Pillar Journal

Enjoying Friendship with God

Your business as a pastor is first and foremost to spend time with the Lord.

Pastors who are constantly bombarded with information and intrusions on their time and attention via cell phones, BlackBerries, the Internet, and iPods may think it’s impossible to find more time to commune with the Lord. But what is your primary calling as a pastor? Unless you are marketing spiritual novelties or religious trinkets, your business as a pastor is first and foremost to spend time with the Lord. We can be grateful to the Puritans for their examples of how to enjoy friendship with God. Thomas Goodwin (1600–1679) offered four directives for establishing and maintaining such a friendship with God:

  • Take occasion to come into His presence intending to have communion with Him. This is truly friendly, for friendship is maintained and kept up by visits; and the more free and less occasioned these are by urgent business, or solemnity, or custom, the more friendly they are.
  • A second way of…expressing friendship to God is this: when thou comest into His presence, be telling Him still how well thou lovest Him; labour to abound in expressions of that kind, than which (when founded in a reality in the Spirit) there is nothing more taking with the heart of any friend.
  • Delight much in Him. Friendship well placed affords the highest delight.
  • A fourth particular wherein the communion of friendship lies, is [the] unfolding [of] secrets [Ps. 25:14].1Thomas Goodwin, The Works of Thomas Goodwin (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2006), 7:198–202.

Goodwin’s list contains the four basic building blocks of having an intimate time with the Lord: purpose, praise, pleasure, and privileged communications.

Samuel Rutherford said that prayer need not always be offered in the pastor’s study or in a private prayer closet. He drew near to God on horseback. He wrote, “I have benefited by riding alone on a long journey, in giving that time to prayer…by abstinence, and giving days to God.”2Rutherford, Letters, 73. Cotton Mather (1663–1728) suggested that pastors set apart whole days for prayer and fasting:

That you may be good men, and be mightily inspired and assisted from heaven to do good, it is needful that you should be men of prayer…. In the pursuance of this intention, there appears more than a little need of it, that you should ever now and then keep whole days of prayer, in an holy retirement before the Lord; often set apart, whole days, for prayer with fasting, in secret, and perfume your studies with devotions extraordinary: and usually with a mixture of alms, to go up in the memorial before the Lord…. You may obtain, a certain afflatus [wind blowing] from Heaven upon your minds, and such an indwelling of the Holy Spirit, as will render you, grave, discreet, humble, generous, and men worthy to be greatly beloved. You may obtain those influences from above, that will dispel the enchantments, and conquer the temptations, which may else do a world of mischief in your neighborhood.3Cotton Mather, Bonifacius: An Essay upon the Good (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1966), 70–71.

Excerpt From
Encouragement for Today’s Pastors
Joel R. Beeke and Terry Slachter