we echo the words back to You. You are our hiding place, our all in all, our everything!

“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.”
James 4:8
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“The Lord is near to all who call on him.”
Psalm 145:18

 

A Moment of Worship: Draw Near

Draw-Near

Draw Near featuring Kristian Stanfill
From the Album: Even So Come by Passion

Listen in Apple Music or Download to iTunes
Listen in Prime Music or Download from Amazon

 

Focus Questions:

  • Do you find it difficult in this age of distractions to disconnect from everything in order to connect to God? How many times a week do you withdraw from other people in order to draw near to God?
  • When you see other Christians, is your conversation about your activities, the news, your family? Or is it about how you have experienced God lately? When you’re drawing near to and experiencing Jesus, you can’t help but talk about Him to other believers! 
  • Is Jesus your best friend? Do you long for the place where you will be weary of everything else but conversation and communion with Him?
  • Do you cherish your time with Jesus? When you draw near, do you also listen to Him talk through the Word? Or is your conversation a one-way conversation on your end?
  • Are you intentional about your communion with God? Do you maintain your friendship with Him by going to Him at times other than when you have requests and needs? Are there frequent times that you draw near to Him just to hear His heart? 

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1. J.I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2010], 215
2. Peter Toon, God’s Statesman (Greenwood, S.S.: The Attic Press), 153
3. John Owen, Works, VII (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1965), 197
4. John Piper, Taste and See (Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah, 2005), 78-79

 

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