I have a friend who has discipled me, encouraged me and held me accountable for many years. We live far apart now, but she still asks me three questions when we have a chance to catch up. These questions have kept me on track and challenged me to examine my faith on a deeper level.
1. Who is God to you?
If being more like Jesus is the goal, knowing the character of God can help us get there. This question provides the perfect opportunity to study the names of God. For example, my friend did a search on a Bible reference tool for “God is” or “God who” to see how He reveals Himself to us in His Word. I used a little creativity and household arts and crafts supplies to make a list of the names of God as a visible reminder.
Being able to answer the question of who God is isn’t just about reciting verses, but about who He is to us in this specific season. Of course, He never changes (Hebrews 13:8), but our perspective on Him changes as we learn and grow in maturity. In some seasons, He will feel more like our Bridegroom, pursuing us even when we turn away from Him. Other times we will see Him as the kind Father, both disciplining us to draw us closer to His will and comforting us in times of trial. He is so many things all at once – from Prince of Peace to Provider, from Healer to Holy – that we can spend a lifetime exploring His character and never know Him completely.
2. Do you feel close to Him?
Feelings can be deceptive. Scripture assures us God will never abandon us no matter what we are going through (2 Corinthians 4:8-10). However, almost everyone feels far away from God at some point in their lives. Our answer to the first question will tell us a lot about why we may or may not feel close to Him. In answering honestly, we now have a door to access our core beliefs or fight lies from the enemy that may be blocking our relationship with Him. For example, if we view God as our Father, and realize that we still feel abandoned and exhausted, it could be that we are absorbing a works-based, performance-loving view of His Fatherhood from our earthly authority figures or simply from the culture around us. When I ask what my thoughts and actions reveal about my beliefs, I go beyond Sunday School answers to true intimacy with Him.
3. How do you communicate with Him most often?
Of course, our view of His character and the depth of our relationship with Him are both linked to something far more practical: communication. Any book – from history to romance to self-help – will tell you communication is the core of relationship. When we stop communicating with each other, things go wrong. It makes for an interesting plot twist when it’s someone else’s story, but when it comes to God, communication is a vital link to our Creator, a precious gift that is astounding to think about. However, notice I haven’t used the word “prayer.” Of course, all communication with God classifies as “prayer” by the standard definition, but all too often we imagine folded hands, a reverent monotone and closed eyes when we hear that word.
In our last conversation using these questions, I confessed to feeling a bit guilty that I didn’t have more formal prayer times. My friend assured me that “praying continually” as I go about my day is not only just as “holy,” it is also quite biblical (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
Of course, there are seasons we will need more structured prayer, and possibly the help of prayer books, retreats, spiritual directors or a variety of resources. Other times, we can simply quiet our thoughts and listen to what His Spirit has to impress upon our hearts. In some seasons, five minutes is all we have to give. In others, hours are not enough to satisfy our hearts. Neither makes us greater or less in comparison with each other, nor on a higher or lower spiritual “level” of maturity. As long as it is intentional communication that is genuinely building a relationship with the Almighty God, we can rest our anxious hearts that He is there waiting for us, longing to reveal more of Himself to us each day.
Prayer doesn’t even have to be full of eloquent words or silent listening for divine guidance. It can take whatever shape or form draws us closer to God. Again, this might vary from person to person or season to season. Like many other musicians before me, I discovered as a little girl that often the piano keys prayed for me, beyond the limitations of language. Dancers, writers, nature lovers, runners, artists, sailors and countless others have noticed this in their spiritual lives throughout human history.
If you find yourself, as I often do, feeling like something just isn’t connecting in your spiritual life, if you are bored or weary or doubting or frustrated but can’t pinpoint why, ask yourself these questions. Better yet, exchange them with a trusted friend and use them as a diving board into healthy accountability and discipleship.
I wish I could say that my raw, honest answers are always confident, theologically sound and a shining example for all to follow… but they are not. If I’m being truthful (which is the point, after all), sometimes I catch myself thinking of God more in terms of pop culture’s view than the Bible’s, or neglecting Him completely. Distractions, emotions and doubts work hard to pull me away from healthy spiritual growth. And they often succeed.
But instead of surrendering in futility, I know each moment is a new opportunity to start over. I can take my thoughts captive and guard my heart (2 Corinthians 10:5, Proverbs 4:23). I can listen to the wisdom of my brothers and sisters in Christ. I can continue to ask these three questions without fear, knowing that even as I struggle through this life that He is transforming me for His glory. (2 Corinthians 3:18).