God speaks through prayer. Be focused, intentional and willing to listen.
Today is Father’s Day. Happy day to you dads! I am blessed to be a father of 2 fine young men. As a parent, one of the challenges I faced was listening to my boys. It’s not that I didn’t WANT to listen, it is that it was very easy to tune them out. “Dad, dad, father, dad, daddy, pops, dad, dad” – it can get pretty easy to tune that out. To this day, when the boys need to get my attention, if “Dad” doesn’t work they will call me, Mike. Hearing that name from their voice seems to somehow cut through the layers of wax in my ears and get right through.
But once they have my attention, I must confess, it can sometimes be hard to stay focused on what they are saying. Maybe because they talk about things that I have no understanding of. Perhaps because they only talk in movie quotes. But more likely because I have A.D.D. and I am easily distracted. Can anyone relate? I must purposely slow down my brain, put down whatever I have been doing and look directly at them and focus. THEN I move from just hearing them to LISTENING to them.
These same traits of tuning out and distracted listening often follow over into my time with God. I cannot hear him because something else has my attention. When I do spend time listening, I can be distracted and not truly grasp what He is saying.
The title of our series is, God Speaks. Len started us out with this verse:
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27, NLT)
From the beginning of creation, God has desired to speak with us; to have fellowship with us. Our sin messed that up, but our sin has not and cannot change God or the nature of his heart. He still wants to have fellowship with us. He speaks to us:
If I am going to be a follower of God, I need to listen to him and obey him. If only God would FORCE me to listen, or do something big to get my attention, right? Well, that is not usually the way God chooses to communicate with us.
“Then He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the Lord’s presence.” At that moment, the Lord passed by. A great and mighty wind was tearing at the mountains and was shattering cliffs before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was a voice, a soft whisper. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Suddenly, a voice came to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”” (1 Kings 19:11–13, HCSB)
It was NOT the blasts of wind, not the earthquake nor the fire, but that soft whisper that God appeared as. If we are going to listen to God, we need to learn to pray and to listen.
I am often surprised by people who tell me they don’t know how to pray. Jesus prayed, the disciples prayed, Nehemiah prayed, every God-follower in the history of mankind has prayed to God and you and I are commanded to pray without ceasing (1 Thes. 5:17). So maybe we should demystify prayer by defining what it is.
According to the Westminster Catechism:
“Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God, in the name of Christ, by the help of his Spirit; with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgment of his mercies.”
The Lexham Bible Dictionary defines prayer as:
“Communication with God, primarily offered in the second-person voice (addressing God directly). May include petition, entreaty, supplication, thanksgiving, praise, hymns, and lament.”
Prayer is a form of communication where we go to God with the things that are on our heart, whether happy or sad. Where we talk to our heavenly Father, and where he can speak back to us.
When I think about that, it makes me wonder why God would even want us to pray.
Psalm 139 makes it abundantly clear that God knows everything about us, including what we are thinking and what we are going to say before we say it. He knows the number of hairs on our head and what needs we have before we even ask (Luke 12:6-7). He knows the heart of every man (Acts 1:24)
So, if God already knows all about us, WHY does God want us to pray? Here are two good reasons why God wants us to pray:
Psalm 139“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my concerns. See if there is any offensive way in me; lead me in the everlasting way.” (Psalm 139:23–24, HCSB)
We are reminded in the Bible that it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks (Luke 6:45). When we take time to talk to God in prayer it actually reveals what is in our heart.
But even more important than revealing our heart, we when pray God reveals his heart to us. Listen to the passage that Jesus gives us as a model and let’s unpack it:
““Therefore, you should pray like this: Our Father in heaven, Your name be honored as holy. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.]” (Matthew 6:9–13, HCSB)
The prayer starts with the declaration that the goal of life, of this prayer, is to honor God apart from all other gods to be above all that is common). We acknowledge our Worship.
Then it asks that God’s kingdom, not the kingdom of this world or of my own making, would be established and that God’s will (his purpose, his desires, his plan) be accomplished on earth just like it is in heaven. In heaven, where Jesus is enthroned, he speaks and the angels obey. On earth it ought to be the same for you and me. So we acknowledge his Lordship over us.
