Prayer. Bible reading. Meditation. Fasting. These, along with a number of other things, are what we refer to collectively as "the spiritual disciplines." What an obtuse term. Who really wants to practice spiritual discipline? The idea of discipline seems so boring, restrictive, and terribly un-modern. Patience, discipline, toil- these things have become somewhat akin to curse words.
Shouldn't religion or spirituality be more free flowing than this? More free flowing, perhaps, than any part of life? And more gratifying, too. Right?
I don't have any data on this, but it is my assumption that most Christians would like to know God better. I have a simple question. Why do we think that it would be easy? Don't get me wrong, God isn't grading us on a "he tried harder than she did" scale. The only basis for a right relationship with and forgiveness by God is the finished work of Christ on the cross. Nor is a relationship with God difficult in the same way human-human relationships are, because with God we're the only sinner in the equation.
However, our hearts are still sinful. Our desires are, as CS Lewis said, are too weak. We do not long for God or pursue Him naturally as we ought. And so we discipline ourselves. We do things that consciously turn us toward Him. We pray, we open our bible, we occasionally deny ourselves food. Because these are magic sources of otherworldly euphoria? No. Because we know that while often these things seem rote and mundane, there are times that God moves mightily in our hearts through these means of grace. But those moments do not come apart from the discipline. It's akin to plowing the field and praying for rain. Do we cause the rain? No. But we can be ready for it. Raining and tilling are not the same. But without first tilling, we will never enjoy the fruits of the rainfall.