“I do not know You God because I am in the way.”
Flannery O’Connor wrote that in her journal as she was on a personal journey toward prayer diligence. She had been worried that her prayer journaling was more of a consistent venting with focus on self rather than adoration, love of, and trust in God after she began to pray her feelings.*
Her comment made me think about how many times I let myself get in the way of knowing God better, then wondering why I wasn’t growing like I thought I would be. The concept is no new revelation. It’s throughout Scripture and the very reason we are told to deny ourselves to follow Jesus. Sometimes, it’s easy to get bogged down blaming specific sins or temptations and forget that the root of the problem is the old self (Colossians 3). When it’s condensed in the way O’Connor has done, it’s like a slap in the face with a summary of everything we already know. I am the thing that I am able to control best, so I should be able to swim back before I enter the rip tide. Letting myself get in the way of knowing God is the ultimate snare, and branching from myself is a pathway of desires that the devil would revel in if I were to succomb. Once I complicate the problem, essentially pointing to something other than lack of denying self, I’ve lost focus and begun drifting.
It’s really very simple: Am I letting Old Me take the reigns, separating myself from God, or am I putting her away and putting on Christ? If I can’t answer this with the latter, then no wonder I feel far from Him!
God has given us the tools we need to move forward on our own journey toward knowing Him better, and one of those is prayer, as O’Connor was discovering. Prayer is where the Holy Spirit searches our hearts and minds in intercession (Romans 8) and an avenue Jesus died to give us. It’s the avenue in which we ask in belief and confess in repentance; it’s our communication back to God as He has communicated with us through His word. It’s a vital part of being a Christian. Because Jesus was eager to teach His disciples to pray, even saying, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Luke 11), we know that God wants to hear from us in prayer.
There is a way to pray that we know God will say, “yes,” where we will be in full agreement: selflessly praying that His will be done, the aligning of ourselves with His desires for us. And we know that His will is for us to lean on Him. If His will is our will, then how can we be far from Him?
If I take myself out of my own way, I’ll experience growth in both prayer and the fruits that I’m producing. I’ll see with clear eyes the difference between the deeds of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5), and I’ll be able to use those fruits in a cylical way to keep myself close to God and in His love.
“But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.”Jude 20-21
*Story and quote found in Prayer by Timothy Keller