Let me ask a question, “How healthy can a relationship be if one person does all the talking?” Not very healthy wouldn’t you agree?
Prayer is a conversation with God. But for many people, prayer is a one way communication – they do all the talking. I believe that is one of the reasons prayer is so hard. It is awkward when just one person does all the talking.
In my last blog post, Live on Purpose: Habits that will transform your life, pt 2, we learned that the Bible is God’s revelation of Himself to us. As our Creator He communicated who He is and what He values. While the Bible may be hard to understand in some places, God wants us to know Him.
Jesus came to reconcile the relationship, not create a new religion.
In the Garden, God walked and talked with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day (Genesis 3:8). After they sinned, the relationship was strained. The Old Testament reveals God spoke through a few individuals at a time (High Priests, Judges, Prophets and Kings). Although the Law was not given to create a religion, man found a way to add to it until their rules became more important than the Holy God the Law reveals.
Jesus came to reconcile the relationship, not to create a new religion. In the New Testament, Jesus walked and talked with people again. And after His return to heaven, He sent His Holy Spirit to indwell His followers. Throughout the book of Acts, we see God speaking to lots of different people again. He even spoke to Cornelius before He believed in Jesus (Acts 10).
It didn’t take long before God’s people turned Christianity into a religion. Centuries after Jesus’ resurrection, once again the “Church” was working to control the people. This time the leaders set themselves up as intermediaries between God and His people. So, for someone to hear from God, they had to go to their “Church Leaders” and to talk to God the same.
The Protestant Reformation came along in the 16th Century and fixed part of the problem. People still went to the church to hear from God, but they could speak to God directly through prayer.
Jesus is our High Priest (Hebrews 4). He is the only intermediary we need. He gives those who follow Him His Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit both teaches the truth (John 14:26) and translates our prayers for God. He even takes our deepest groans in our heart and turns them into prayers at the throne of God (Romans 8:26).
We can speak directly to God and hear from God too!
In this series, I have promoted the idea that life is fueled by purpose. Jesus found strength when He was doing His Father’s will. He said that He only said what He heard His Father say (John 8:28). To hear what the Father is saying He had to listen.
The night before He chose His twelve disciples, He went up onto the mountain alone to pray (Luke 6:12-13). Jesus’ prayer wasn’t just Him talking. He listened to what His Father had to say. We can speak directly to God and hear from God too!
Here are five ways God speaks to us today:
- God speaks through His word – The Bible is His revelation of Himself to us. In it He tells us who He is, what He values, and His plan to deal with our broken relationship. When we listen and obey what God’s word says, we are hearing from God.
- God speaks through opportunities – Paul instructs us to pray for opportunities. God often reveals what He wants us to do by presenting opportunities to us. For example, our new church Discover Point, was asked if we could do something at our local shopping center because Santa Claus couldn’t be there one night in December.
- God speaks through the teachable moments of life – Teachable moments can be the mountain top experiences of life but often they are the times we fail. God can and does speak to us as we process what we are learning from ordinary life.
- God speaks through others – We can hear from God as we listen to teachers and preachers. But we can also hear from God when we listen to others in our community of believers. Something someone says will often stand out to us and give us insight and wisdom into what we are learning from God.
- God speaks through a “Gentle Whisper” – In 1 Kings 19, Elijah wanted to be closer to God. So God hid him in the cleft of the rock as He passed by. God was not in the wind, earthquake or fire, but afterward came His gentle whisper. Psalm 46:10 says “Be still and know that I am God…” We cannot hear God’s gentle whisper when our hearts and minds are full of the chaos of this world. The gentle whisper is commonly referred to as the promoting of the Holy Spirit today (Acts 8:26). There usually isn’t an audible voice, but you hear Him in your heart.
The question I often get after teaching what the Bibles reveals about all this is: “How do I know it is God and not the devil or even just my own desires?” This is a great question. The key is Debriefing to Discern! Let me share with you three ways to debrief what you are hearing to clarify or discern what God is saying:
- Check it against God’s Word – God cannot be inconsistent with Himself or His word that is His revelation of Himself. I use three filters to help me here.
1). Love God/Love Others: Jesus said you can sum up the entire Bible with these two commands. If it does not express love to God or to others it isn’t His will.
2). Philippians 4:8: “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy… (do) such things.”
3). Look at specific passages that deal with the issue at hand – Use a concordance, a Bible Handbook, or ask your pastor or other Bible teacher if you need help.
- Share what you are hearing with a trusted friend(s) – It is about Relationships not Religion | Community not Isolation. Let your friends help you debrief what God is saying to you.
- Talk to God about what you are hearing – This may seem a little redundant, but think about it. If you want clarity on what someone is saying, shouldn’t you ask them? God is a very effective communicator!
I have a simple process, for beginners and pros, to help you train yourself to listen to God. If you would like a copy, please feel free to contact me and I will be glad to one to you.