God tells us that we can love because He first loved us (1 John 4:16). We have to really believe that. We need to make sure that we are spending time with Him. This is not the task-based relationship we may have been taught our whole life: “Read the Bible, journal, prayers in the morning. Don’t forget to bow your head and fold your hands properly.” While these are good activities, good practices, it is not the heart of what God really wants from us. This is talking about, talking with God. Do you have a running conversation with God throughout the day? Do you ever just stop and ask Him to be with you in a conversation with your spouse, child, or co-worker? Do you really get into His presence and listen to what He has to say? Is it a two-way conversation? Or do you simply give God your honey-do list and go on your way? It is important to understand that you will be much more effective if you are grounded in an intimate relationship with Jesus. If not, then you are probably doing things on our own power and not following God’s lead. If you are doing it in your own power, you are denying the power that God has and are rejecting His authority. If you want to have a positive influence to save Sodom, then you must let the Holy Spirit do the work.
Many of us have always been taught that having “spiritual discipline” meant that you were reading the Bible every day, praying at least fifteen minutes a day and going to church at least once a week. Unless you live in the South, then the standard is three times a week—Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday night. In all of that, too many churches may forget to teach what it really means to have a relationship with the God of the universe.
It took moving my family across the world to Malaysia to begin to understand what it meant to truly follow Jesus. It was my two years in Japan, without a church community, where I learned what it meant to have a relationship with God. God wants a personal relationship with us. He will talk with us if we tune into Him. Prayer is not something that is hard to do. Have you ever felt inadequate while praying? That you just were not good enough to pray to God. This came from hearing many pastors who were wonderful at leading prayer. We are taught by example and too many of us do not feel like we will ever be as eloquent as those who gave the corporate prayer. If fact, watch what happens when a pastor is at the table during a meal. I bet all eyes will turn to them when it is time to pray for the meal. Most feel like they are the most qualified or spiritual to give the blessing. The truth is, anyone can have a conversation with God. Instead of engaging in a conversation with Jesus, many end up giving the same prayer each day. You probably know the one. “God, thank you for this day. Thank you for my spouse, children. Bless me and help me today. Amen.” That is too often the routine we fall into. That all changed when living in Japan; I came upon a revelation. Prayer is simply another word for a conversation with God. No different than a conversation you might have with a spouse. It sounds simple, but it really is not any more complicated than that.