Believe this or not: God delights in you…
A big obstacle to wanting to connect with God in prayer can be a negative view of how God feels towards us. If we can truly believe that God delights in us, God hears us, and God loves to talk to us, the whole idea of prayer will change.
What makes it hard for you to pray? Is it the sense you’re just talking to the walls cos God’s invisibility makes it really hard to believe there’s anyone there? Maybe it’s feeling guilty or unworthy because of a sinful habit you can’t seem to shake – just like in the Genesis story when Adam and Eve, having just eaten the forbidden fruit, run and hide when they hear God calling out to them. Maybe it’s because you’ve been asking for something for ages and never seem to get an answer – so what’s the point? Maybe you’re just too busy –and at the end of every day it’s like ‘where was God today?’
Well here’s something that might help – a new perspective maybe: prayer becomes enjoyable when you realize God delights in you, God hears you, and God loves to talk to you.
Did you ever think that prayer could simply be a lot of fun and an intimate encounter with someone who loves you like crazy?
I know that when there’s tension or awkwardness between me and a friend or a parent often the LAST thing I want to do is go hang out and chill with them. For me it’s often the same with talking to God. If I’m not careful, I can begin to think that God regards me with not much more than patient tolerance or a kind of sadness at my constant ways of messing things up. That’s when my prayer life dries up pretty quickly.
Truth is, God normally would be very hard to pray to – the evil and rebellious stuff in our lives would make prayer pretty much impossible. But remember that stuff about the Holy Spirit taking our prayers into the center of the Trinity for us?
Jesus makes fun and joyful prayer possible too – by being our righteous and holy representative (the writer of Hebrews calls Jesus our great High Priest). If we have faith in Jesus, there is seriously no condemnation from God towards any of us (check it out in Romans 8).
So, instead of God being (rightly) pretty upset (to put it mildly) at our sinfulness, what we get is an encounter with our heavenly Father who is actually very fond of us and delights in us? There’s an amazing passage in Zephaniah 3:17 that goes like this:
‘The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with his love, He will rejoice over you with singing.’
The pastor of Soul Survivor church Mike Pilavachi says the Hebrew word used for ‘delight’ has the sense of someone going mad like a spinning top shouting ‘wooooh!’ God goes crazy over us and is so proud of us when we respond to him – even in the most hesitant prayer.
God delights in you, God hears you, and God loves to talk to you. That can be hard to believe sometimes but it’s true.
Ok, but what about those ongoing sins – the shameful thoughts I battle daily and the habits I just can’t shake? How many times do I have to ask for forgiveness before God kinda gets over all that apologising? I really do feel like wanting to run and hide from God. Hanging out with God when I feel as guilty as I do is just really awkward.
Good question: and what I think God would say to that is (something like) ‘you’re never going to change unless you hang out with me.’ It’s human nature to drift towards the thing our eyes are focused on. Ever been in a canoe or on a mountain bike trying to avoid a rock? The best way to hit the rock is to focus intently on the rock and not the way past it. The best way to avoid crashing is to look further down to where you should be going.
Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3v17-18 that the more we hang out with God, the more we drift towards becoming God-like. Avoiding God and focusing on the stuff you’re struggling with is the best way to stay struggling.
Isaiah 30 is a chapter all about the stubborn and habitual failure of people like us to be faithful to God. Well, it’s almost all about that. Right at the end in verse 18 there’s this:
‘Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion.’
The word ‘longs’ in Hebrew means ‘to wait expectantly’. There are places in the Old Testament (eg Hosea 6v9) where the Hebrew word is used to describe bandits waiting to ambush people walking by. They will wait all day if necessary, and when their ‘victim’ arrives they pounce with all their energy.
God waits like that to ambush us –with his love and grace.
You ever see those Calvin and Hobbs cartoons where Hobbs the tiger pounces on Calvin when he arrives home from school?
Yeah, a bit like that.
The Hebrew word for ‘rises’ is usually used to describe God as a warrior gathering his strength to launch into war against his enemies.
Except now, God gets all his things together and ‘rises up’ to shower grace and compassion on us.
Think about that for a moment.
What if you approached a prayer time with the belief that God has been waiting expectantly all day to hang out with you and gathers his strength to show you compassion?
It gets better …
One my favourite verses in the Psalms is Psalm 25v14: ‘The Lord confides in those who fear him.’ To confide in someone is to let them in on what you’re secretly thinking and feeling. It’s sharing your deepest desires and thoughts. God does that for anyone who ‘fears’ God.
To fear God is to feel the way you’d feel if you were there in the Jurassic Park movie with those crazy Velociraptors coming to get you – you’re in awe, you feel small, your ears are tuned for any sound – except that the scary bit about being about to die is not there.
If we come to God in prayer with a sense of awe and expectancy the Psalms say God loves to share his secret thoughts with us as he listens closely to the secret thoughts we share with him.
God delights in you, God hears you, and God loves to talk to you.
What does that change for you?
