Come Talk With Me, Chapter Four

The Biblical Basis for Relational Communication with God


I shared with you the relational pictures from Luke 11 and how I’ve experienced them in the Lord’s Prayer, but you might think, That is just one passage. Does God really want to relate to me and speak directly to me like this?

My Christian background is conservative evangelical. I believe in the inerrancy of Scripture and the supremacy of the Word of God. I graduated from a seminary known as one of the elite in training people to study and teach the Bible. I am committed to letting the Bible speak for itself rather than attempting to show how Scripture could be interpreted to support a certain teaching or theology.

I say all this for a point: The Bible must speak of this concept of communicating with God and listening to Him in order for this approach to prayer to be biblical and accurate. When we study the breadth of Scripture we discover that the relational pictures in Luke 11 rest upon a foundation of God consistently expressing His desire for an interactive, intimate relationship with us. I am going to share from many of these passages (in appendix B you’ll find more verses that I believe model or refer to these concepts).



In light of the close relationship God wants with us, consider again the amazing thing He’s done in giving us the gift of Himself through the Holy Spirit. Ponder for a moment the incredible ministry of God the Holy Spirit who lives within us. He

Regenerates us from a state of death into life (Titus 3:5)

Baptizes us into the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13)

Indwells us (John 14:17)

Sanctifies us to become like Christ (1 Peter 1:2)

Fills us (Ephesians 5:18)

Seals us (Ephesians 1:13)

Teaches us (John 14:26)

Illuminates the Word of God and truth (Ephesians 1:17-18)

Gifts us (1 Corinthians 12:11)

Leads us (Galatians 5:18)

Anoints us (1 John 2:20)

Convicts us of sin (John 16:8)

Restrains sin (2 Thessalonians 2:6-8)

Guides us into all truth (John 16:13)

Intercedes for us (Romans 8:26)

Assures us we are God’s children (Romans 8:16)

Appoints us to specific service (Acts 13:2)

Communicates God’s love to us (Romans 5:5)

Connects us with the Father (Galatians 4:6)

Testifies to us about Jesus (John 15:26)

Makes the Father’s thoughts known to us (John 16:13-15)


No wonder Jesus said to His disciples, “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you” (John 16:7, NASB). Yet many of us experience very few of these incredible benefits. We are often like the man in one of the Communicating with God courses. He silently read over this list of what the Holy Spirit does and then said with sadness in his voice, “You know, I think the only thing on here that I really know about is that the Holy Spirit convicts me of sin.”

Do you begin to see what we are missing when we do not realize the extent to which God is present and active in our lives? The Father’s intense desire to do life with us is why the Lord God commands us to


Be led by the Spirit (Romans 8:14)

Pray in the Spirit (Ephesians 6:18)

Live by the Spirit (Galatians 5:16)

Keep in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5:25)


I believe that while I am still here on earth I will never be able to fully grasp the significance of the Lord God giving us Himself in the Holy Spirit. Let’s look at just a few passages that show what God desires for us as He lives in us.



Given the immensity of the gift God has given us by coming to live with us through the Holy Spirit, it should not surprise us that He wants far more than a casual or distant connection with us. Even so, the level of intimacy the Lord desires when He talks of wanting “oneness” with us is difficult to grasp.

In Jesus’ final discourse with His disciples before the crucifixion, He openly expressed this desire for connection: “Remain in me, and I will remain in you … I am the vine; you are the branches … apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:4-5). Listen to His words to His Father about oneness later that night, in what we call His high priestly prayer. This is what He is praying for you and me:


I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one. I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (John 17:22-23)


This “oneness” truly is beyond us; Jesus in me and me in Him. This speaks of an intimacy that is unparalleled in any other relationship. It is only somewhat experienced in the relationship between a husband and wife where, as Jesus said, “The two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one” (Mark 10:8).

