The Invitation to Draw Near

God is jealous for us.

It says it all over the Old Testament, but I don’t think we picture our God as jealous post-resurrection reality. Let’s not rob Him of His character. He has a right to be jealous. He has set us apart for His work in our baptisms. We are called by name. We are His.

James reminds us of this New Testament jealous God. He is jealously passionate for our souls. He reigns inside our hearts with His Spirit. He will not take the devil’s attempts at power in our lives lightly.

Read James 4:5-8

Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

What promises can you find from our God in this passage? Where is God in the actions James calls believers to? What is God’s response to our actions? Make a small list for the discussion portion. This is good stuff and I can’t wait to hear your insights!

I really believe that all of these promises could be summed up in one statement, found in verse 8 –

Draw Near…

We are invited to draw near. We’ll never get to the purifying, resisting, or even the grace without someone drawing near. God draws near to us in His incarnation as Jesus Christ to walk along this earth. He drew near by taking our sins on His shoulders, to bear the load and redeem us. He draws so near that He chose us as the dwelling place of God the Spirit. Look back at James 4:5 and underline the quotation found in this verse. Can you see how drawing near in verse 8 can be linked to the Lord’s drawing near to us?

How do we draw any nearer then? What does James suggest? I think we will find part of his answer to this later on, in James 5:13-20. When you read this, underline or jot down every instance in which James suggests prayer as the answer to something –

13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth.18 Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.

19 My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, 20 let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

One of the most common requests I hear from women and men looking for resources to grow their faith is, “I wish my prayer life was better.”

My first response is, “Don’t we all.”

Don’t feel less than or ostracized by your lack of prayer. God doesn’t point His finger and shame us. Instead, He whispers in your ear…

Draw Near…

Just do it. Make time for Him. Make room for Him. It sounds super law oriented until you’ve heard the Gospel call of

Draw Near…

Add prayer in snippets into your life and in great gulfs of time in your day. Look back at James’s words in James 5:13-20. Can you hear the cadence of both, prayer thrown into the immediate, prayers of searching drawn across the expanse?

There’s no one right way. Jesus gives us the Lord’s Prayer and we would be wise to utilize it. Beyond that I can only share three ways I have seen make a difference in my personal prayer life and that of others. Maybe these will help you as you walk growing up in your faith and drawing near.

Whisper breath prayers

Pray in the moment, when the thought first comes to the surface. Snatch that prayer up. Share it with the Lord. Don’t let it pass by unnoticed. The Spirit intercedes for us in groans that words cannot express, but we are also given grace upon grace to draw near by sharing our thoughts and words intentionally with God anytime.

Prayer with others, rather than just for others

One day, we went to Guatemala, and I learned to pray. I could go into detail, but there’s no time for that. It was uncomfortable. It was heart-wrenching. It was exhausting. It was awesome. Next time you are in a conversation with someone and they share something, offer to pray for them, yes, but offer to pray with them. Right there. It’s a stretch. You need the Spirit for this. Oh, but watch Him work!

Utilize a prayer journal or pray out loud for a set period of time

Instead of expounding, I am going to send you over to Sybil MacBeth’s website, http://prayingincolor.com/

She explains right on the homepage why utilizing visual prayer can help us to draw near and grow in our faith. Our minds are wonderful things, but the devil would like to use every barrier to us drawing near. Distractions abound. You can print prayer calendars to utilize for the season, and find other resources on the website as well.

However you do it, hear the call of draw near.

You are invited in- to His Word, to His love, in His Spirit, and by His grace.

Draw Near…

 

Discussion:

From our first passage, James 4:4-8 – What promises can you find from our God in this passage? Consider even the statements that are directed to us as believers. Where is God in those actions? What is He doing? What is His response?

What comfort do you find that God draws near to us and that we are invited to draw near to Him?

What is your favorite way to pray or what new suggestion offered for drawing near might you try?
Who can you share the message of Draw Near with today?

4 thoughts on “The Invitation to Draw Near”

  1. Using scripture as prayer has become my go-to. I whisper the verse from Mark 9 a lot: “I believe, only help my unbelief.” And the Psalms, squeezing my name in (or the name of a loved one) where it’s needed.

