If you wanted to have an important conversation with a friend, how would you go about it? What key ingredients would be necessary for a successful visit?
Well for one thing, both of you would have to be involved in the dialogue. It wouldn't be a conversation if only one person was doing all of the talking, right?
Now consider having a conversation with the Creator of the universe. Is that even possible? Of course. And just like other conversations, conversing with God involves both parties talking and both parties listening.
God delivered 66 books to 40 different authors over a period of 1500 years. The Old Testament and the New Testament make up God's Word to His people. And thankfully, "All Scripture is God-breathed." (2 Timothy 3:16) In other words, "men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit." (2 Peter 1:21)
When it comes to the Bible, you don't have to wonder if it truly came from God. Scripture is inspired and inerrant. And the Holy Spirit continues to speak to God's children today as we read the Word, listen to it being taught and preached, and meditate upon it. As we converse with God through prayer and Scripture, God speaks to our heart and mind.
The Bible is essentially a "love-letter" from God to His children. If you desire to have regular conversations with the Lord, you will need to develop a hunger for Scripture. The prophet Jeremiah expressed his hunger this way: "When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart's delight." (Jeremiah 15:16)
The only way to grow into spiritual maturity is to feed on God's Word, and then put it into practice. Peter wrote, "Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good." (1 Peter 2:2,3)
When a believer chooses to meditate upon Scripture, the door of communication with God is opened and various thoughts and insights begin to flow into your heart and mind. The Holy Spirit works through the Word to communicate the heart of God and the will of God to His children.
The psalmist declared: "Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path." (Psalm 119:105) In other words, Scripture lights the way for our next step, as well as our ongoing life of discipleship. This journey for believers will of course culminate one day in Paradise.
David declared: "You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand." (Psalm 16:11) And while on our way to heaven, the Lord desires to converse with His children everyday!
When we pray to God, we are opening our heart and soul to the Lord. We do this by confessing our sins; praising the Lord's name; offering thanks for God's many blessings to us; and bringing our petitions to the Lord. Since prayer is such an important part of the Christian life, believers are instructed to "pray continually" (1 Thess. 5:17) as we engage in conversations with the Lord all day long.
God wants to hear our prayers because He longs to have a close relationship with us. In the words of the psalmist: "My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from Him....Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge." (Psalm 62:1,8)
When was the last time you poured out your heart to God? Now imagine doing this everyday, while also spending significant time everyday listening to God speak to you through His Word. Meditating upon Bible passages leads to new insights, clear guidance, tremendous encouragement, corrective wisdom, and a blessed assurance that "the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin." (1 John 1:7)
Conversing with God is a two-way street. Bible reading and Scripture meditation motivate us to pray, and prayer increases our desire to read more and more of God's love-letter to us. And once you get into this flow, it is so refreshing, delightful and invigorating.
Jesus said, "If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you." (John 15:7) Just think about why this is the case. The more time we spend in God's Word, the stronger our faith becomes. And the stronger our faith becomes, the more answers to prayer we receive.
We pray more frequently and with greater faith when we spend time in God's Word, whereas neglecting the Bible leads to a weak and ineffective prayer life. If we don't dive into God's Word everyday, we lose the motivation to pray continually and we lose the power to pray in faith.
Jesus quoted this Old Testament passage: "Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God." (Matthew 4:4) Just as feeding our body enhances physical health, feeding our soul enhances spiritual health.
Parents who love their children are thrilled to converse with them. Likewise, God loves to converse with His children. The Bible tells us that "Enoch walked with God," (Genesis 5:24) and "Noah walked with God." (Genesis 6:9) Can the same thing be said of us? Do you and I walk closely with the Lord everyday?
Consider what could happen if these words from a well-known hymn and a familiar Bible passage became our life's refrain and our heart's highest aim:
"Just a closer walk with Thee, Grant, it Jesus, is my plea, Daily walking close to Thee, Let it be, dear Lord, let it be."
"As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?" (Psalm 42:1)
The Holy Spirit longs to create this thirst within us on a continual basis. Will you and I call upon the Holy Spirit today and ask Him to fill us with more power for prayer, and a greater hunger for God's Word?
As D.L. Moody said, "We have to be filled up with the Holy Spirit everyday because we are leaky vessels." And this is a big reason why Scripture and prayer are so foundational to living an effective and God-pleasing life of discipleship.
Dan Delzell is the pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Papillion, Nebraska.