This oneness is where we share ourselves deeply with Him in vulnerability and trust, and He receives what we share and gives us love and understanding. Oneness is also where He shares His heart and the essence of who He is along with many of His secrets, and we receive what He shares and give Him our love and understanding.



One of my favorite verses is Proverbs 2:6: “For the LORD gives wisdom, and from his _______ come knowledge and understanding.” I’ve left out a word. What would you guess it is?

When I’ve asked others that question, most people guess that from God’s “Word” come knowledge and understanding (that is what I would have guessed). Others guess “grace” or “faithfulness.” Actually, the verse says, “from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.”

When I first studied this verse, I wondered why God chose the word mouth. It doesn’t seem to be how most Christians acquire wisdom. Knowing that the Lord carefully chooses each word in the Holy Scriptures, I knew this word wasn’t accidental. I believe God chose the word mouth because He desires to teach and dispense wisdom personally to each of His children in a relational way. His gift of Himself makes that possible.

James promises us that if we lack wisdom, we should “ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault” (James 1:5). And in Jeremiah 33:3 (NASB) the Lord God says, “Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” The truth is, any time God speaks to us He is revealing things from His great and mighty store of wisdom that we do not know.

Again, notice how relational God is and how personal. He invites us to call and ask and come to Him. He is saying, “I will come live with you and tell you things out of the depths of My wisdom and understanding.” As I have claimed this promise and “called” out to Him countless times, I have been astounded by all He will show me.

When the Holy Spirit comes to live in oneness with us and shares God’s thoughts with us, it is little wonder that God also wants us to begin to experience His presence with us.



Psalm 23 has comforted God’s people for centuries with its amazing picture of how personally our Shepherd cares for us. David beautifully teaches us in verse 4, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” In the past, if you had asked me why I should not fear even at the thought of our greatest foe, death, I would have said, “Well, I will not fear because the Bible is planted in my heart,” or maybe, “Because God has proven Himself faithful.” But this is not what the man after God’s own heart says. He says, “I will fear no evil for you are with me.” I love this truth! Experiencing God’s presence is His desire for us.

As a pastor, I have been with a number of people when they died. I’ve observed that for almost everyone, even Christians, the “valley of the shadow of death” is unsettling and frightening. But what I have found fascinating and extremely reassuring is that, when death itself approaches, Christians who know Jesus experientially do not fear. Isn’t that impressive? David gives us the reason: because the Lord God Himself is with us relationally and experientially, not just cognitively or intellectually. The one who knows how to come into the presence of the Lord and listen to His comforting, parental voice “fears no evil.”

I think of it like this. Back in the early days of the Dallas Cowboys there was a mountain of a man named Bob Lilly. He was one of the greatest linemen of all time, and no one—I mean no one—messed with Bob Lilly. Imagine I was walking along with Bob Lilly in his prime; it is night and we come to a dark street corner. Suddenly, three tough looking men are approaching. My heart would be racing.

But imagine Bob Lilly pushing me behind him and saying, “Westbrook, you just stay behind me. I’ve got this situation covered. Actually, you just watch; this will be fun. No one is going to mess with us.” My heart would still be pounding, yet I’d also have a sense of anticipation and a peace in the midst of some remaining anxiety. But no fear.

Now imagine if Bob were with me, but slightly behind me. The three men approach, and I put my hand behind me … and cannot feel him. I say, “Bob … ?” and get no answer. I am not experiencing Bob’s presence. I might think he is there, but it’s not the same at all, and fear would overtake me.

Similarly, the reason we do not fear anything, even death, is not just because the Bible is planted in our hearts or because of our faith or even because of God’s past faithfulness. We do not fear because the Lord God is with us relationally and experientially—this is not just some spiritual truism; we listen to Him speak.



God has a longing and expectation for us to know His voice as we follow Him, not only in the valley of the shadow of death but in all of life. I love what Jesus tells us in John 10:27: “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice.” What a promise and what an invitation! And notice, it is after hearing and recognizing His voice that Jesus expects us to follow Him.

