How shall I tell you what to draw near to God is? It is prayer, but it is more than prayer. I bow my knee, and I begin to ask the Lord to help me in my time of trouble. I tell him what my trial is. I put up my requests, uttering them with such words as his Holy Spirit giveth me on the occasion; but this alone is not drawing near to God. Prayer is the modus operandi, it is the outward form of drawing near to God; but there is an inner spiritual approach which is scarcely to be described by language.
Shall I tell you how I have sometimes drawn near to him? I have been worn and wearied with a heavy burden, and have resorted to prayer. I have tried to pour out my soul’s anguish in words, but there was not vent enough by way of speech, and therefore my soul has broken out into sighs, and sobs, and tears. Feeling that God was hearing my heart-talk, I have said to him, “Lord, behold my affliction; thou knowest all about it, deliver me. If I cannot exactly tell thee, there is no need of my words, for thou dost see for thyself. Thou searcher of hearts, thou readest me as I read in a book; wilt thou be pleased to help thy poor servant! I scarce know what help it is I want, but thou dost know it. I cannot tell thee what I desire, but teach me to desire what thou wilt be sure to give. Conform my will to thine.”
Perhaps at such a time there may be a peculiar bitterness about your trouble, a secret with which no stranger may intermeddle, but you tell it all out to your God. With broken words, sighs, groans, and tears, you lay bare the inmost secret of your soul. Taking off the doors of your heart from their hinges, you bid the Lord come in, and walk through every chamber, and see the whole. I do not know how to tell you what drawing near to God is better than by this rambling talk. It is getting to feel that the Lord is close to you, and that you have no secret which you wish to keep back from him, but have unveiled your most private and sacred desires to him. The getting right up to Jesus, our Lord, the leaning of the head, when it aches with trouble, upon the heart that always beats with pity, the casting of all care upon him, believing that he cares for you, pities you, and sympathises with you — this is drawing near unto God. It is good for me to draw near unto God, if this be what drawing near to God is.
From a sermon entitled "An Assuredly Good Thing," delivered July 4, 1869. Image by Vali under Creative Commons License.