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CAPTAIN ROBERT RUSSELL considers  how we cultivate a deeper intimacy with God . . .  

“In Ruth Barton’s book, ‘Sacred Rhythms: Arranging our Lives for Spiritual Transformation’ she explains that the human soul gets to the point when it is ready for a new way to pray – one that allows for a new intimacy with God. She explains that ‘Prayer is all the ways in which we communicate and commune with God.’ (63) 

Questions to consider: 

  • What are some of the ways I commune with God?
  • What percentage of my communication is talking TO God vs. listening or being with God?

Barton suggests that there are a number of ‘signs’ that we are ready for something new in our prayer life – something that is deeper and more intimate. Some of the signs include doubt and confusion (because what ‘worked’ in the past no longer ‘works’), emptiness, and hunger for intimacy with God. (64-65) 

  • Have you felt some of these feelings about your prayer life?

We know that God desires a more intimate relationship with us, but how do we get there? Barton states that: 

Prayer means letting God’s creative love touch the MOST HIDDEN PLACES of our being… 

Prayer means LISTENING WITH ATTENTIVE, UNDIVIDED HEARTS to the inner movement of the Spirit of Jesus, even when that Spirit leads us to places we would rather not go. (66) Based on this quote, what do you think are some of the obstacles we put in our own way?  Some common obstacles include: 

  • Risking
  • Control
  • Patterns of intimacy or non intimacy with others
  • Wordy prayers

More questions to consider: 

  • Is it possible that my striving for a deeper prayer life is getting in the way?
  • What is the difference between knowing more about God, and knowing God more?
  • What does it mean to truly listen to God? Is it simply a matter of an absence of words or thoughts on our part? Is there something more?

It may be helpful to compare our relationship with God to best friends who simply enjoy being with each other, sensing each others support and care without the necessity of words. This comes close to the communion that God desires for our relationship with him. In this kind of relationship words are secondary. 

How comfortable are you with silence? In your friendships and with God? If it is a really good friend you simply enjoy being with them. Intimacy with God is a growing connection with God / being with God throughout our day. The key point about silence and listening for God is this: God ‘fills’ the silence with something deeper than words – a new depth of communion with him. So it isn’t truly silence… In order for us to go deeper in our intimacy with God ‘we come to him with EMPTY HANDS AND AN EMPTY HEART, HAVING NO AGENDA… we just come with a sense of our own spiritual poverty.’ (68-69) The work of emptying is letting go…  The question is: What do I need to let go of, and how do I let go? 

Ruth Barton suggests ‘breath prayer’ as a way of letting go / dropping our guard, and connecting with God on a deeper level. Breath prayer is a ‘simple phrase that expresses the truest thing we know how to say to God at that time.’ (71) It is a phrase that captures the truth of my own spiritual longing. It helps to ground me during times of stress or distraction. 


  • “Lord Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
  • “Come, Lord Jesus, Come”
  • “Lord Increase my Faith”

After you have chosen or created a breath prayer, try using it throughout your day to help you let go of negative thoughts and feelings, and center on what God is saying to you. Slowly repeat the first part of the phrase as you breathe in. Then slowly repeat the last part as you breathe out. Repeat as often as is helpful.” 

For more information on Breath Prayer and other Spiritual Disciplines check out Ruth Barton’s book: Sacred Rhythms: Arranging our Lives for Spiritual Transformation. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006. 

Captain Robert Russell

Post written by Captain Robert Russell. Robert is appointed to CFOT as the Distance Training Officer, where he faciliates the training for Auxiliary Captains throughout the Territory.  Robert also teaches Spiritual Formation and Salvation Army Business and Management.