Give us this day is recognition of Gods provision for our lives. We cannot have anything unless God provides it. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away – blessed be the name of the Lord! So when we pray this line, it is not so much that we are telling God what we need (he already knows it), it is that we are acknowledging his Provision for us.
Forgive us our sins/debts/trespasses as we forgive others is certainly not about keeping score with God, but rather about having the same heart and compassion as God. When we pray this we are asking God to help us treat others the way He has treated us – that we would reflect his love and mercy to the world around us. We are acknowledging God’s mission for our lives.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one. God does NOT temp (James 1:13). Jesus does pray that the disciples would be kept safe from the evil one (John 17:15). In this part of the prayer we recognize that it is a spiritual battle we are in and the spiritual world is where we truly live. It is not a prayer of safety, but a prayer of honor. We are re-created to bring honor to God in the way that we live, and this prat of the prayer acknowledges our need for God to help us live up to the calling he has called us to.
Most versions have taken out the last part of the last verse, “yours is the kingdom, power and glory forever, Amen”. Though not in some manuscripts, it is a fitting ending/summary of the prayer.
This prayer is not so much a prayer about us, but about God. We live to honor his name, to build his kingdom and obey his commands. We trust in him as our provider, protector, teacher and guide.
Praying the way Jesus taught us allows us to see the Father’s heart.
When God answers prayer, he speaks to us very clearly. Though we will probably not hear him in some sort of burning bush experience, which only every happened to one person at one time in the history of mankind that we know of.
When we pray, there are many ways that God might choose to talk to us.
So, here is how awesome God is, and how important prayer is to Him. Not only does He want us to communicate with him, hearing our needs, hurts, goals, desires, relationships, thanks and praise. BUT he also makes it so that we cannot mess it up!
“And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.” (Romans 8:26–27, NLT)
His gives everyone who believes in Jesus the Holy Spirit. And then Spirit prayers with us and for us to make sure that our prayers line up with the Father’s heart. The Holy Spirit can convince, convict and counsel us. You get that still small voice telling you that you need to change something, do something, encourage someone. That is the spirit’s function:
“But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit —the Father will send Him in My name—will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you.” (John 14:26, HCSB)
God can remind us of His Word (be in it & memorize it!) Before you begin reading God’s Word, spend some time in prayer and ask God to speak to you , to reveal himself to you through his Word. You know that his desire is to reveal himself to you, so you can know that you are praying according to his will when you pray this way. Then, as you read, LISTEN to him.
God might be silent during your prayer time and speak to you later through others (church). Spend time with your church family, share what God is doing, pray with them and then listen to what God tells you about his work in their lives.
God might speak to you through your circumstances. I am not going into this because Conrad is going to share on this next Sunday ?
When we pray, God might speak to us by bringing a scripture to mind (God speaks through his Word), he might speak to us though others (the church), he might speak to us through circumstances, or he might speak to us in a still small voice of his Spirit convicting, teaching and empowering you.
How many of you have been married less than 5 years? Imagine getting married, going on the honeymoon and the day you get back you start a new routine. You get up early, spend ten minutes talking with your love and then don’t talk with them any more until the next day at that appointed 10 minutes.
What would your marriage look like?
OR, you are in a dating relationship so make sure that 3 times a day you send the love of your life a tweet or text message letting them know what you are thinking but never actually talk to them.
How long would that relationship last?
Many of us approach our relationship with the Lover of our Soul just like that. God want us to talk with him all the time. God wants to speak to us.
Sin separated us from God, but the work of Jesus is all about restoring that broken relationship.
“And we know that the Son of God has come, and he has given us understanding so that we can know the true God. And now we live in fellowship with the true God because we live in fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ. He is the only true God, and he is eternal life.” (1 John 5:20, NLT)
What a beautiful gift! Because of the Son we can have fellowship with God. God wants to communicate with us so much, that he sent Jesus as a payment for our sins so that we can have a restored relationship, where we can talk with him and hear him speak to us.
In a moment we will pray together. But before we do, let me give you some suggestions on how to start listening to God speak through prayer.
“But you, dear friends, as you build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, expecting the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ for eternal life.” (Jude 20–21, HCSB)