Here are five tools that can help us build a stronger, closer friendship with God.
1. Prayer: God Wants to Hear From You!
If you were given the opportunity to talk with the U.S. president or the queen of England, what would you say? You would probably be a bit nervous, and would think a lot about what you should talk about. But One far more powerful and important than the president or queen wants you to talk to Him! And He doesn't want you to be nervous, but to share what's on your mind and to pour out your heart to Him.
God loves us so much and understands what we are going through. That's why we can "come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:16).
How should we pray? Christ's disciples wondered the same thing, and asked Him to teach them (read it in Luke 11:1-4 and Matthew 6:5-13). He told them prayer wasn't for show, and it wasn't about saying the same thing over and over again. But He did give us a framework of the types of things to pray about:
• Praising and thanking God.
• Praying for God's Kingdom to come, and for His will and work to be done today.
• Requesting that our needs and the needs of others be met, whether healing, food, wisdom or protection.
• Seeking forgiveness and the help to forgive others.
• Asking for protection from temptation and the evil tempter.
In addition to getting on our knees in private (King David did so at "evening and morning and at noon"—Psalm 55:17), we can talk to God in our minds throughout the day (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). Read David's Psalms and other heartfelt prayers of the Bible to see more about how this spiritual tool can help you draw closer to our Creator.
2. Meditation: How Do I Apply This Today?
When we've prayed for understanding and then carefully read the Bible, a natural next step is to think about what we've read and how it relates to the situations in our life. That's what biblical meditation is all about.
It's not about emptying our minds or relaxation techniques or mystical experiences at all. It's "directed thinking, reflection, contemplation or concentration" and it helps make prayer and Bible study "meaningful instead of mechanical, inspiring rather than superficial".
Some meditations are recorded for us in the Psalms. The psalmist said meditation helped make him wiser than his enemies and led him to restrain his feet "from every evil way" (Psalm 119:97-104).
Meditation helps us know where we are going—"ponder the path of your feet," as Solomon put it (Proverbs 4:26).
Some passages worth pondering: 2 Corinthians 10:3-5; Philippians 4:8; Colossians 3:1-2.
God told Joshua to meditate on the Book of the Law "day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it" (Joshua 1:8). Once again, the key is doing!
3. Fasting: A Serious Power Tool
The Bible has many examples of people of God who voluntarily went without food and drink for a time to humble themselves and draw close to God (Ezra 8:23; Esther 4:16; Psalm 35:13).
Christ said His disciples would fast and explained that particularly vexing situations can sometimes only be dealt with by prayer and fasting (Matthew 9:15; 17:21). In that way, fasting can be looked on as a power tool for building our relationship with God.
But there are some things to understand first. Biblical fasting is not for show (Matthew 6:16-18). It's not to be undertaken lightly if your doctor or parents (if you're under 18) object. It's not to try to get something from others or to try to force God to do what we want (Isaiah 58:3-4).
Fasting should first and foremost be about personally drawing near to God (James 4:7-10; 1 Peter 5:6-7). It should also be about compassion and sharing with others (Isaiah 58:6-7).
Since the Creator God is the source of all power, drawing closer to Him and casting our cares and worries on Him will give us the spiritual strength we need, even while feeling physically weak.
4. Bible Study: Listening to God
A person who does all the talking and never listens ends up with a very one-sided friendship—or no friendship at all. So besides talking to God, we need to hear what He has to say.
Most of us are blessed today to have a copy of the Bible right in our own home. Can you imagine just hearing the Bible read once a week and trying to remember it through the week? People through history memorized major parts of this most important of books. God even told each king of Israel to write out a copy of the Book of the Law—found in the first section of the Bible—and to "read it all the days of his life" (Deuteronomy 17:18-19).
Why do we read the Bible? It is as necessary for our spiritual life as food is physically (Matthew 4:4). Both the Old and New Testaments show us how God thinks and how we can become like Him (take a few minutes and look up Psalm 119:105; Luke 24:44-45; 1 Corinthians 10:11; 2 Timothy 3:15-17; and 2 Peter 3:15-18). We can pray that God will open our understanding and help us grow and be "doers of the word," because just reading is not enough (James 1:21-25).
5. Fellowship: Friendship With God and His People
It's a dangerous world out there, and sometimes it's just good to know someone has "got your back"—is watching out for you. God put His people in His Church to support, encourage and learn from each other (1 Corinthians 12:25-26; Philippians 2:1-5). Of course we also can offend and hurt each other, but one of His goals is for us to learn to reconcile and to get along. In that way, the Church is a workshop for living His way of life.
Biblical fellowship is a three-way relationship between us, God and His people (1 John 1:3). God puts us each in His Church where He wants us, with our own specific part to play (1 Corinthians 12:18; Ephesians 4:16). He listens lovingly to our conversations and records His precious people in a book of remembrance (Malachi 3:16-17).
God warns us not to "neglect our meeting together" because we so desperately need to encourage each other to "outbursts of love and good deeds" (Hebrews 10:24-25, New Living Translation). VT