THE GOOD NEWS FROM GOD TO THE SONS OF THE KINGDOM

HOW CAN YOU DRAW CLOSE TO GOD?

Part 12

December 15, 2012

 

 

      In Part 12 of the “Good News From God” brochure, published by the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society of Pennsylvania, the Society poses five questions: (1) Does God listen to all prayers?  (2) How should we pray?  (3) Why do Christians meet together? (4) How can you draw close to God?  (5) How will drawing close to God benefit you?

    When we accept the reality that there is a God, it is natural and appropriate that we would want to draw close to Him.  It is ingrained in the human psyche to search for our maker. We observe that children who are abandoned or adopted at birth eventually seek out their natural parents.  Even non-believing scientists go to great lengths to explore the universe. Consciously or unconsciously, they are searching for their origin, their life-giver, their Father.

    The sons and daughters of God have a keen, undiluted and unmistakable desire to draw closer and closer to the Father until we actually attain to His presence.  Here, we will discuss a few ways that we can do this.
 

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1.     Does God listen to all prayers?

 

    Prayer is the technique by which every person, no matter their earthly accomplishments, social status, or national origin, can effectively and immediately approach and communicate with his Maker. We cannot imagine that a loving and merciful Creator would not make himself easily accessible and approachable by his creations. The Father/Child relationship is the preeminent relationship in the universe of universes, so much so that God himself reaches down to the mortal realm, past all spirit personalities (even past the Christ), to personally indwell the minds of his earthly sons and daughters.

 

“Do you not know that you people are God’s temple, and that the spirit of God dwells in you?”

 – 1 Corinthians 3:16
 

“What! Do you not know that the body of you people is [the] temple of the holy spirit within you, which you have from God?”

– 1 Corinthians 6:19

 

    It is by means of this indwelling spirit that God is aware of every action and reaction of His earthly children.  He does not look down from His heavenly station and peer into our lives.  He actually goes through our lives with us as a part of us. Thus, not one of us can do anything that God does not know about. Jesus told us:

 

“Do not two sparrows sell for a coin of small value? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s [knowledge]. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Therefore have no fear: you are worth more than many sparrows.”

– Matthew 10:29-31     

   

    So clearly God hears all prayers.  But does He listen, or give heed and respond, to all prayers? The answer is no.  While God makes Himself available to His children at all times and under all circumstances, man must open the human end of the channel of communication in order to make available this ever-flowing stream of divine ministry.  When man hears God's spirit speak within the human heart, inherent in such an experience is the fact that God simultaneously hears that man's prayer. However, when the human heart deliberately and persistently harbors the concepts of sin and iniquity, there gradually ensues the loss of personal prayer connection between man and his Maker.

 

    If man turns away from the divine will, the very act of such deliberate and conscious disdain by the creature figuratively turns the ‘ears’ of God away from hearing the personal petitions of such lawless and disobedient mortals.

                   

“He that is turning his ear away from hearing the law—even his prayer is something detestable.”

– Proverbs 28:9

 

    Jesus, quoting from the Hebrew prophet, tells us:  

                 

“This is why I speak to them by the use of illustrations, because, looking, they look in vain, and hearing, they hear in vain, neither do they get the sense of it; and toward them the prophecy of Isaiah is having fulfillment, which says, ‘By hearing, you will hear but by no means get the sense of it; and, looking, you will look but by no means see. For the heart of this people has grown unreceptive, and with their ears they have heard without response, and they have shut their eyes; that they might never see with their eyes and hear with their ears and get the sense of it with their hearts and turn back, and I heal them.’”

– Matthew 13:13-15

 

    Even the forgiveness of sin operates in this same unerring fashion. The Father in heaven has forgiven us even before we have thought to ask Him; this is an established fact.

 

“Furthermore, though you were dead in your trespasses and in the uncircumcised state of your flesh, [God] made you alive together with him. He kindly forgave us all our trespasses and blotted out the handwritten document against us, which consisted of decrees and which was in opposition to us; and He has taken it out of the way by nailing it to the torture stake.”

– Colossians 2:13-14

 

    But such forgiveness is not available in our personal religious experience until such time as we forgive our fellow men.  God's forgiveness in fact is not conditioned upon our forgiving our fellows; but in experience it is exactly so. We might understand that by saying that God’s forgiveness has already been sent and is at the door.  But it is our forgiveness of our brothers that opens the door so we can receive it.  So we see that prayer does not change the divine attitude toward man; but it does change man's attitude toward the changeless Father.

