This term never appears in the bible – in fact – it’s not even a term in antiquity…yet it is used widely in Evangelical circles about one’s relations to God.
I’ll be the first to admit there are personal aspects to faith in God. It’s something that only we can truly know how it effects us and persuades us in our choices. Prayer is quite personal (IMO). Faith does have an aspect of it being something quite personal that another person cannot truly connect with.
However, I do not think what is happening in our Christian walk is actually a personal relationship. I am not saying we don’t relate to God in some abstract way – we do – but do we even understand it? It’s not like God is speaking to us directly, shaking our hands when we leave prayer, or coming over for a slice of pie that we made. There is no real relationship going on in some ways. Yet in other ways, there is (sometimes this thinking on God reveals something deep to us). But these relationships are nothing quite like those we have with our family or children. Maybe it’s not meant to be?
I actually don’t think there is a good term to explain what happens between someone and God – it’s unique. I do know that labelling it ‘personal relationship’ makes it sound a lot more intimate than what is really going on. Most people pray, read their bible incessantly, attend church, and give to God’s house to maybe hear from God 1 to 2 times in their entire lives. It’s not as intimate as we would like to think. There’s still something great about it – just not as close as is made seem.
I think Abraham was called the ‘friend of God’…that’s more along the lines of how I would explain it.