By John Mark Comer and Gavin Bennett
READ THIS OVERVIEW
Think about a relationship that is significant to you. Chances are, you and this other person have spent considerable time growing your relationship by cultivating intimacy. Intimacy is the close familiarity or comfort that you experience in the presence of someone you love. From page one of the Bible all the way to the end, the God of the Bible is a God who desires intimacy with humanity. God created us in his own image to be with him and to enjoy him. He dwelt with his people Israel in the desert, continuing to pursue intimacy with them through failure and hardship. He has triumphed over Satan, in order to reconcile us to right relationship—intimacy—with him. God will stop at nothing to be close to us. The Old Testament even calls Jesus, the coming Messiah, “Immanuel”—a name which translates to “God with us.” God desires to be with us, and stops at nothing to pursue that with-ness.
Maybe this sounds really good, but it doesn’t square with your experience of relationship with God, which may not feel so intimate and close. Perhaps God feels more like an acquaintance than a close friend, or he seems distant and uninvolved. If you feel that, hear this: Intimacy with God can be grown. It can be cultivated over time.
Think about it…How do you grow in intimacy with your close friends and family? Likely, you spend time (probably hours!) listening to them and talking with them, in deep conversation; you think of them when you’re not together; you do things with them that you know they’ll love. Really, it boils down to presence; intimacy cannot be built without presence. So how do we cultivate intimacy with God? We spend time with him. We practice listening to his voice—learning what he sounds like—by reading scripture and listening to him in prayer. We do things with God that we know we will enjoy as much as he does: things like walks in his creation, listening to music, journaling, taking in and appreciating beauty in the world. We show up, time and time again.
Here’s the good news: God wants intimacy with us even more than we want intimacy with him. Just like in any other relationship, it’s not all on us to “make intimacy happen.” When we make space and show up, God responds. God makes a way for us to experience newfound, richly beautiful intimacy.
WORK THROUGH THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS (10–15 MINUTES)
1. How would you describe your intimacy with God right now?
2. What have you done to deepen relationship with God in the past? What has been helpful?
3. What do you think could get in the way of cultivating intimacy with God?
THIS WEEK’S PRACTICE (5–10 MINUTES)
The Practice for this week is to be intentional about practicing intimacy with God at various points throughout your Sabbath. Below we’ve provided some ideas of what this could look like. This is neither an exhaustive list nor is it a checklist. There is no formula to intimacy—these are merely suggestions for entering that space well:
- Start your Sabbath by reading a Psalm and praying when you wake up.
- Set aside a good chunk of time in the morning to read Scripture, to pray, to practice listening to God, and to just be with God.
- Set aside some time during the day to read the Bible and pray with those closest to you (whether your family, friends, or roommates). This could look like reading a Bible story with the kids or some kind of prayer walk with your roommate, or a time of worship by singing with your friends.
- Practice gratitude by making a list of things for which you are grateful.
- Go on a short, slow prayer walk: without a timeline and perhaps without even a set course, just walking and praying. Ask yourself what might Jesus be saying to you if he was physically walking next to you.
- Spend some time journaling through your last week in the form of a letter to God. Thank God for showing up, process through the various emotions that were stirred in you and experiences that happened this week. Perhaps start with the question: Where did I see God this week?
- Calling back to the Sabbath & Your Humanity Practice, allow yourself to feel deeply what is stirring inside you and invite God’s voice to speak in the midst of your emotions. When was a time in the Bible you can think about Jesus having felt this? What did he do in that space? Have a conversation with God, asking for the Spirit’s presence and gentleness.
- Try the Daily Office. Also called Fixed Hour Prayer, the Daily Office is an ancient Christian practice in which the observer intentionally sets aside three times during the day to focus on God. Usually, these times are in the morning, at noon, and at night. These times can be short—anywhere from five to ten minutes. The goal is to focus on God and practice tuning your soul to his presence, so that the awareness of God stays with you all day long.
- If you want to try the Daily Office, here are a few creative ways in which you could practice it:
- Go on a prayer walk
- Read a Psalm
- Read a liturgy
- Put on a worship song
- Practice gratitude
- Speak in tongues
- Practice just sitting in God’s presence
- Go somewhere beautiful in nature—a park, vista, etc.—and praise God
- Read a poem
- Think about how you connect with God best and do that!
In the end, what we want you to remember is that while intimacy is not a formula, there is wisdom in setting time aside and creating space in which you and God meet. And just like with a friend or family member, there is no one way to accomplish this. The goal is to simply practice creating the space in which intimacy grows, learning what works for you and God.