 

    Jesus established the fact of the synchrony of divine and human forgiveness by way of the prayer that he taught the apostles.

 

“‘Give us today our bread for this day; and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the wicked one.’ For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; whereas if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

– Matthew 6:11-15

 

    This rule also applies in the area of mercy:

 

“Happy are the merciful, since they will be shown mercy.”

– Matthew 5:7                       

 

“As for anyone stopping up his ear from the complaining cry of the lowly one, he himself also will call and not be answered.”

– Proverbs 21:13

 

    And also to judging:

 

Stop judging that you may not be judged; for with what judgment you are judging, you will be judged; and with the measure that you are measuring out, they will measure out to you. Why then do you look at the straw in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the rafter in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Allow me to extract the straw from your eye’; when, look! a rafter is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First extract the rafter from your own eye, and then you will see clearly how to extract the straw from your brother’s eye.”

– Matthew 7:1-5

 

    In fact, it applies to all areas of our lives:

 

All things, therefore, that you want men to do to you, you also must likewise do to them; this, in fact, is what the Law and the Prophets mean.”

– Matthew 7:12

 

   Thus, when we have become wholly dedicated to doing the will of the Father in heaven, and to treating others fairly by forgiving them, showing mercy, and not judging them, we can be assured that He will listen to our prayers.

 

    But listening to our prayers does not mean that He will grant every request. Many times, the things we ask for are things we are not prepared to receive. We have not truly counted the cost and the unintentional consequences of our prayers being answered in the way we request. For example, we may pray for a marriage mate.  But are we really equipped to receive a good and compatible partner?  Have we developed patience and the ability to compromise? Can we trust? Can we be faithful? It would be better to pray for those qualities first, and when we have acquired them, then we will be in a position to receive a loving, thoughtful and compatible mate.  Until then, answering the prayer may subject the praying individual and the acquired mate to unnecessary grief and tribulation.

 

    As a wise father does not literally answer the foolish prayers of his ignorant and inexperienced children, neither does our heavenly One, albeit the children may derive much pleasure and satisfaction from the making of such absurd petitions. No, the Father gives to us the things that are best suited for our needs.

 

“Indeed, who is the man among you whom his son asks for bread—he will not hand him a stone, will he? Or, perhaps, he will ask for a fish—he will not hand him a serpent, will he? Therefore, if you, although being wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more so will your Father who is in the heavens give good things to those asking him?” 

– Matthew 7:9-11

 

     The lessons Jesus gave as to prayer show that it is appropriate to include in our prayers petitions for our own needs, including the forgiveness of our sin. (Matthew 6:11-12) But the larger portion of our prayers should focus on giving thanks and seeking help to do the divine will, trusting that the Father will provide everything we need.  As Jesus said: 

 

“Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all these [other] things will be added to you.”

– Matthew 6:33

 

“Pray incessantly. In connection with everything give thanks. For this is the will of God in union with Christ Jesus respecting you.”

– 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18

 

    When we practice these things in connection with our prayers, we can be assured that the Father will not only hear our prayers, but listen and respond according to our needs.

 

    And we do not want to forget that the Father sees us as eternal beings.  (Please see Everlasting Life Now!)

        

This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.”

– John 17:3

 

“Most truly I say to you, He that believes has everlasting life.”

– John 6:47

 

    This means that the answers to some of our prayers may come after we begin the heavenly assent to the Father, when we are more prepared and better able to receive the responses we seek. If we do all things mentioned above and do not receive what we are asking for, then we can be assured there are other factors that come into play that perhaps we are not aware of.  Instead of being ‘no,’ the answer could be ‘not now.’

 

    Notwithstanding, the children of the Father should not hesitate to offer our prayers of thanksgiving, as well as our petitions for spiritual growth, spiritual insight, even our daily needs.  We should be comfortable in communicating all things, even foolish things, to our heavenly Father.  In many cases, the very vocalization of our absurd petitions reveals to us their folly and thereby we answer our own prayers.

 

    Know, too, that our God is not a sensitive egoist, or a harsh potentate who must be placated and appeased by our self-deprecation.  He is a loving, caring Father who wants our association, who seeks our association.  He reached down to us first; He indwelt us before we even asked for it; He sent His son to reveal His true nature because He wants us to truly know Him; and He wants us to pour out our hearts to Him.

