Listening to God

Monday, April 13, 2009

Prayer is a tricky thing because I think no one has really taught us how to really do it. Growing up we were taught different methods of prayer and encouraged to try them out and find one that works best for me, but something was always missing. Having been a Youth Minister I can recall pleading with my students to just spend minutes a day talking with God, and now I feel that I have let them down because I did not teach them enough. If you ask someone on the street what prayer is they would probably respond with something like, “talking to God,” and we would all say, “yes, that is what prayer is all about!” No one would argue with that definition because it is exactly what we have been taught since we were little. Can I tell you that something is missing?

Prayer in a simple definition is “having a conversation with God.” If we were to pick apart that definition we would come to the quick realization that in order to have a conversation you must talk but also listen. Now, we know that in our prayer times we must listen to God, but if we were honest how often do we really take time to listen. I can confess for my brain that sometimes it is downright difficult to focus any amount of time to listening to someone I cannot hear. I put the blame on my society (pretty easy fix isn’t it). I blame my XBOX, my Zune, all of the books I love to read, and I blame my cats. Everywhere around me and around you, we are drawn away from being alone in silence to listen to God.

I love the story of Elijah found in the book of 1 Kings. The guy had an experience that every preacher wants to have, he called down fire from heaven and his critics were silenced and then he had them killed. OK, modern day preachers probably don’t want their critics slaughtered, but it creates a pretty cool scene. After all of this happened on Mount Carmel, any angry woman by the name of Jezebel (by the way, please for the sake of your children don’t name your daughter Jezebel) sent Elijah a message stating that she wanted him dead. So Elijah after having an amazing mountain-top experience ran away and feared for his life. We then find Elijah feeling sorry for himself when God spoke to him. Elijah, feeling that world is coming down all around him is in desperate need. What does God do? He tells Elijah to go and feel the presence of the Lord pass him by. We all know the story, that God is not found in the powerful wind, or the violent earthquake, or the blazing fire, but it is after all of those major events that God is found in a gentle whisper.

We are constantly surrounded by the wind, earthquakes and fire. In fact, we as Christian leaders try our best to create those elements in our worship services to draw people closer to God. We give people event after event, program after program knowing that in those meaningful things God’s presence will be felt. Have we not fallen short of bringing glory to God by constantly filling our calendars with wind and earthquakes when God wants us to simply listen in the silence to His voice? I love this quote and feel that it speaks directly to our society today, “We are so concerned with being useful, effective and in control that a useless, ineffective, and uncontrollable moment scares us and drives us right back to the security of having something valuable to do. But even stronger than our fear of the empty space is our fear of actually hearing the voice of God.” How true is this? I know it to be true of my life. Do I want God to show me his plan for my life today? Heck no, because it could involve something difficult or out of my comfort zone. Even worse God could convict me of sin in my life and then I might actually have to mature and grow.

Sometimes it is downright frightening to see the kind of man God might want me to be. Sometimes I look at the life of the Apostle Paul and think that was a good life for him, not sure if I really want to go down that road. I am not sure if I want to be so close to Christ that my life becomes endangered. All of those thoughts are foolishness and it needs to be my desire to follow Christ with all of my life. All of this means that I need to start spending time listening to God and what He is saying to me. Can we all commit to this? What would God do through our churches if the leaders and people spent time listening to Him? How many more missionaries would be sent out to the ends of the earth? How many more students would commit their lives to serving Him? How many churches would quit wasting time on meaningless tasks and focus on what would last forever?

Do you know what God wants to say to you?

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