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Having An Encounter With God

By Henry Blackaby

    When we are in the presence of God, He brings about a radical change.  We see this all through the Scriptures, but somehow we do not understand that the God of the Scriptures is the One who is encountering us.  Our primary purpose for coming into the house of God ought to be to have an encounter with God.  We can say that we are in the presence of God, but there may be no transformational change that indicates that we are.

    The moment of God’s encounter with you is determined by God and not by you.  It may be through a Scripture.  Suddenly the Spirit of God takes the Word of God, and like a two-edged sword, pierces the soul and spirit and joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of your heart (Heb. 4:12).  It exposes you fully to God.  When God encounters you, you will know it because He will stir every ounce of your being.

Isaiah’s Encounter with God

    In Isaiah chapter six we see a remarkable encounter Isaiah had with God.  God knew exactly where Isaiah’s problem was, and so God matched the encounter with the need for radical change in Isaiah’s life.  Suddenly Isaiah was in the presence of the holiness of God.  Some people talk about being in the presence of the holiness of God, and we sing about the holiness of God, and yet somehow we are not experiencing the holiness of God.  If we were in the presence of the holiness of God, I would guess that a number of us would have to respond with Isaiah: “Woe is me, for I am undone!  Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips...” (Isa. 6:5).

    The presence and holiness of God always expose the specific need in your life that is keeping you from a deeper encounter with God.  God’s immediate response with Isaiah was to deal with his lips.  Something had to come from the altar of God and that is a life-transforming moment.  Coals from off the altar touched his lips, and an amazing thing happened.  When his lips were cleansed, his ears were opened.  God did not touch his ears; He touched his lips.  That was what was keeping Isaiah from hearing.  God had been speaking all along, but for the first time Isaiah heard God saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?”  Because of the encounter and because of the radical change, there was a spontaneous response from Isaiah: “Here am I! Send me” (v. 8).  The same God who encountered Isaiah is the same God who is here to encounter us.

Praying for Our Nation

    Whatever we have been doing or have not been doing has brought the nation to where it is.  Our nation is in terrible shape, and there are hundreds of directions that the nation is taking to go down and down and down.  The questions come, “What kind of praying have we been doing that has not made a difference in the nation?  What kind of praying are we doing that has left the nation in the condition it is in, knowing that God has said that all heaven is moved in answer to prayer?  One person with passionate praying can turn a nation around!  Why then is the nation not being turned around if we keep saying that we’re praying?”

    We do not need more praying as much as a qualitatively different relationship with God.  Are you ready for God to take you into a qualitatively different relationship to Him when you pray?  Do you want to be the kind of person God could call on to pray because He knows the quality relationship you have to Him and that through your praying huge changes would take place in the nation and around the world?  Think about your own personal walk with God and about your own personal prayer life and what kind of changes need to be made in your life so that God could work profoundly through your life.

Moses’ Prayer Life

    Look with me at some praying that was done by Moses and what was at stake.  The God who invited Moses to stand in His presence and hear from his heart what is on the heart of God, literally broke Moses’ heart and set him in motion to stay in prayer before God for forty days and forty nights.  What he had heard from God was so significant that he neither ate nor drank anything for forty days but was in agony of soul.  Moses stood between the sinning people and God, and pled for them, even asking God to take his name out of the Book of Life but to spare theirs.  According to the Scriptures, the prayer life of Moses changed the heart of God.

    When was the last time you went to pray and God laid His heart over your heart and it broke your heart?  In Romans 8:26 Paul says one weakness we have is we do not know what to pray for as we ought.  What is God’s provision for our inability to know what to pray?  Paul says that God has granted us the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit who knows the mind of God and the heart of God and knows the immediate activity of God, will guide you so you will know what you ought to pray.  When was the last time you got on your knees to pray, and you had to cry out, “Lord, I don’t know what to pray as I ought!  Our nation is being shattered.  How then shall I pray?”  And if God were to lay over your heart what you ought to pray, would you passionately pray consistently until you knew that God had heard and answered?

    Your prayer life and your church’s prayer life can determine the course of history and certainly can turn the corner on many of the destructive forces that are so debilitating in our nation today.  Our nation is experiencing an incredible breakdown in family life, in ethics in high places and in other unprecedented ways that we never dreamed we would ever even hear about, but which are now commonplace.  Where is the praying of God’s people?  God intends that a nation become the product of the praying of His people.  Right now, as I have seen in hundreds of prayer times, our nation is the result of careless and casual praying and God’s people no longer believe that when they pray, God can powerfully affect the nation.

    Do you know what happens when the people of God no longer have an intimate relationship with God?  It provokes Him to anger, because God knows what is at stake eternally when His people do not function in a relationship to Him.  So Moses said, “…You provoked the Lord to wrath, so that the Lord was angry enough with you to have destroyed you” (Deut. 9:8).

