I was in Toronto Canada, for a speaking engagement when I received news of my 95-year-old father’s passing away to be with Jesus. After conferring with family members, we determined it was best for me to go ahead and speak at my session and then fly to the Washington, D.C., area to be with my family. But from that point on, it seemed like “the world stopped and I got off.”
I was exhausted from travel, speaking, and a very busy schedule. In addition I had just experienced several ministry disappointments and a hurtful situation—and now I was grieving the loss of my dad who held a very special place in my heart. I needed strength and refreshing from the Lord, perhaps more than I realized.
His memorial service was held at the Maryland State Veterans Cemetery in Crownsville, MD. Years ago, my husband and I lived very close to this cemetery, so I felt like I was back on my old home turf. Then I recalled that this is the very place where I had a powerful encounter with the Holy Spirit and received the call for the ministry that I am engaged in today.
My heart and mind were suddenly flooded with wonderful memories of ministry. I recalled the evidences of spiritual fruit that remain in my life and the lives of those I’ve encountered since then. Now my dad was being laid to rest so close to the place where I experienced my moment of “holy encounter” with the Lord that transformed me so many years ago.
I watched the hearse pull up in front of the chapel. Two young soldiers saluted my father’s flag-draped casket and then ceremoniously folded the flag and handed it to my sister (his caregiver) with the words, “On behalf of the president of the United States and the U.S. Army, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one’s service to our nation. I am sorry for your loss.” I don’t have words adequate to express how I felt, except that God’s presence was there.
Some encounters with the Lord are experienced in a hidden closet with God alone. At other times, we can experience being alone in the secret place with Him even though we are in a crowd. While my father’s memory was being treated with such dignity and respect, my heart and vision were being refreshed for the next season.
God Is Deliberate
Through the years I’ve learned that intimacy requires intentionality. And intentionality indicates design or purpose. It is deliberate, planned, studied, willful, and purposeful. The Lord is intentional in His relationship with us, and He wants us to be the same with Him. He even allows hurtful circumstances that draw us closer to Him because He desires an intimate relationship with us even more than we desire one with Him.
In Psalm 42 (from the Sons of Korah), we sense a precious intimacy in this one-to-one relationship with God: “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” (vv. 1–2).
This psalm cries out to God to come and quench the soul’s desperate thirst with spiritual water that only the Living God Himself can satisfy. The psalmist obviously speaks from personal experience about knowing God in times of tears, trouble, despair, mourning, oppression, and stress. We enter into his emotions as he feels hunted like a deer panting for its very life.
Direct and forthright, this prayer holds nothing back. I believe the purpose of the “hunt” here (God pursuing us) is to draw us, one by one, into an intimate relationship and encounter with the Lord that will touch our soul on a new level. Our relationship with Him will enable us to live victoriously, regardless of what life brings.
Sometimes the Lord is wooing us, wanting us to spend more time in His presence and His Word than we normally would. Sometimes we need to make plans to do as Jesus did in Luke 5:16, when He slipped away into the wilderness to pray.
Someone and something very special awaits us.
No Need to Fear
An intimate relationship flows from a depth of knowledge and understanding shared by no one but the two individuals in a relationship. But it requires making choices and taking risks. Intimacy reveals our hidden thoughts, feelings, and emotions—our real selves that most people do not see. Most people never know us completely. But our Lord does. Solomon tells us that “the crooked man is an abomination to the Lord; but He is intimate with the upright” (Prov. 3:32, NASB).
In human relationships, who we really are will surface at times and cause misunderstandings affecting our relationship for good or bad. Not so with God. He knows and understands everything about us, for He made us. He had us on His mind from the beginning of time. How does He want us to respond?
- By faith we trust Him and choose to yield who we are to Him.
- By faith we choose to believe Him when He says in His Word that He has accepted us “in the Beloved.” He will not reject us, regardless of what we’ve done in the past.
- By faith we choose to believe that He accepts us solely based upon His love for us.
Intimacy Requires Honesty
The only requirement for intimacy with God is to be ourselves.
- Pretense has no place in a truly intimate relationship. Intimacy leads us to receive and then to respond openly without any expectation of being paid back. When we understand the richness of a mutually intimate relationship, we esteem its worth so highly that we don’t hesitate to give of ourselves. And once we receive, we want to give back more and more. We can’t out give God, and He says it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35).
- Fear has no place in intimacy. We can trust our Lord. He promises He will never leave us or forsake us.
- Competition has no place in intimacy. We delight in bringing joy and fulfillment to God and others. We find our greatest satisfaction in knowing that God is pleased with us, that we have given our lives to Him, and that we have become a gift to others.
The prophet Anna was just such a gift to the people of God in Luke 2:36–38:
Anna . . . was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
Anna’s life was one of waiting on God with worship and prayers of intercession—and it seems she simply enjoyed His presence, waiting until He spoke and told her what to do next. In this case, apparently Anna was not the hunted. Instead she earnestly pursued God’s presence and His voice.
Intimacy Requires Transparency
In the presence of the Lord our masks fall off. The person we are on the inside is not always the person others see outwardly. We have learned to speak, think, and act in ways others will accept. The inner self is a complex person of many secrets, longings, motives, and intentions. Who and what we are is not revealed to us all at once—even with God. Jesus reveals our inner self during precious encounters with Him.
This is why I can express myself to the Lord in ways I cannot do to others. When I’m surrounded by the presence of God, I discover who I am because I’m responding to who He is. He is truth, the Spirit of truth. In His presence I cannot hide from the truth of who I am.
Approaching the Lord in a non-superficial way means a total nakedness of our soul. And total abandonment to God requires transparency. It astounds me that, as imperfect human flesh, we can have the perfect Holy Spirit of God living and moving inside of us. Each time I get a glimpse of Who He is, I see more of who I am. His brilliant light of truth is reflected in my image.
Who Is the Beloved?
Your Beloved is the One who invites you to discover a depth of relationship you never dreamed existed—an intimacy that is secure, settled, and secret. It is that place of relationship, knowledge, and love of Jesus.
Our heavenly Bridegroom invites us to know Him intimately, which stirs our heart to want to deepen our relationship with Him. From our raptured heart will flow the passion and life of God unto the earth—birthing new souls, dreams, visions, and the will and plans of God.
The Lord pursues us with intentionality. And here is what He requires from us to accept that intentional invitation:
- Say yes!
- Be yourself. Be real in the presence of God.
- Cry out to Him from your heart and even with your mouth.
- Be honest and transparent to share what’s on your heart.
- Trust that God loves you. Have faith in His Word and His character.
- Be fearless, and don’t allow the enemy’s lies to taunt you and bring up old sins.
- If possible, take time to get away with Him to a place to pray.
- Be still and know that He is God. Be silent and listen for His response. This is prayer, too!
What is the reward of accepting this invitation? Psalm 84:10 sums it up: “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.”
In my moment of spiritual exhaustion and in the midst of my grief in losing my father, my Beloved pursued me and overwhelmed me with His presence. He is always intentional in His love for me.
PAT CHEN is the founder and president of First Love Ministries International Prayer Center, located in the San Francisco Bay Area. She also has a prayer room near the White House in Washington, DC, available for pastors and prayer leaders from across the nation. She serves on the Board of Directors of America’s National Prayer Committee, National Day of Prayer Task Force, and Mission America Coalition. Portions of this article are adapted from her book Intimacy with the Beloved.