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Relational prayer is prayer simply to draw closer to God, to get to know Him better and to experience and enjoy His presence. Relationship prayer is prayer where we develop and expand our personal relationship with God. There are many types of prayer that fall in this category. We discussed two of them in our past lesson: worship and conversational prayer. This lesson and the next one look at some more forms of relationship prayer.
Intimacy prayer is where you develop your personal intimacy with God. It is not prayer that tries to accomplish some sort of goal, such as getting a task accomplished or covering another person's needs in prayer. The sole goal of intimacy prayer is to spend time with God. From a task-orientation perspective, intimacy prayer is not very productive. In fact, it will usually work against you to have a specific task or agenda during intimacy prayer. (The one exception to that is if you have a goal of building a deeper personal relationship with God, because that is the only goal and purpose of intimacy prayer.)
Simply put, intimacy prayer is you and God spending time together that is not dedicated toward accomplishing a specific task or goal. It may feel like you and God are "wasting time" or "just hanging out."
Jesus appears to have spent a lot of intimacy time with God. The Gospels are full of passages where Jesus went away to pray for extended periods of time. Mark 1:35 records, "Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where He prayed." In other words, Jesus made it a point to spend time alone with God in prayer. Luke 5:16 describes it this way, "But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed." There were times when He "hung out" all night with God the Father, such as Luke 6:12, "One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God." In fact, Jesus' prayer life and the depth of intimacy He had with the Father made such an impression on His disciples that they asked Him to teach them how to pray like He did (Luke 11:1).
Think about how you develop deep friendships in the natural. The key ingredient in building most relationships is in spending time together, in getting to know each other. A lot of relationships start by having some common goal or interest. As you talk and communicate in the area of common interest, you begin to get to know each other personally, to share personal things that are not related to the initial goal or interest. For example, I joined an internet club dedicated to healthy eating. The club had a "buddy system" where you were matched up with a few people with similar goals. The system was set up so you could share recipes, nutrition tips, encourage each other toward your common goal, etc. However, as time passed, personal details began to slip into the conversation, such as what we each did for a living, how many children we have, things we were excited or frustrated about, etc. Over time we got to know a lot about each other by spending time talking to each other. And intimacy prayer is the same type of thing. It is getting to know God better by spending time with Him for the sole purpose of getting to know Him better.
God already knows you perfectly and fully, but you probably don't know Him nearly as well as He knows you. Intimacy prayer is getting to know God better. Let me share a few of the forms that intimacy prayer might take. You might fellowship as you sip your favorite coffee or tea. Or you may invite the Lord to join you as you are watching TV or reading a book. You might invite the Lord to go jogging or hiking with you. You may find that you and God get into conversations as do something together. The conversation may start by discussing something you are looking at or watching on TV, and then it might go from there to somewhere else. It is often very similar to when you invite a friend over to watch a show and you start talking to each other during the show or during commercials.
Let me share one of my favorite intimacy prayer times with you. This was back when the San Francisco 49ers were a championship football team and it was next to impossible to get tickets to home games because they were so popular. My husband and I were big fans. God arranged for us to have some tickets on the 50-yard line (about 10 rows up), e.g., excellent seats, that we got for the "face value" of the tickets. That was unheard of during that time in the team's history. Normally season ticket holders would sell that type of ticket for about three or four times the face value. So there we were with our great seats and it was also a very exciting game. As it happened, the seat next to me remained unoccupied during the entire game. I was enjoying the game immensely. During half time, I stopped to thank God for giving me such wonderful seats and making it possible for us to go to the game. Suddenly, I got a mental image of God sitting next to me in that empty seat. In my mind's eye, I pictured Him sitting with a hotdog in one hand and having His other hand wrapped around my shoulders. Suddenly I was very aware of His presence and I could almost feel His arm around me. So I invited Him to enjoy the second half of the game with me. He took me up on that offer and just before each play, He would tell me what was going to happen next. It would be an incomplete pass or they would run the ball for so many yards. And He was right each time. The play would go precisely as He told me it would. Somehow God's presence at the game made something fun and wonderful even more enjoyable. By the end of the game, I felt closer to God than I'd felt in a long time. It was a wonderful experience.
Intimacy prayer is inviting God to share your experiences and your pleasures with you, inviting Him to break into your day anytime He feels like it, or sometimes to just "hang out" together. I remember one time God and I were "hanging out" and He asked me, "What would you like to do, Teresa?" I replied, "I don't know, Lord, what would You like to do?" Then I realized how much that sounded like a conversation I might have with one of my human friends and I started laughing. I began to realize that God was not just my Lord and Master, He was also becoming one of my best friends.
Spirit-lead (or God-directed) prayer is where God gives you instructions on how to pray or what to pray about and you simply follow His directions. This falls under the Holy Spirit's job description of "Helper," of helping us in our relationship with God (John 14:15-17), and "teaching us all things," including how to pray (John 14:26).
Sometimes the instructions will be to pray on a specific topic. Other times they will be especially on the way He wants you to pray. The thing that makes this type of prayer so neat is that God personally gets involved in it with you, clearly leading and directing you how to pray.
Let me share an example. This happened back when I had an incorrect understanding of God the Father. I saw Him as harsh and impossible to please. In my thinking, Jesus had to stand between me and the Father to keep Him from getting mad at me and punishing me for trivial mistakes. One day God directed me to spend the next several days praying only to God the Father and that I was to address Him as "Daddy." Those instructions terrified me. It is laughable when I look back on this. But at the time, I was afraid that addressing God the Father as "Daddy" might boarder on blasphemy. I was afraid it would be showing disrespect to God to address Him by such an intimate term, and I was afraid that I was going to get in trouble if I heard wrong on this. On the other hand, I did not dare simply ignore the instructions because if they really did come from God, ignoring them would be willful disobedience, and I would get in trouble for that. So it felt like a catch-22 to me, and I was afraid that I would get in trouble no matter what I did. So I spent a whole day simply going back to God and asking Him to confirm or correct those instructions. If it was He, I wanted to obey Him, but I did not want to get in trouble by doing it if that prayer direction was not from Him. (My quandary on this demonstrates how messed up my concept and understanding of my Heavenly Father was. And it gives you an idea of why God wanted to deal with this area of my life/thinking.)
A full 24 hours after I received those instructions, I prayed my first prayer to "Daddy" God. I was almost surprised (but very relieved) that He did not strike me dead for addressing Him so familiarly. At first it was very scary to follow God's directions on how to pray. But by the end of the day, I was getting comfortable thinking of Almighty God as "Daddy." God corrected my misimpressions of Father God during the next few days. I came to know Him as warm and loving, and that was where I first began to develop my personal relationship with God the Father. To this day, when I am praying to God the Father, I still frequently address Him as "Daddy."
It is not uncommon for God to direct us to pray a certain way or along a certain theme to help break us out of a misconception we have about God. Or He may ask us to pray a certain way because He wants to break out of some box or limitation that we have put on Him. Spirit-directed prayer is one of the ways that God reveals Himself to us. We begin to experience His nature in a certain area as we follow His directions.