How does our Father speak with us? What has He revealed to us in His written Word? Allow me to share some passages my collaborator, Connie Willems, has studied on how God helps us know His voice. Through many different methods, the Lord God communicates with His followers.

He speaks in an audible voice from heaven (Genesis 21:17-18; Matthew 3:16- 17; Acts 9:3-7), He comes and talks to people in person (Genesis 3:8-19; Joshua 5:13-6:5; 1 Samuel 3:10-14; Acts 23:11), He sends angels with messages (Daniel 9:20-27; Acts 10:1-7), He gives prophets and prophetesses messages to relay to others (Judges 4:4-7; 2 Kings 22:14-20; 2 Chronicles 20:35-37; Acts 21:10-11), He speaks in visions (Genesis 15:1; Acts 10:9-16) and dreams (Genesis 31:24; Judges 7:8-15; Matthew 1:20-21).

The Holy Spirit stirs, moves, and compels people (Ezra 1:1; Luke 2:27). He comes upon people, and they prophesy or speak out His words (Numbers 11:25; 1 Chronicles 12:18; Luke 1:41-45; Acts 13:9-10). He speaks internally to their hearts and minds (1 Samuel 16:6-12; 1 Chronicles 28:11-19; Acts 13:1-2), and puts His words in people’s mouths (Mark 12:36).

Jesus, God’s very Word, takes on flesh and lives and speaks among us for more than thirty years (John 1:14). He speaks to Saul from heaven (Acts 9:1-6) and He appears and speaks to John in a vision (Revelation 1).

Again and again, we see God talking with one person — one of His “sheep” whom He knows by name. Even when God gives a prophecy about a nation, His pattern is to speak to an individual prophet who then delivers the message to people who were expected to respond personally (Jeremiah 26:1-3). God’s speech is historically highly personal and very deliberate.

What is more, God not only speaks to individual people, He holds conversations with them. An interesting example happens early in Scripture, during one of Abraham’s less than shining moments. Here, Abraham has lied about his wife, Sarah, and told a neighboring king that she is his sister. King Abimelech is drawn to Sarah and, in a practice common to the time, takes her to be a part of his harem. God quickly steps in and stops Abimelech:

God came to Abimelech in a dream one night and said to him, “You are as good as dead because of the woman you have taken; she is a married woman.”

Now Abimelech had not gone near her, so he said, “Lord, will you destroy an innocent nation? Did he not say to me, ‘She is my sister,’ and didn’t she also say, ‘He is my brother’? I have done this with a clear conscience and clean hands.”

Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know you did this with a clear conscience, and so I have kept you from sinning against me. That is why I did not let you touch her. Now return the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you will live. But if you do not return her, you may be sure that you and all yours will die.” (Genesis 20:1-7)


Notice that not only is God speaking personally, He is talking with a man who does not worship Him. The king protests and God responds to what Abimelech says. It’s a plain, back-and-forth exchange between God and a human being. Once we notice how ordinary and interactive God can be when He speaks, we begin noticing time after time when He dialogues with someone. Here is an abbreviated list:


Genesis 4 – God talks with Cain about Abel’s murder.

Genesis 18 – God allows Abraham to seemingly negotiate with Him.

Genesis 25 – God answers Rebekah’s question about her unborn twins.

Exodus 3-4 – God and Moses have the first of many conversations.

1 Samuel 16 – God and Samuel talk about whom to anoint as king.

1 Samuel 23 – God answers David’s questions about battle plans.

1 Kings 3 – God asks Solomon what he’d like as a gift.

Jeremiah 1– God and Jeremiah talk about Jeremiah’s future as a prophet.

Jonah 4 – God talks with Jonah about his attitude.

John 12 – God responds audibly when Jesus prays aloud.

Acts 10 – God gives Peter baffling instructions.

Acts 22 – God dialogues with Paul while he is praying in the temple.