    But do not look at the Israelites now.  Look at the God of the Israelites.  If you are a spiritual leader of any kind, and if you are a parent you are one, remember God’s people can provoke Him to anger where He would destroy us.  Of all the times in history when this nation can be destroyed, it is now!  Only the mighty hand of God will prevent it.

    God told Moses He was so angry with His people because of their sin that He was going to destroy all His people, and begin all over again with Moses.  If you were on the mount and God said that to you, what would you do?  It would depend on your track record in your prayer life.  How well do you know God and how well do you know God’s invitation to stand between Himself and men on behalf of their survival?  In Deuteronomy 9 and 10, Moses describes to God’s people that he went into the presence of God, and there he pled with God for forty days and forty nights, and he did it twice.  And the God who said that He was going to destroy every one of His people, as Moses prayed with persistence and with passion and from his heart – that God heard and did not destroy His people.

What Is on the Heart of God?

    When was the last time you felt it was significant to know what was on the heart of God?  What is on the heart of God for your children?  What is on the heart of God for your church?  Could God call an end to one of His churches because they have sinned?  Can God let a church die?  He warned the church at Ephesus, “You have left your first love,” and He told them that if they did not remember the height from which they had fallen, did not remember what used to be but was no more, and if they did not repent and return, He would remove their candlestick.  They would be taken out of existence.

    Do you sense that God has begun to pursue you for a level of praying that you have never known, and in that new relationship to Him He is going to lay over your heart what it means to have His mind and His heart in our day?  When Moses knew what was on the heart of God, he immediately went into intense intercession.  Somehow God has to find somebody somewhere who believes Him when He speaks through His Word.

    That is what God is looking for and that is what our nation desperately needs.  God’s people are the only ones who can fill that role.  The politicians are not going to fill that role.  God’s people have the divine opportunity to sense when God is moving in their heart and drawing them to a deeper relationship with Him than they have ever had because He wants them to know and then do what is on His mind and His heart.  Are you ready for God to do that with you?  Are you willing to come before God and say, “I want You to know my life is totally and wholly available to You”?  You can trust God to put His heart over your heart, and if He ever does, He is going to enable you to do it.  Let God use you to express His powerful presence in the midst of our nation through your life.

Passionate, Persistent, Prolonged Prayer

    Prayer is not for you to have the opportunity to tell God what you want Him to do.  Prayer is to be in the presence of God where He graciously tells you what is on His heart and what is on His mind.  And that encounter so radically changes you that everything about your life changes – the way you live, the way you talk, the way you plan, the way you invest your time.

    Do you think your nation is in a crisis moment?  Do you think it needs a radical change?  Do you believe that it needs a mighty touch of God through somebody who knows Him, and knows what is on His heart and has a passion to pray until God responds?  Little prayers will not do it.  Passionate, persistent, prolonged prayer will.

    In Luke 18 Jesus said that we ought always to pray and never to quit.  He gives the illustration of the woman who came to the judge and persisted until he granted her request and then He said that your Heavenly Father hears those who cry out to Him day and night.  Then comes one of the most pathetic statements in all the Bible as He ends by questioning: “…Will He really find faith on the earth?”

    If God were to expose our hearts, will He find those who know Him and believe Him and have already made a commitment to spend passionate time in His presence?  Surely in an hour like this, in the condition of our nation, God has something on His heart and on His mind that He wants some of His children to know so that when they go to pray, they pray from the heart of God and from the mind of God.  I ask you, in your prayer life personally, as a family, as a couple, as a church, could you say with all honesty that you know what is on the heart and mind of God concerning what is about to be?  Has that set in motion in your life an incredible burden of prayer that intends to be involved with whatever God is about to do.  Or would you have to say, “I am a child of God, but I am not sincerely involved in prayer.”

    All the way through the Bible, when God is about to do something, He looks for someone who will come before Him in prayer so He can lay His heart over theirs in prayer.  Will you in this critical hour be one of those?  You may not know what it may involve, but you do know one thing, the Spirit of God is saying to you, “Do not let this moment go by.” God is seeking your life. He is pursuing you, and He wants to instruct you and teach you how to pray so that your life will be known as one through whom God made a difference and turned the course of history.  The Apostle Paul stated it this way, “...We make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him.  For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.  Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men...” (2 Cor. 5:9-11).

    What is the motivation or lack of motivation in your life to be a person of prayer through whom God will change the course of history, or change the course of your family or your church or your city or state or nation?  I am convinced that God has enough if we would yield to Him, to turn the corner in this nation.  Would you be one of those?  I cannot make that decision for you.  God waits to see what you do next.  Once you know the truth of God, what you do next is what you believe about God.  There is much at stake.  Eternity hangs in the balance for man, and you hold the balance.

    – Condensed from a message given at the 2006 Midwest Prayer Conference.  Henry Blackaby is founder of Blackaby Ministries International and an influential evangelical pastor and author.