 

“And we ourselves have come to know and have believed the love that God has in our case. God is love, and he that remains in love remains in union with God and God remains in union with him. This is how love has been made perfect with us, that we may have freeness of speech in the day of judgment, because, just as that one is, so are we ourselves in this world.There is no fear in love, but perfect love throws fear outside, because fear exercises a restraint. Indeed, he that is under fear has not been made perfect in love. As for us, we love, because he first loved us.”

– 1 John 4:16-19

 

    We can, therefore, have faith that whatever we pray for, He will always provide exactly what we need. And He will never be late.

 

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2.     How should we pray?     

 

    In what is referred to as the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gave specific instruction on how to pray.  Here is his counsel:

 

“Also, when you pray, you must not be as the hypocrites; because they like to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the broad ways to be visible to men. Truly I say to you, They are having their reward in full. You, however, when you pray, go into your private room and, after shutting your door, pray to your Father who is in secret; then your Father who looks on in secret will repay you.”

– Matthew 6:5-6

 

    Prayer is a personal matter between the praying individual and the Father. It is a sincere undertaking whose primary purpose is to connect and commune with the Father.  It is in these private moments that we pour out our hearts, and reveal our most intimate concerns, even as did Jesus:

 

“In the days of his flesh [Christ] offered up supplications and also petitions to the One who was able to save him out of death, with strong outcries and tears, and he was favorably heard for his godly fear.”

– Hebrews 5:7

 

    If we were to make such displays in public, our motives could easily be questioned, and moreover, our pure unadulterated honesty could be stifled or misunderstood. Better to take Jesus’ counsel and follow his example, and offer our personal prayers in our private rooms.

 

    But that is not to say that we cannot offer prayers of thanksgiving to the Father in public, as when we are about to partake of a meal.  But we should be cognizant of our motives.  Are we praying to draw attention to our godly devotion? Or are we sincerely giving thanks?  If we are giving thanks in behalf of a group, it is necessary and appropriate to vocalize such prayers. But if we are offering personal thanks, we should remember that silent prayers are just as effective.

 

    Neither does the counsel in Matthew mean that we cannot pray as a group or as a congregation.  Group or congregational praying is very effective in that it aids in bringing the group closer together.  When a group engages in community prayer for moral enhancement and spiritual uplift, such prayers positively effect the individuals composing the group.  They are all made better because of participation.  Even a whole city or an entire nation can be helped by such prayers. Confession, repentance, and prayer have led individuals, cities, nations, and whole races to mighty efforts of reform and courageous deeds of positive and audacious achievement.

 

    Jesus also warned his followers against thinking that their prayers would be rendered more effective by ornate repetitions, eloquent phraseology, fasting, penance, or sacrifices.

 

“But when praying, do not say the same things over and over again, just as the people of the nations do, for they imagine they will get a hearing for their use of many words. So, do not make yourselves like them, for God your Father knows what things you are needing before ever you ask him.”

– Matthew 6:7-8

 

    No, prayer is not a magical incantation. Nor it is a means whereby we ask God to solve all of our difficulties.  Prayer is not a substitute for action; instead, prayer should be a stimulus to action.  We pray to have the courage, wisdom and ability to know how to act – not asking God to act for us, but with us.

 

    Our prayers should also be fair.  We should not expect God to show partiality – to love us more than His other children, our friends, neighbors, even enemies.

 

“However, I say to you; Continue to love your enemies and to pray for those persecuting you; that you may prove yourselves sons of your Father who is in the heavens, since he makes his sun rise upon wicked people and good and makes it rain upon righteous people and unrighteous.”

- Matthew 5:44-45

 

    Remember, while prayer does not change God, it very often effects great and lasting changes in the one who prays in faith and confident expectation. Prayer has been the ancestor of much peace of mind, cheerfulness, calmness, courage, self-mastery, and fair-mindedness in the men and women who are seeking to do the divine will. We should pray as Jesus taught his disciples — honestly, unselfishly, with fairness, and without doubting.

 

    If we are to engage in effective praying, we should bear in mind these thoughts:    

 

• We must be sincere and courageous as we face the problems of life.  We must develop spiritual stamina.

 

• We must have honestly exhausted the human capacity for achieving what we seek.  We must have been industrious.

