Posts Tagged ‘hearing God’

I love the verbs in this Psalm. If I took those verbs into my heart, I would have a prayer life that could change the world.

prayers are manyLord, hear my prayer,
    listen to my cry for mercy;
in your faithfulness and righteousness
    come to my relief. . . .
The enemy pursues me,
    he crushes me to the ground; . . .
I remember the days of long ago;
    I meditate on all your works
    and consider what your hands have done.
I spread out my hands to you; [surrender]
    I thirst for you like a parched land. [Psalm 143:1, 3a, 5-6]

It’s so simple.

I ask God to hear, listen & come, while the “enemy” pursues & crushes, but I am busy: remembering, meditating, considering, surrendering and thirsting [desiring] after the things of God: voice, heart, peace, and confidence.
If I am to successfully face the trials of life, this must be my mode of operation. There is no trial or circumstance that has not been covered by the promises of God when I am surrendered to God. The deal was struck through the covenant relationship that God has with human. . . . and with me.

Trials and disappointments will still be around. In fact, the world pursues us all, through the evil actions of others which cause hurricanes of pain and sorrow. I cannot stop the flood of terror or violence or stupidity fueled by selfish ambitions and delusion. I cannot always understand what drives others. I can only do my part: remember who God is my life; meditate on the presence of Christ’s Spirit within; consider the implications of living a surrendered life; and desiring God’s way and not my own.

This is what it means to pray.

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listeningWhat does it mean to listen to God?

I will listen to what God the Lord says;
    he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants [saints]—
    but let them not [re]turn to folly. [Psalm 85:8, NIV, 2010 with words inserted from 1984 version]

When I was in acting school, we used to have a teacher who tried to teach us how to center down into ourselves, to experience “constructive rest,” to align our bodies, to know “neutral” in ourselves. Much of that time was spent on the floor and breathing. At the time, I was simply too immature to appreciate what she was trying to accomplish. One of her exercises required us to listen: to listen to the sounds outside the room, then inside the room, and then inside our bodies. In a way, this is technique that can also be used to settle the mind down in preparation to listen to God. It’s pretty hard to listen to God while being busy doing other things. [Unless anyone has cultivated the habits of Brother Lawrence, and his Practice of the Presence of God.]

But I believe, more than anything else, that the heart must be prepared to hear before listening will occur. It is up to me to establish that environment, like preparing garden soil to be sown. I can help this preparation of the heart along by reading or singing or breathing.

In this process, I should also know the subject matter. In other words, I believe the most productive listening is done when focused on a situation or topic or question. (And I don’t mean a yes or no question, but a more open-ended one, that allows room for God to expand the answer.) But here is the vital key: I must be at my wit’s end, so to speak. If I really want my heart to be open to the voice of God, then I must know that my resources have been expended, my “way” has not worked, my solutions have been exhausted.

surrenderOtherwise, I think my very human tendency, once I “hear” God’s response, is to compare it to all the other answers out there. It’s not the way God works. If I am truly coming to the God of the Universe for help and illumination, then I can’t treat the answer as though God is simply weighing in on the possibilities like another girlfriend at a kaffeeklatsch.

Do not, then, go to God lightly. For in the breadth of this one verse, Psalm 85:8, there is a warning about returning to our folly (our own way). To ask God, the Holy Spirit, to help and then to choose another way, is, indeed foolishness.

In the older 1984 NIV version, the translation reads that God promises peace to his saints. In later years, this term has been replaced with culture friendly phrases like “faithful servants” or “the holy people He loves.” We are adverse to calling ourselves saints and yet I know it’s not a word to be taken lightly, it is the one that speaks of total surrender to the Christ. A saint is totally sold out to God. A saint hears God and listens and then acts upon the information.

Clearly, the opposite of a saint is a fool.

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How often do people say, “Did you pray about it?” or “Did you ask God first?” and although I may or may not specifically seek God’s favor or direction, can I hear truth if I have already made up my mind on what I want to hear, on what I want to do? Am I just looking for a stamp of approval?

