The Nerve Center
And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. (1 John 5:14)
Separation from Jesus is sadness. Restoration of fellowship means joy. Therefore, we learn that no Christian can have fullness of joy without a vital fellowship with Jesus Christ. Knowledge about Him will not do. Work for Him will not do. We must have personal, vital fellowship with Him; otherwise, Christianity becomes a joyless burden.
In his first letter, John wrote, “Our fellowship is with the Father and His Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.” (1John 1:3-4) Fellowship with Jesus shared with others is essential to fullness of joy.
The first reason, then, why prayer leads to fellowship of joy is that prayer is the nerve center of our fellowship with Jesus. He is not here physically to see. But in prayer we speak to Him just as though He were. And in the stillness of those sacred times, we listen to His Word and we pour out to Him our longings.
Perhaps John 15:7 is the best summary of this two-sided fellowship of prayer: “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” When the biblical words of Jesus abide in our mind, we hear the very thoughts of the living Christ, for He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. And out of that deep listening of the heart comes the language of prayer, which is a sweet incense before God’s throne. The life of prayer leads to fullness of joy because prayer is the nerve center of our vital fellowship with Jesus.
Prayer is God’s appointed way to fullness of joy because it is the vent of the inward burnings of our heart for Christ. If we had no vent, if we could not commune with Him in response to His Word, we would be miserable indeed.
I have often wondered what Adam and Eve felt and experienced the day after they were expelled from the garden. I’m sure that it must have been scary to have to leave their home and move to a different place. I’m sure that having to work to find food and to make a shelter must have felt strange. But what I’ve really wondered is what they felt at the end of the day when they could no longer meet with God. The barrier of sin had been erected and separated them from that intimate, intense, and physical presence of God. Now they could only call on Him, for it was impossible to walk with Him in the Garden.
I am equally sure that the separation affected God as well for the Bible gives the impression that He also enjoyed the fellowship with Adam and Eve. Thankfully God began a plan to restore relationship with humans through His Son Jesus Christ. When we think about the incarnation and the death and resurrection of Christ, we often view it in terms of our escape from the prison and penalty of sin. I think from God’s view, it is all about restoring fellowship between Him and us.
This is what salvation does. It restores us to fellowship with God. The wall, the barrier of sin has been torn down through the work of Christ on the cross giving us access now to fellowship with God. This is the preparation of the final act of God that will cumulate with us physically in His presence in eternity with nothing in between. Because of this work of restoration, prayer then, is designed to be our conversation with God, not some formal speech, but a joyful conversation between two beings- us and God much in the same manner as a conversation between two people who love each other. How sad it is when prayer becomes a chore, a Christian discipline, a must rather than a delightful conversation with our Heavenly Father. How sad it is when we hear children of God say they don’t know how to pray when we know that human children almost naturally learn how to communicate with their parents. I think what people are saying is that they may not have the eloquent words that is often spoken in gatherings as though those words are the magic key to getting God to listen. If we as imperfect parents will listen to our children’s attempt to communicate long before they know many words and even then the simple words, how much more then will our Heavenly Father listen to our simple words as we tell Him about all our thoughts.
In the same way, just as it is somehow soothing to children to hear their parents voices even before they can respond, at least verbally, ought it not be that when we read God’s Word and listen to His voice that we find the same sense of being loved and wanted? I’ve listened many times to moms and dads talking to their babies long before that baby could speak back and I believe that long before we can verbalize a prayer- especially an “eloquent” prayer that God has opened up communication with us. If the Holy Spirit speaks to us in conviction before we are born again, will He not also continue to speak to us after we are saved? I think so and since that is the case, then our restoration through salvation with God ought to be a delightful journey of walking and talking with God. As we gather together as the church, might it not be that our purpose is to fellowship with God even as we fellowship with our spiritual siblings? Perhaps we ought to think about our gatherings as family reunions that occur weekly. I know for me it’s always a great joy when the family can get together. I enjoy hearing the children and the grandchildren communicating with each other but it’s even more of a joy when they come and sit with me and we share our thoughts. Often they want to tell me about what’s going on in their lives, the accomplishments and the challenges. Sometimes they want advice and at other times just someone to listen. Sometimes I just share with them something I think will be beneficial. There is no formality in our gatherings. We just enjoy being together in fellowship and relationship. This is what I believe that God’s desire is with us.
So today, as you pick up your Bible, do so as if it was a letter from a dear friend. Read it not because you must but because you wish to hear what that dear friend wishes to tell you. When you pray, think about sitting together with a close companion with whom you can tell anything and you can trust their love that will always place your best interests first. Talk to God as you would that person who loves you enough to to allow you to say what you need to say, to support your decisions except for the times when those decisions are destructive, and trust that just as that friend who cares for you will challenge you when necessary, that your Father will treat you the same.
By God’s grace let yourself become fully engaged with a relationship with God that exceeds all religious practices and rituals. Let your walk with God become a true love-based relationship. After all like all relationships, it’s a one on one thing.
Dr. John Thompson