March 20, 2016

Friendship with God

Before the Lord set out to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, He appeared to Abraham, the man of faith. Some say this was a pre-incarnate vision of Christ. However, the text says this: “And the Lord appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day. He lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing in front of him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth and said, “O Lord, if I have found favor in your sight, do not pass by your servant . . . .” (Genesis 18:1–3)

Were all three representing the triune God? Perhaps. After their meal together, these visitors prepared to leave:

Then the men set out from there, and they looked down toward Sodom. And Abraham went with them to set them on their way. The Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?” (Genesis 18:16–18)

Chambers points out that this describes what it means to be a friend of God; He reveals His will to His people. His description takes two parts, which I paraphrase . . .

The delight of real friendship with God is not the same as having occasional feelings of His presence in prayer. When I reach that level of friendship, I don’t need to ask Him to show me His will. This is a final stage of discipline in a life of faith. That is, when rightly and deeply related to God, I will enjoy a life of freedom and delight because I am God’s will. I can make commonsense decisions in my friendship with Him, knowing that if they are wrong, He will check them, and when He checks them, I will stop at once.

Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4)

Part of the reason for this deeper relationship is “delighting in God.” This verse does not mean He will give me everything that I want, but as I delight in Him, the things that I want will be desires given to me from Him. All my I-wants will be His will, not mine.

The second part of Chambers’ description is the difficulties of this friendship. It is shown in the way Abraham stopped praying. He was told what the Lord was going to do, and thinking of his nephew Lot who lived in Sodom, he began to intercede. However, his intimacy with God was not deep enough and he failed to boldly pray until God granted his desire. That indicated something missing in the relationship.

Whenever I stop short in prayer because I’m not sure I’m asking in the will of God, I’ve not yet reached the oneness that Jesus prayed for when He said, “That they may be one even as We are one.”

The way to evaluate this level of oneness is to think of the last thing I prayed about. Was I devoted to my desire or to God? Was I determined to get some gift of the Spirit or to get at God? Did I go on and on in my prayer as if God needed to understand what I was asking for, or did I express myself knowing that He knows all about it? 

And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. (Matthew 6:7–8)

Chambers says that the point of praying is to know God better. The deeper my prayer life, the more I understand Him, the more I can pray with confidence that my prayer is in His will. This is the ultimate in developing a friendship with God.

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