 

• We must surrender our desires to the transforming embrace of spiritual growth. We must allow the Spirit of Truth to do its work in our lives.

 

• We must make a wholehearted choice to do the divine will. We must obliterate indecision in this regard.

 

• We must not only recognize the Father's will and choose to do it, but we must have made an unqualified consecration, and a dynamic dedication, to the actual doing of the Father's will.

 

• We must pray with a view to obtaining divine wisdom that would help us solve the specific human problems we encounter now, and the wisdom that will carry us throughout our heavenly career.

 

• And we must have faith – a living faith.

 

    Finally, when we have made our prayers to the Father, we should remain for a time in silent receptivity to afford the indwelling spirit the better opportunity to speak to our listening soul. The spirit of the Father speaks best to man when the human mind is in an attitude of true worship. Yes, effective prayer involves the ministry of the Father's indwelling spirit and the illumination of the God-oriented human mind that is saturated with truth, goodness, fairness and love.

 

    For further discussion, please see Worshipping with Spirit and Truth.

 

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3.     Why do Christians meet together? 
                
    The apostle Paul, in speaking with the Hebrew Christians, admonished:

 

“Let us hold fast the public declaration of our hope without wavering, for he is faithful that promised. And let us consider one another to incite to love and fine works, not forsaking the gathering of ourselves together, as some have the custom, but encouraging one another, and all the more so as you behold the day drawing near.”

– Hebrews 10:23-25 

 

   This is the main reason Christians should meet together – to encourage one another to hold fast to their hope – the heavenly hope, the only hope for survival after human death. We need that encouragement because it is so easy to get sidetracked and put spiritual matters on the back burner while we deal with the pressing affairs of mortal life.

 

   Of course, we can gain encouragement by reading our Bibles and by personal prayer. But there are distinct advantages to meeting together with those of like minds.

 

    For one, we gain the benefit of the thoughts and ideas of our fellows:

 

“For I am longing to see you, that I may impart some spiritual gift to you in order for you to be made firm; or, rather, that there may be an interchange of encouragement among you, by each one through the other’s faith, both yours and mine.”

– Romans 1:11-12

 

  Spiritual growth is mutually stimulated by intimate association with other believers. And love, which supplies the soil for spiritual growth, is multiplied when in association with others of like faith.

 

   By meeting together, we also learn to cooperate with other minds.  We learn to harmonize our thinking with others.

 

“By iron, iron itself is sharpened. So one man sharpens the face of another.”

– Proverbs 27:17

 

   When we live an isolated life, we can become selfish and severely socially handicapped. We might begin to develop strange ideas about life and God and man, ideas that are not challenged by others so as to be sharpened and refined, all of which will lead to calamity.

 

“One isolating himself will seek [his own] selfish longing; against all practical wisdom he will break forth.”

– Proverbs 18:1

 

    From the beginning, God acknowledged:

 

“It is not good for the man to continue by himself. I am going to make a helper for him, as a complement of him.”

– Genesis 2:18

 

    This counsel remains true throughout our earthly and our heavenly career.  We must look at ourselves as the Father looks at us, as future spirit beings with eternity in view:  

                       

“If, however, you were raised up with the Christ, go on seeking the things above, where the Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Keep your minds fixed on the things above, not on the things upon the earth.”  

- Colossians 3:1-2

 

    Consider this: When we begin the heaven ascent, we will no doubt encounter a variety of advanced beings and we will have to know how to adjust ourselves to cooperative living.  Better that we develop this skill now to ensure the greatest success in our new abodes.

 

   But the most profound benefit of meeting together is to gain access to the mind of Christ.  He told his disciples: 

 

“For where there are two or three gathered together in my name, there I am in their midst.”

– Matthew 18:20

 

   Yes, Jesus Christ himself, in the form of the Spirit of Truth, is with us when we meet together. And that Spirit moves us to a realization of truth in a manner that is exponentially more potent than any singular association.

 

   And of course, the highest purpose of gathering together is to honor Christ and partake of the evening meal that he instituted as a remembrance of him. (Luke 22:14-20)

 

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4.     How can you draw close to God?

 

   We discussed how to draw close to God in Part 2 - Who is God? specifically in Question 5.  We pointed out that we are already physically close to God because a portion of His Spirit dwells within each of us:

 

“Do you not know that you people are God’s temple, and that the spirit of God dwells in you?” 