In this tab you’ll find ideas and questions to help you lead your group through an interactive, story-based journey. Our leaders guide has more info on how to use our Story-based framework.
Download a PDF version of this session here
Think back over the last few weeks or months of your life. What does your prayer life look like (if you have one)?
Do you generally find connecting with God regularly in prayer easy or hard? What makes it like that for you?
Do you ever have feelings of being unworthy of being able to pray?
Can you describe your idea of what God feels towards you in general? Does that sense help you pray or make it more difficult?
Get the conversation started …
Get everyone to re-read one or more of the WordSpace posts from this week on their phones or from a printout (you’ll find them on the third tab on this page.)
o Is there a post that stands out for you? Why so?
o Are there any posts that you disagree with or are not sure about?
o If you had to choose one post to share with a friend, which one would it be?
Read the post in The Story tab.
Here’s Brad Fish attempting to explain how prayer becomes fun when we realise that God delights in us … Link here
There’s been some pretty amazing and probably quite hard-to-believe stuff in this session.
Some questions to help you replay your story …
o What one thing stood out for you most?
o Has there been anything in this session that has challenged or changed your idea of what God is like?
o If you’ve ever felt unworthy of praying or spending time with God, has there been something in this session help you with that?
o Does the idea of focusing more on connecting with God and less on the thing you might be struggling with (and feeling guilty about) make sense for you?
o Imagine if you were able to genuinely believe that God really does delight in you and longs to connect with you – what would be the main impact on your prayer life be?
Re – draw your picture of Jesus
The role of a high priest in ancient times was to be the holy representative, the God-facing face of the rest of the nation.
For those who believe, Jesus is that person – a human and yet also perfectly holy. So when we connect with God, God doesn’t see our un-holiness but rather Jesus’ perfection.
It was being able to do that for us that kept Jesus going to the cross when he was tempted to take an easier and less painful path. How does that shape the way you understand what Jesus is like?
What practical action, response, thought do you want to take into the week?
Have you encountered something today about the way you pray, or don’t pray that makes you want to say to God:
‘wow, I’ve totally got that wrong in my life, sorry! Guide me into a better way of talking to you from now on’?
Jesus invites us to repent often and with freedom. It’s a real gift from God – go for it!
Some questions to help you remix your story …
o How could knowing that God sees you as worthy of spending time with him, and that God waits expectantly for you to spend time with him change the way you pray, or how likely you will be to pray?
o Is there something you need to do to be someone who ‘fears’ God (in the right way!) in your life?
From the WordSpace
Here are five posts from the WordSpace we’ve posted specially to tie in with this topic:
Any WordSpacers out there ever been mad at God? That’s ok! If God is who he says he is, then he’s more than big enough to handle our tantrums.
More good news: you can take your anger to God in prayer. He knows you’re angry, anyway. You may as well pour it all out at his feet – as loud and furious as you like.
Just don’t be surprised if he quiets your anger with his grace. Don’t be surprised if you come away a little awestruck.
‘So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.’ (Hebrews 4v16)
When there’s tension between me and a friend often the LAST thing I want to do is go hang out with them.
For me it’s often the same with talking to God. I can begin to think that God treats me just with patient tolerance or a kind of sadness at my constant ways of messing up. That’s when my prayer life dries up pretty quickly.
Here’s something that’s helped me: prayer becomes enjoyable when you realize God delights in you, God hears you, and God loves to talk to you.
Did you ever think that prayer could be a fun and intimate encounter with someone who loves you like crazy?
Our prayers don’t need to be sooo long! They don’t need to be so wordy…
‘Less is more’ is sometimes so true for prayer …
A guy called Richard Foster prays this 3-lined prayer:
‘Let me enter your heart, O God
Let me see what breaks your heart
Let my heart be broken too. Amen’
What do you think? For me it’s a prayer with so much depth.
Praying those words is tough. But perhaps those are the words God is asking you to pray today?
You’re probably okay with being angry at situations when praying, but being angry at God Himself? Surely that isn’t allowed? One of the most popular singles in the world right now is a remix of Lily Wood and the Prick’s (I’m not making that name up) song, Prayer in C, by DJ Robin Shulz (http://bit.ly/1ol29Wq):
‘You never said a word / You didn’t send me no letter / Don’t think I could forgive you’
Think that kind of talk isn’t in the Bible?
‘O God, do not keep silence; do not hold your peace or be still, O God!’ (Psalm 83:1 ESV)
The big difference is that the Psalmist knows and trusts the voice of God, and the silence only strengthens the desire to hear Him and draw close to Him. Don’t settle for silence, let your shout be heard.
What does the word INTIMACY mean to you? Usually we think of it as a measure of closeness. The people we are intimate with are the people we feel close to.
So how close do you feel to God?
What if intimacy wasn’t about how close you are to someone but the direction in which you face? Which is more intimate: standing back to back with someone or being further apart but looking at each other?
If you’re feeling far from God, maybe stop trying to get closer but rather, turn to face him. A good way to do this is to pray this short prayer: ‘IN TO ME, SEE’.