I Kings 22:5
But Jehoshaphat also said to the king of Israel [Ahab], “First seek the counsel of the LORD.”

When Jehoshaphat came to ask Ahab to join forces against the King of Aram [Damascus], they both knew they needed God’s go-ahead. Despite hearing his standard 400 prophets affirm the plan, Ahab (evil as he was) still wanted one more proof, a endorsement from the prophet Micaiah who served the one God. They went through the motions and Micaiah even played along and agreed with all the other prophets. But Ahab didn’t believe him and made him give the true message from God. It wasn’t a good message: both armies would be scattered and Ahab would lose his life.

Despite dressing in disguise for the battle, a random arrow shot Ahab anyway. He stood and watched the battle and the destruction of his army as blood filled his chariot before he died.

Ahab believed he could trick the prophecy by disguising himself. He actually believed in the words of Micaiah enough to do that, but not enough to halt the plan, to change his mind.

I don’t have a prophet to come to my house and tell me God’s answers to my questions. But I have written often and believe the presence of the Holy Spirit within me is my source of inspiration and prophetic expression. As a result, I am respectably good at hearing affirmation from the Spirit when I seek a sanction to proceed. But I am not no sure I recognize the stop signs, the tug of holding back, the cautions. Sometimes, I will take silence as an approval. It’s because I want that thing to happen; I want to will it to be so, to be OK.

My single focus on what I want closes my interior hearing. I am no better than Ahab in that regard.

Forgive me Lord. Help me sustain those times of confusion or “not knowing” long enough to hear truth, to recognize truth whether it be a yes or no, a now or later, a different answer than I want.

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John 7:12
Among the crowds there was widespread whispering about him. Some said, “He is a good man.” Others replied, “No, he deceives the people.”

I used to think that it was critical to maintain a good reputation. But the more I think about it, the more I realize it is impossible to do. How my actions or words are interpreted and cannot be controlled? From one person’s perspective, my behavior may seem erratic, loud, insensitive. From another person’s perspective, I am charming, spontaneous, and entertaining.

I can only be true to myself and subordinated to a God who will guide me from within … if I listen and comply. But my compliance and faithfulness will not control reputation. There is comfort in doing what I believe is right, but I can’t expect my actions or words to be universally accepted or understood.

For many years, I have been tossed about by the wind of reputation. I have worried too much about the opinion of others. I have been a chameleon, hoping to adapt to every situation and person. I feared the talk behind my back, the looks, the sudden quiet when I walk into a room.

But I see now, it is time to stand. “My shield is God Most High…” [Psalm 7:10a] and that must be enough. And as I stand, I will look for the path, the way, that is laid out before me, and I will make every effort to only take a single stepping stone at a time. Each step will have its challenges… the adversarial winds, the tempting sirens, the sluggish heat. Other steps will bring joy, comfort, and confirmation that I am on the right path.

My reputation is in God’s hands. So be it.

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John 6:28b-29
“…What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”

Before we can change, we must choose to make the change. Before we can believe, we must choose to believe. Before we can follow, we must choose to go. Before we can “work for God,” we must choose to believe in the plan which has been outlined in the scriptures.

Ultimately, before anything can happen, there is that moment of personal choice: go, stay, believe, reject, yes, no, wait… these are the simple words that are transmitted from our inner self to the mind. The more connected we are within, the more likely we will make authentic choices. Unfortunately, we are so bombarded in our world by opinions, information, media, images, teaching, etc … we often don’t even know what is our idea or the choice we feel compelled by others to make .

So many times, believing people say, “If you don’t know what to do, ask God and you will get your answer.” I don’t doubt this is true, but I do struggle with hearing that answer. My guess is, I don’t know in the first place because I’m disconnected inside. I’m not hearing God. It’s too noisy in there.

Now that graduations are over, guests are gone and life is slowing down a little, I’m going to start looking for the quiet place…. what I used to call the secret place. This is where hearing takes place. This is where choice is born.

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