“Speak Lord, for your servant is listening” –1 Samuel 3.9.
When I was a little girl, God spoke to me regularly. When I was four, I remember sitting on the Morse Avenue beach in Chicago playing in the sand, and I recall thinking how amazing it is that God created each grain of sand different from the next. Here is a picture of sandat 250x magnification
I remember thinking if God created each grain of sand, how much more lovingly, God created each individual person in the world. God spoke scripture and truth into me before I even knew there was a book called the Bible. As I got older, my childlike faith became more analytical, and the religious teaching I received made me doubt the authenticity of my experience and forget how to listen to God. Yet, listening to what God is saying is just as important in prayer as talking to God. A good relationship with God in prayer consists of both speaking and listening to God.
God speaks to us in many ways, possibly in as many ways as there are people to talk to. However, a primary mode of God’s communication is through the words of scripture. It is easier to hear what God is saying to us by slow, deliberate meditation on short verses of scripture rather than reading a couple of chapters. God also commonly speaks to us through dreams, practical every day life experiences, and mystical experiences. A mystical experience to me is the same thing as an uncanny coincidence that can’t be explained. It is when the veil that we picture between heaven and earth becomes so thin that the physical realm and the spiritual realm feel like they are intersecting for a brief moment. Maybe you have had an experience like this and know exactly what God is trying to say, but for me, these experiences simply give me the encouragement and assurance that our loving God is present and accessible and here for me in my neediness.
So how do we know if what we hear is really God speaking or if it a concoction of our tricky egos? To summarize Bill Hybels, in Too Busy Not to Pray, here are some great suggestions:
- Promptings that come from God are consistent with his Word, the Bible. For example, a prompting to cheat on an exam or your income taxes is never from God.
- God’s promptings are usually consistent with who he made you to be. So knowing myself now for half a century, if I think I hear God telling me to put skydiving and running a marathon on my bucket list, that is probably my ego trying to prove itself and not from God.
- God’s promptings usually involve servanthood. Really, God, you still want me to work every weekend when all my friends are at the lake? Ok. Fine.
Bill Hybels also teaches us to question promptings if they require us to make a life changing decision in a short amount of time, if they require us to severely jeopardize our family relationships or important friendships, or if more mature Christians, advisors or counselors think it’s not a good idea. The longer we practice speaking and listening to God in prayer, the more competent we become at discerning God’s true voice. When I was young, I was not even aware that it was God speaking to me. Now, looking back on that time with fresh eyes of faith, I realize that God speaks to us all the time.
This week, take a moment to reflect on these quotes from Maya Angelou as you begin your prayer.
“Listen to yourself and in that quietude you might hear the voice of God.”
“Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer.”
–Nancy Pauls, Pastor of Prayer