Spiritual wildernesses do exist. Dry spells where you are tempted to believe you pray to a wall as nobody seems to hear your requests, they are real to the one who gets closer and closer to God. As illogical as it might seem, people who do not really seek more from God have less problems with prayer as they do not really expect God to answer them, either, when they keep clinging to pre-formulated prayers and hymns. However, can our relationship with our Creator ever be business as usual…? 🙄 In fact, if we truly want to feed on the living God, we must quit our comfort zone and cherished traditions because seeking God is always an adventure! An adventure that can be both exhausting and rewarding, unnerving and intriguing. Or as T. Austin Sparks put it so well,
We do feed upon Christ in prayer. To put that in another way, there is an imparting of Himself to His Own in prayer. We may go to prayer in weariness, and rise in freshness; we may go to prayer exhausted, and rise renewed. Is it that we have simply uttered some form of prayer, prayed some prayer? We know quite well if that is so we do not get up very much invigorated. Formal praying does not bring very much Life. Going through a form of prayers sometimes only ministers death. But really seeking the Lord, reaching out, taking hold of the Lord, giving ourselves up to the Lord in prayer, never fails to have renewing, uplifting, strengthening results. You say prayer may wear you out? Yes, but there is a wonderful strength that comes by wearing out prayer. There is vitality given to the spiritual life even in prayer that tires us physically, and we go in the strength of it. Yes, prayer is a way in which Christ is ministered to us by the Holy Spirit. Prayer is a way in which we feed upon Christ; He becomes our Life….
We never know what we get when we withdraw from people, from circumstances and from everything that might affect our five senses. As much as our carnal nature wants to “control” God and His dealings with us, we cannot put the Holy Spirit in a self-made box and tell Him we want to be blessed with some good feelings (at least) as we sacrifice a (small) part of our time to Him in order to pray to the One who rewards us in secret (cf. Mt 6:6). The same applies to our gathering together for fellowship. Either it is spiritual fellowship where the Lord is our Head who leads our conversation, or it is a man-made meeting where the Holy Spirit is absent. As long as there is at least one believer who keeps seeking to get hold of God’s shirt sleeve, so to say, the Holy Spirit will not withdraw completely. Nonetheless, sooner or later, God demands obedience toward His voice. We cannot expect to be led by God and to submit to man’s thoughts about God’s plans and ideas at the same time. Either we are sheep who know and love Jesus’ voice as we follow Him or we won’t be able to discern His words from human words in these man-made institutions, aka churches, at all. Once again, TAS confirms,
The life of the believer is inward and everything to do with the life of the believer is inward, and in so far as the believer’s life is outward and dependent upon outward things, to that measure it will be weak; in so far as the believer’s life is dependent upon gatherings and to be ministered to by others and knowing the Lord only in this kind of outward manner, instead of that deep inward knowing Him, alone in secret with the word and prayer, the expression of life will be weak and not constituting spiritual strength to the assembly, but rather bringing in a weakness (a dead weight and even ground for the enemy to work on and from).
All is now inward and we do recognise that “all” is the Lord Jesus Himself.
As we long to have fellowship with God and with one another also, we must be cautious to not ignore the enemy’s ways of distracting, confusing, and blinding us by deception. Satan does not want us to seek God and to hear from Him, either. Instead, the devil is jealous to make us believe his lies to make us completely ineffective for God. He pushes our pride, puffs up our ego, and offers us worldly desires of any kind. He even causes us Christians to run around busily by helping others, which is not a wrong thing in itself. However, if our mind, heart and thoughts are occupied with trying to do the will of God without knowing it at any given moment, God’s small and subtle voice inside us will be drowned out over time. A busy life full of religious and other activities outside of us quenches all spiritual life inside us, even if we keep doing good things. Isn’t that a saddening prospect? ☹
I am sure none of us wants to get there. So, we could keep in mind TAS’ words as he points out the difficulties we are confronted with as we try to have fellowship with one another. The most frequent danger that is highly underestimated since it sneaks in unobtrusively is each and any distraction. Maybe, you experienced it yourself what TAS describes here. He says,
I believe the enemy will get believers, when they are together, to talk about anything under the sun rather than about the Lord. It is easy when you meet together with the Lord’s people to be carried off with all kinds of matters of interest, and not to begin to talk about the Lord; but if you do there is always an enrichment, always a strengthening, always a building up; it is the Divine way. Fellowship is a means of imparting Christ to the believer. And wherever spiritual fellowship is possible, you and I ought to seek it, look after it, and cherish it. There are all too many of the Lord’s children today, who have no chance of spiritual fellowship, and who would give anything to have it. The Lord would have us at least two together. That is His order, and there is something in ministering Christ to one another. There will be something lost unless that is so. These are ways in which we feed upon the Lord.
What are your experiences with prayer and/or fellowship? Have you met similar difficulties as you wanted to draw closer to God?