I define an encounter with Jesus as a supernaturally perceiving a truth of God in our thoughts and emotions. It’s when an idea “about” God becomes a tangible experience “with” God. He has designed us to be able to experience Him in intimate ways and given us His Spirit to reveal Himself supernaturally. Below is the story of my first encounter with Jesus that changed my life.
“It’s the first day of my new life!” This was the declaration I wrote in my Bible on February 25th, 2003 (in college) when my relationship with Jesus was radically changed. For a month leading up to this day, I was sucked into a deep depression with tormenting thoughts that drove me to sleep as much as possible as an escape.
I had given my life to Jesus a year prior with minimal follow through, but during that tormenting month, I committed to following Jesus by obeying His commands and engaging in prayer and the Bible for the first time. Having no idea what to do in my prayer times (literally no clue!), I read the Bible and a men’s devotional book and tried my best to talk to God.
New To Prayer
Out of sheer desperation, I went from spending no time with God to spending two hours a day with Him. My prayer times weren’t earth-shattering, and the Bible and prayer seemed foreign to me, but I found a momentary peace that I didn’t have at other times of the day. However, on February 25th, everything changed. I turned to a verse in Ezekiel 36 that was referenced in my devotional book. As I read it, the words became alive to my heart by the power of the Holy Spirit. It was as if God was speaking the words directly to me in the most intimate and personal way possible.
He felt so real and close. My heart melted. I began weeping uncontrollably as God breathed hope and healing into me. After a while, the weeping turned into an indescribable joy and peace as I felt my emotions restored. I literally felt the broken pieces of my heart being brought back together. In that one encounter with the Living God, I became a new person and began a new season of life.
Spiritual Freedom in Jesus
It was the “first day of my new life” because the depression and torment stopped with that one encounter. Later that day, friends even said my countenance was different and brighter and that it was like I had come back from the dead. I entered a new experience of freedom that made me feel like I had a new life.
Not only that, but I was also joyful and had a new vision to experience intimacy with God. The new life of expecting intimacy with God caused me to begin orienting my daily life around Him. Without that holy moment, I wouldn’t have known it was possible to experience freedom or such realms of pleasure in God.
How Do You Encounter Jesus?
Encountering Jesus, which is equivalent to growing in intimacy and friendship with Him, is simple. Friendship is built as you spend quality time with Him each day. And I don’t mean this in a cliche’, Christian kind of way. I mean spending time with the God of love and beauty, who is a burning fire, to have your heart tenderized by His flame. Many Christians have a genuine desire to know God more intimately and experience Him but don’t spend enough time in prayer and don’t have a high enough vision for encountering Him.
As I reflect back on my journey, I recognize that my spiritual hunger and the amount of time I spent (though it was messy) with God positioned my heart to receive more of Him. God met me in a clear way a month into my messy journey, but I believe He was removing darkness and tenderizing my heart leading up to that point. I honestly don’t think I would have experience Him like that if I had not started saying no to sin and yes to spending time with Him.
Spending time with God never “earns” intimacy, but relationships require quality time and a response of commitment from both people for love to grow. Relationship with God is the exact same.
You Can Grow in Prayer
As you read my story, I want to encourage you to go on a progressive journey towards spending an hour or more a day with God in prayer and the Bible. At a purely practical level, that amount of time allows your heart to quiet down and receive more from God and allows your heart time to respond to Him without feeling rushed. Fifteen minutes with God is a good starting place, but don’t stop there.
Press through boredom and distraction, and stay before Him in reading the Bible and talking to Him in prayer for longer portions of time. Write down a weekly schedule of when you plan to spend quality time with Him and ask a friend or mentor to support you in walking out that schedule.
If that amount of time sounds crazy to you, don’t worry, it sounded crazy to me, too. In my first season of prayer, I literally had no idea how to interact with God in prayer, didn’t know anything about the Bible, and didn’t have a mentor or community to receive guidance from. And I was massively depressed and tormented in my thoughts. If God could help me say yes to prayer, He will help you in prayer, even in your weakness and your life situations.
I know we’re all busy, and every season of life has its unique demands, but we NEED Him. And we need Him the most in the hard seasons, which is when it’s tempting to excuse yourself from prayer with lots of validations.
Is Your Vision for Encountering Jesus High Enough?
My first encounter with Jesus in the Bible increased my vision for what I could experience in Him. I reflected on that encounter and said, “That was amazing! How often can I experience His nearness like that? How often can I enjoy Him in my prayer times?” This vision was exciting to me and caused me to begin making practical changes to spend more time with Him. This approach set the tone for the last half of my college life and helped me prioritize Him above everything else in my schedule.
My first encounter was a huge one, which doesn’t always happen, but have consistently experienced God in small ways and big ways in my times with Him when I’ve been wholehearted in my approach. I believe that is my portion, and I believe it is yours as well.
If you have a low vision for what God wants you to experience in Him, you will have less spiritual hunger and have a passive approach to your spiritual life. But, if you have a high vision, your hunger will increase and you’ll be more zealous in your spiritual life. This zealous approach will help position you before God’s presence with an open heart longer and lead you to greater intimacy and experience with Him.
For additional help, consider purchasing the Going Deeper Workbook (and optional video course) to go deeper in the topic of encountering Jesus in prayer. The entire workbook is set up to inspire you with a high vision for encounter and equip you to pursue Jesus in prayer. It is 100% focused on helping you grow in prayer in practical ways. You don’t have to be alone and ill-equipped like I was in college, struggling to find my way. You can be equipped with a workbook that has been formed out of 20 years of prayer and discipling others.
Additionally, you can join our Facebook Group, “Cultivate Encountering Jesus” for more support and direct encouragement. Search for this group on Facebook and we’ll grant permission to join the group.
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I really appreciate this! I love how God is ready to rush in in our weak and broken moments. I also love how He dignifies us by responding to our YES to move toward Him. I’m stirred to keep going after Him; thank you!
Love it! His tenderness “in the midst” of our weakness is what breaks down our walls and “earning” mentalities and produces gratefulness. Keeping going, Bethany!