Knowing God is a wonderful experience. Indeed, it is the most delightful, the most rewarding joy that humans may know in this life. The awareness that the Supreme Sovereign of the universe "seest me," takes note of my "low estate," is interested in my heart longings, and actually provides for my every need is one of the great rewards of being a Christian. And really, to know Him is not nearly so difficult as at first it may seem.
For us the Lord prayed, "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou has sent" (John 17:3).
It also is most gratifying to observe that for many believers this prayer of the Lord has been answered already. They are sure now that they know Him. They have the evidence. Others are not so sure of the acquaintance, yet all may be. The true story that follows shows how very unsure some Christians may be.
The Shaken Pastor
A well-known minister was called to the side of a boy who was to die for his crime. Calling attention to a date circled on his calendar, the doomed boy began, "Pastor, I am to die on that date, but I have been informed that I need not die without Christ. Will you please acquaint me with your Christ? I must not die without knowing Him. Can you help me? Please show me how to get in touch with Him."
The smiling pastor nodded approval. "Let us follow a few simple steps," he said, and proceeded to read from his Bible some of the Lord's promises to the penitent. He had not read very far when the anxious boy broke in: "Pastor, I am sorry to interrupt, but I think you have misunderstood me. Your reading is all right, but what I really want to know is how to become acquainted with Christ. Can you help me make His acquaintance?"
The obviously disturbed pastor reassured the boy that the easy steps he was offering would lead eventually to that acquaintance, and proceeded with his reading. With the reading of each passage of Scripture the boy became noticeably more restless. Trembling and shaking with emotion, the boy stood and faced the startled pastor.
"Sir," he said, "all that you are reading sounds well and good, but other ministers have read these things to me, and really that is not what I want. What I really want to know is how to meet your Christ. Can't you help me, please, to get acquainted with Him?"
The now frustrated pastor, realizing his helplessness, his failure, closed his Bible, and left the doomed boy sobbing out his plea, "0 God, whoever you are, send someone to help me find You and know You!"
Do You Know Him?
That pastor was convinced that he had been preaching and writing about a Christ whom he did not know sufficiently well to present to a person soon to die. The experience sent him searching his own soul anew. And well he might, for to be sure, knowing about God is one matter, knowing Him personally, as an acquaintance, is quite another.
What might you or I have done under similar circumstances? If a stranger requested that we acquaint him with our Lord. where would we begin? And how would we follow through? Could we really make an introduction? It surely is possible. Our Lord prayed for it. Moreover, in Scripture we read: "Acquaint now thyself with him, and be at peace: thereby good shall come unto thee" (Job 22:21).
Answered Prayer Vital
Acquaintance with God, knowing Him in a personal way, must therefore be a genuinely real experience. Then where does one begin? And how is it done? Examples are offered in both the Old and New Testaments. Through Jeremiah, His prophet, the Lord tells us:
Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. And I will be found of you, saith the Lord (Jer. 29:12-14).
The method here is clear enough. Our Lord employed some of the same words uttered by the prophet when He addressed the multitudes on the mount: "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: for every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened" (Matt. 7:7, 8).
From this counsel given by the Lord men "find" Him and come to "know Him" when they "seek" and "search" for Him through prayer. Prayer, then, becomes the true method by which acquaintance with Him is made.
But what kind of prayer makes the acquaintance? Many persons, like the minister of our story, were taught to pray from childhood, and are still not sure that they know Him. Some of our earliest lispings at mother's knee were:
Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep; If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.
Remember? That was saying a prayer parrotlike; for as children we did not know what the "soul" was that we were taught to speak about, and some adults may still not understand.
Formal compositions and memorized remarks voiced by others in prayer become as "fill-ins" for a certain "form of worship." They may even set one to experimenting until he actually learns to pray, but this sort of so-called prayer is not much above the fumblings of pagans who murmur and mutter over curious charms. By such processes one will never "find" God. The only prayer that will unmistakably acquaint one with God is the answered prayer.
Telephone Ring Did It!
I knew a boy in college who remarked, "If I have ever had an answer to prayer, I don't know it." This boy who learned many things about God in his classes of Bible and religion never really knew God, and soon dropped out of school, drifted out of the church and from religion generally. Anyone who has never had an answer to prayer is not acquainted with God and can never be truly Christian, even though he may be religious.
Twenty-two years later this religious dropout was in church again, active and ardent. I was curious to know the why and how of this change. This is his story:
"In life about me, I saw fulfilled many of the things I learned in Bible classes as a boy. I knew then that there was something real about God and what He taught in Scripture. Later I had an experience that cleared up all doubts for me.
"I had a deal in business that was not identified in the books. I consulted all available books for the answer and found none. It occurred to me at this point that I should talk to God—it was just that important to me—and if God gave me a solution to my problem, that would prove Him to me and would raise my faith to return to Him and His church. I closeted myself in my office and talked things out to the unknown God as I would to a friend, earnestly and quite frankl, hiding nothing. I guess I was in there talking several minutes.
"Going to the front office again, I sat on the edge of a desk and talked with staff personnel. The telephone rang while I was talking and that telephone call was the answer to my prayer! My problem was solved quicker than it has taken to tell the story. Only God could have answered my request, for only He and I knew the problem. I am convinced that God did it, so I kept my part of the bargain. I know now that there is a God, and I know He can and will answer prayer."
Indeed, the answered prayer is the only kind of prayer that acquaints one with God. When the invisible God gives visible answers to our heartfelt requests, we know that "he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him" (Heb. 11:6). Hereby the acquaintance is made. It is "life eternal" to "know Him." But what if we are not sure of the acquaintance?