As Christians, the deeper spiritual life directly relates both to our ongoing transformation into the image and likeness of God and to our need for grace, capacity, and empowerment in our active service in love to others in the world. Really, it is about being drawn into Christ’s very own mission by our self-surrender to God’s self-gift and initiative. Spiritual growth occurs as Christ-followers seek to discover, nurture and live from their true self – the life “hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3).
Praying more deeply begins with humility, the realization and admission that we can not pray at all! In other words, prayer is a gift and is first of all a response where God has all the initiative. The frequent advice of John Chapman, “Pray as you can, not as you can’t,” is sound wisdom indeed. This acknowledges that growth in prayer is not about what we can do, but about receiving the enabling grace from God as gift in accordance with his direction and will. Growing our prayer involves receiving a gift by faith.
Therefore, the first steps to take to begin on this journey is to come to God empty handed, needy (for that is what we truly are), and with childlike dependency. Know that you are loved even while you were still a “sinner”, even before you have made any response to God or given anything or did anything or obeyed anything. God dearly loves you, beloved child. Believe this in your heart. Come not first to do, not first to pray your list, not first to give; but come to receive, to listen. The first thing you must hear with your heart is how deep and high and wide and broad is the steadfast love of God for you in Christ. Find a quiet, private time and place, and just seek to know the love of God. Practice this daily for 15-20 minutes if you can. As you do, write down your thoughts and feelings in a journal.
It is a truth that “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rom 5:5). This is a completed action in the past which we have received from God. Though we may believe these words with our intellect, it is another thing to believe them in our hearts. For if we did, we would not say that we believe in God’s love for us, but that we know God’s love. So we need an awareness or consciousness of this truth that is deeper than the intellect. Ask, seek, and knock, and you will receive the Father’s good gifts (Luke 11:9-13).