2 Corinthians 12 – God responds to Paul’s pleading.


These are merely a few of the many times God entered into a back-and-forth exchange with someone. Sometimes the interaction is short: just one remark from God and one from the person. At other times, an extensive dialogue is quoted. The conversations between God and Moses are especially remarkable for their frequency and length. It’s worth reading these conversations to see the words God used and how He talked with people. (If you’d like a simple way to do this, you can find them under the Resources tab at

Seeing these conversations can address some expectations we might hold about what prayer and “talking with God” is like. I had been taught that when I prayed, God would hear my prayers. Then I was to wait patiently and trust that whatever He did or did not do was best for me. I really did not expect any direct relational or parental communication in response to my prayer. The idea that I might pray and God might say something to me at that very moment wasn’t on my radar. And the idea that He might go further and engage in a back-and-forth dialogue? That was unthinkable. Yet for years I’d been reading right over accounts throughout the Bible of God doing just that.



When these passages are taken together, to me they paint the picture of the relationship God desires with His children and the process He uses with them.

Many years ago, God gave me a real-life picture of what this looks like. I attended a conference where Dr. Richard Halverson, then Chaplain of the United States Senate, spoke. To this day I have never seen the Lord Jesus Christ so visible in a man. He clearly loved Jesus in a way that was new to me. On several occasions he would be teaching the Word of God and break out in song. At first this shocked me and made me uncomfortable; I didn’t know what to think. But it became obvious that he was not “performing.” He just couldn’t help himself; he was overtaken with the Lord as he spoke about Him.

At the end of the week I mustered up all my courage and said to him, “Dr. Halverson, I have never seen the Lord Jesus Christ so visible in a person like I see in you. I have a request. Could I spend a few days with you? I’d just like to follow you around. I’m not asking you to teach me anything or show me anything, I just want to watch you. I think the Lord has something for me to see as I watch you in everyday life.”

Dr. Halverson looked at me and paused before saying, “Let me give you my card. Write to my assistant and tell him what you told me.” That was it. He was gracious, but I felt this was probably his gentle way of saying, “I am the chaplain of the United States Senate. Son, do you have any idea what you are asking?” But I felt I had done what God wanted me to.

A couple of months later I was going through the mail only to find a letter from him! He invited me to come and gave me two dates to choose from. I was so excited. When the day came and I got to be with him, I am not sure even then he fully grasped what I was asking. He graciously allowed me to shadow him, and he showed me several off-the-tourist-track places in the Capitol and the Senate chambers.

But here is what happened that I will never forget. As we walked the halls of the Capitol or entered the Senate dining room, and he would be approaching a senator, every time he would talk with the Lord in a slight whisper. He asked God very specific questions. By the way he then addressed the senator, it was clear to me he had heard a response from the Lord.

As I watched him over these two days, what astounded me was that he was unwilling to do anything or talk to anyone without first talking with the Lord. Here was a man experiencing unparalleled closeness with God. He did seem “one” with the Lord.

Dr. Halverson redefined maturity in Christ for me. To most of us, maturity means becoming independent and capable of taking care of ourselves, like the maturity we all hope will eventually happen with our children. Dr. Halverson taught me that spiritual maturity means becoming increasingly dependent—dependent upon the Lord Jesus Christ and Him alone.

I wanted what Dr. Halverson experienced: this closeness, to hear and know Jesus’ voice, to have God share His thoughts and even secrets with me. I still thank and praise God for showing me a man who mastered communicating with Him in everyday life.

The Lord God has made it clear that He wishes this closeness with each of us, a “oneness” as He says it, that is unique among all relationships. He yearns for us to communicate with Him, pour out our hearts, and share ourselves with Him. And He yearns to communicate with us.

In the next chapter we’ll begin to talk about what it is like to hear God and begin to engage in conversation with Him, so we can open the door to this relationship. Let’s allow God to fully be who He is, and let’s allow Him to declare what prayer is to be.