If you spend much time around a Christian, sooner or later you will hear the phrase having a personal relationship with God. When first hearing such a phrase, any person will ask (with good reason) how someone is supposed to have a “relationship” with a being they have never met, can not see, and have not heard.
How Most Religious Folks Explain It
As an explanation, many well-meaning Christians will explain that you can develop a personal relationship with God by “seeing Jesus.” They might also suggest developing a relationship with God in the same way you first developed a relationship with your spouse. Wondering how you could possibly see someone who is no longer on Earth, or date the God of the Universe, you shake your head, believing that Christian folks are about “one cylinder short of having a full engine.”
How The Bible Explains It
Actually, the Bible provides a clear answer. In case you were wondering, we trust the Bible because it is the only “spiritual writing” that has been proven to be true. A passage helpful for explaining a relationship with God is Matthew chapter 6, verses 9-13. (People familiar with the Bible write this “Mat 6:9-13” as a type of “Bible shorthand.”) In this passage, Jesus is teaching His disciples (followers who are learning from Him) how to pray. Prayer was not unknown, but a lot of people prayed to idols or recited “special” words over and over, so Jesus’ disciples wanted to know what method (or words) He recommended. Jesus gave them this example. For your convenience, we reproduced the New King James Version of this famous passage below.
9 In this manner, therefore, pray:
Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
10 Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
13 And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.
The first two words of this model prayer tell us a great deal about relationships. First, notice that Jesus starts out with the word our, not the word my. The reason is that God is not only the father of the person praying, but of others also. In this context, the our includes the “horizontal” relationship with other people who are children of God. Today, since we can “Get right with God through Jesus,” the word our includes all Christians.
Second, the word Father implies a “vertical” relationship with God. Note that the relationship is not that of a wife to a husband, two people dating one another, or a neighbor to another neighbor. It is a child to a father relationship. Those people who do not acknowledge God (such as an atheist, agnostic, or someone following another religion) do not have this relationship—and they certainly would not refer to God as Father. They might call him creator or god perhaps, but not Father.
Establishing the Relationship
So how do you go from the “creator-created” relationship you had, (which is not really a relationship at all) to a “father-child” relationship? The first of two steps is a process we call “getting right with God.” For those of you who do not know what this means, we have a page set up to show you how it works. If you would like to find out more, click on the link below.
Once the relationship is started by getting right with God, you need to make the second step and develop your new relationship into a personal relationship. A good way of showing what a personal relationship is can be illustrated by showing you what it is not.
In the Roman Catholic Church, people are told that anyone who is not a member of the Catholic Church can not get right with God. They tell you that their priests are your connection to God. You are taught to ask Mary (the mother of Jesus) to pray for you. They also suggest asking various saints to help you as they once helped themselves. In essence, this establishes a chain of helpers that you use to reach to God. However, if the church, priests, Mary, and saints are between you and God, you do not have a personal relationship with God at all.
Developing the Relationship
Fortunately, the Bible reveals that none of the things mentioned in the preceding paragraph are needed to have a relationship with God. Therefore, you can remove all the “helpers” between you and God (except Jesus), making the relationship a lot more personal. Of course, Jesus paid the price for your sins with His blood, (if you are willing to accept His gift), so He will not stand between you and God—He allows you to stand before God. Stated another way, the relationship we have with God is as His children—“adopted” through His Son, Jesus Christ.
A time will come when we will literally meet God. In the meantime, how can we develop this “personal” relationship? We do it by following a two step communication process.
You Communicating to God
We call our communicating to God “praying.” That is, praying is a way of talking to God. The Bible tells us that God listens to our prayers, and we can use the model prayer above to get us started. You will notice it contains four parts:
• Praise of God
• Requests Made of God
• Asking for Forgiveness
• Requests to Keep Us from Temptation
These are mostly self-explanatory. If God is really God, He does deserve our praise and support. Further, as our Father, we can expect Him to help us in our lives. By the way, God will not grant every request. As children may not understand why their parents will not let them play in the street, there will be times we do not understand why God does not seem to answer our prayers. In time, we will add more information about answered prayer, but for now you should know that God will give you what is best for you, long term. Read the story of Joseph, which starts in tragedy (Genesis chapter 37) but ends in triumph (Genesis chapter 45) to get a glimpse of how this is possible.
Although not part of the model prayer, when God does answer our prayers, it makes sense to thank God for what He has done. We do not like ungrateful children, and there is no reason to believe that God appreciates our being ungrateful to Him. By the way, many people have learned that keeping a written record of what they have asked for is helpful. You may be surprised to learn how many prayers will be answered—even though God may not use the same time frame that you were hoping for!
We also need to ask God to forgive our sins. Each of us can make a mistake, and although the Christ’s sacrifice will pay for every sin, it will not pardon us of one excuse. Then once you confess your sin, do not do it again. (To do so would make your confession a lie, wouldn’t it?) This is where the request to keep us from temptation comes in.
God Communicating to You
God communicates to us, through his written “word,” the Bible. We realize that your first contact with the Bible may have been confusing, but clicking on the link below should clear things up for you.
One last comment. Authors tell us that the biggest compliment they receive is when people tell them that they read and liked the author’s book. If you plan to see God one day, wouldn’t it be nice to tell Him, “I read and liked your book?”