  2. So, first, because I am so crazy in love w the ESV Lutheran Study Bible, here are some things I saw in the study notes on these verses:
    *v. 6 God is the one who “urges me to call upon God and pray and plead and knock,”–and “grace is already there…!”
    *v. 7 “Placing myself under God’s authority is shown most powerfully when He forgives,” and helps me forgive (my words). “The language of these verses strongly echoes OT calls to repentance.” LOVE this: “Resisting the devil is, therefore, the same as turning to God in repentant prayer.” (cf 1 Pt 5:8-9)
    Overall, in these verses and the study notes, I saw: He enables, urges, gives a greater gift, Giver of gifts–esp wisdom, calls us to repentance. God is always the one acting–He goes first–He gives first. He draws near, like you said, and enables us to draw near–to turn to Him in repentant prayer. He will answer our repentant prayers by forgiving sin. I love all of this and it’s helpful for me to know He’s always drawing me to pray. Especially when I equate this to human relationships and how it’s so, so hard for me sometimes to be the one that “goes first.” And I know relationships between us aren’t the same as what we have w God, but still, it’s really big to me that God is always, always there, always waiting for me and drawing me to Him, always wanting to give me His good stuff. Someone once said to me Jesus loved so perfectly. He loved in spite of how people treated him and was able to love even when people didn’t love back. That’s what this makes me think of–God always loving me to pray even when I am just nutty in my thoughts and actions. God always loving me so much that I…can…repent. Like C.S. Lewis said, “Forgiveness is a really great idea until you have to do it.” For me, prayer and repentance and forgiveness is all so intertwined. Anyway. Practically speaking, prayer for me ends up being an ache. I go to God when I’m aching–which is literally all the time–however I am not always paying attention to that ache. Sometimes I have convinced myself that rushing around or doing whatever else is more important. I give in to the craziness of schedules and whatever all the time. Another thing about prayer I learned a long time ago is that when I cry when I pray, I sometimes discover things I’ve been upset about and stuffed and praying brings it right to the surface and helps me pay attention to it. It’s like God is drawing all that gunk out of me. But I have to sit when I pray–I mean yes to praying when I’m driving and walking around and doing life and in conversations and whatever. But when I sit–in “my chair” (it’s in an upstairs bedroom that’s used mostly for my studying and whatever else because both our kids are out of the house now), and read and pray and am quiet–especially in the wee hours of the morning and it’s dark and no one’s up yet (meaning husband and two dogs!). Whoa. That’s prayer for me. God whips around and I am humbled and convicted and thankful and in awe. It’s a wild thing, prayer.

    I do have three things I sometimes remember to say when I am in the middle of a tough spot. My tough spots almost always involve other people because my pain is usually about relationships. I say, “Lord, I don’t understand,” and I try really, really hard to not judge (if I could put a winky face here I would because seriously when am I NOT judging–it’s ridiculous and also embarrassing–that’s sin for ya). Then, “Lord, examine my heart,” (for what I “may” have done–and OF COURSE I’ve always “done” something–even if it’s a hate in my heart or whatever and I don’t think the other person’s “seen” it but whatever my sin is always, always there–anyway if I’m really in a spot where I can be totally honest about this examining my heart thing, I weep. Even in the car or wherever. Cry out how sorry I am. This can only be God. I resist being sorry sometimes–like picture a severely arched back–it’s easy to describe but difficult to admit I get like this. God embraces me in all this. He never gives up on me even in my most “I was in my ugly place where I had every right to be,” state of mind. Amazing. THEN. My last thing I say is “Lord, the one you love…” and I try to think about lifting this person I am having trouble with up to Him knowing He loves them too and just as much as He loves me. I got this all from listening to other people talk about praying and from some pretty tough situations because I tend to make relationships the end all be all and God helps me through relationship stuff that can tend to get me all loopy. This probably seems like a lot! I woke up this morning after having fallen asleep last night listening to a sermon and I was really drawn to read my Bible. Heidi, your email popped up, so here I am!! Off to work on my Capstone now. :o)

  3. I love to pray in the car…especially long, all by myself trips…with my eyes open of course! It’s amazing how quickly the trip goes and I can’t help praising God for the creation that I see along the way mixed in with my Adorations, Confessions, Thanksgivings and Supplications. I will say, the more I pray the longer I spend on Adoration and the list of Supplications seems to somehow get shorter! Loving the study Heidi!

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