In God’s Pursuit of Man, A. W. Tozer asks a sobering question: “Is it not true that for most of us who call ourselves Christians there is no real experience? We have substituted theological ideas for an arresting encounter; we are full of religious notions, but our great weakness is that for our hearts there is no one there” (10).
“We talk of Him much and loudly, but we secretly think of Him as being absent, and we think of ourselves as inhabiting a parenthetic interval between the God who was and the God who will be. And we are lonely with an ancient and cosmic loneliness” (6).
“Whatever else it embraces, true Christian experience must always include a genuine encounter with God. Without this, religion is but a shadow, a reflection of reality, a cheap copy of an original once enjoyed by someone else of whom we have heard.” (10)
He explains that “Nothing can take the place of the touch of God in the soul and the sense of Somone there” (9, emphasis original), and insists that “Wherever faith has…proved itself to be real, it has invariably had upon it a sense of the present God. The holy Scriptures possess in marked degree this feeling of actual encounter with a real Person” (7).
But how do we have a genuine encounter with God? Tozer insists that there are no shortcuts:
In my creature impatience, I am often caused to wish that there were some way to bring modern Christians into a deeper spiritual life painlessly by short, easy lessons; but such wishes are vain. No shortcut exists. God has not bowed to our nervous haste nor embraced the methods of our machine age. It is well that we accept the hard truth now: The man who would know God must give time to Him. He must count no time wasted which is spent in the cultivation of His acquaintance. He must give himself to meditation and prayer hours on end (5, emphasis original).
He goes on to explain that “The experiences of men who walked with God in olden times agree to teach that the Lord cannot fully bless a man until He has first conquered him. The degree of blessing enjoyed by any man will correspond exactly with the completeness of God’s victory over him” (45).
As we wrestle with God in prayer, God lays claim to our lives and brings our stubborn wills into submission. Jacob’s encounter with God in Genesis 32:22-32 serves as an example: “For two-thirds of his total life he had carried in his nature something hard and unconquered” (46). “His hope lay in his own defeat” (46).
Today, we must still have a genuine encounter with God. It is the answer to our cosmic loneliness; only when we experience God as someone and yield our stubborn will to his control will we experience true blessedness.