 1 Corinthians 3:16

 

“What! Do you not know that the body of you people is [the] temple of the holy spirit within you, which you have from God?”

– 1 Corinthians 6:19

 

  So the need to draw close to God is not physical, but spiritual.  We need to align our spirit with the Father’s Spirit.  As Jesus said:

 

“You must accordingly be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

– Matthew 5:48

 

  We do that by prayer, as mentioned in Question 2 above, by meeting together with like minds, as mentioned in Question 3 above, and by imitating his only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ:

 

“Jesus said to him: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

– John 14:6

 

    For more information on how to draw close to the Father, please see the following articles: The Faith and Religion of JesusWorshipping with Spirit and TruthThe Mustard SeedGod’s Relation to the IndividualChrist’s Relation to the Individual, The Divine Spirit Fragment of the FatherBeing Born of SpiritRevealing God as a Loving Father, and The Genius of a Living Faith.      

     

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5.     How will drawing close to God benefit you?

 

  The benefits of drawing close to God are far too numerous to state. So we will simply share some scriptural thoughts:       

                         

“You are opening your hand; And satisfying the desire of every living thing.”

– Psalms 145:16

 

Eye has not seen and ear has not heard, neither have there been conceived in the heart of man the things that God has prepared for those who love him.”

– 1 Corinthians 2:9  

     

    Jesus enumerated some of the benefits in his Sermon on the Mount: 

                   

“Happy are those conscious of their spiritual need, since the kingdom of the heavens belongs to them. • Happy are those who mourn, since they will be comforted. • Happy are the mild-tempered ones, since they will inherit the earth.  • Happy are those hungering and thirsting for righteousness, since they will be filled. • Happy are the merciful, since they will be shown mercy. • Happy are the pure in heart, since they will see God. • Happy are the peaceable, since they will be called ‘sons of God.’ • Happy are those who have been persecuted for righteousness’ sake, since the kingdom of the heavens belongs to them. • Happy are you when people reproach you and persecute you and lyingly say every sort of wicked thing against you for my sake. Rejoice and leap for joy, since your reward is great in the heavens; for in that way they persecuted the prophets prior to you.”

– Matthew 5:3-12

 

    And there are many more ideas scattered throughout the Christian Greek Scriptures:

 

“Most truly I say to you, He that believes has everlasting life.”

– John 6:47    

 

“However, when that one arrives, the spirit of the truth, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak of his own impulse, but what things he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things coming.”

– John 16:13

 

“No temptation has taken you except what is common to men. But God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear, but along with the temptation he will also make the way out in order for you to be able to endure it.”

– 1 Corinthians 10:13

 

“For all who are led by God’s spirit, these are God’s sons. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery causing fear again, but you received a spirit of adoption as sons, by which spirit we cry out: “Abba, Father!” The spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are God’s children. If, then, we are children, we are also heirs: heirs indeed of God, but joint heirs with Christ, provided we suffer together that we may also be glorified together.”

– Romans 8:14-17

            

“For the creation was subjected to futility, not by its own will but through him that subjected it, on the basis of hope that the creation itself also will be set free from enslavement to corruption and have the glorious freedom of the children of God.”

– Romans 8:20-21

                                            

“As for us, our citizenship exists in the heavens, from which place also we are eagerly waiting for a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will refashion our humiliated body to be conformed to his glorious body according to the operation of the power that he has, even to subject all things to himself.”

- Philippians 3:20

                                            

“Do not be anxious over anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication along with thanksgiving let your petitions be made known to God; and the peace of God that excels all thought will guard your hearts and your mental powers by means of Christ Jesus.”

– Philippians 4:6-7

 

“He delivered us from the authority of the darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son of his love, by means of whom we have our release by ransom, the forgiveness of our sins.”

– Colossians 1:13-14                   

 

“Pay constant attention to yourself and to your teaching. Stay by these things, for by doing this you will save both yourself and those who listen to you.”

– 1 Timothy 4:16

                    

“For no matter how many the promises of God are, they have become Yes by means of him. Therefore also through him is the “Amen” [said] to God for glory through us.” 

– 2 Corinthians 1:20

 

    And in summary, we encourage you: 

 

“Taste and see that Jehovah is good, O you people; Happy is the able-bodied man that takes refuge in him.”

– Psalms 34:8    

 

    __________________________

 

    We welcome your comments.

 

“Elaia Luchnia”

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