Anticipating the voice of God
Listen for it
" things don't change when I talk to God; things change when God talks to me." Bob Sorge
Could it be that we don't hear god because we have trained ourselves not to hear him? Our busy lifestyles have squelched out the clear, powerful voice of God so we no longer even recognise it. We must carve out time to purposefully listen for Gods voice through prayer, meditation on his word and worship. If we listen we'll hear the voice that speaks eternally.
We should learn to let our words be few. Ecclesiastes 5: 1-2 tells us that " As you enter the house of God, keep you ears open and your mouth shut!...he is in heaven and you are only here on earth. So let your words be few." This implies that our time listening should outweigh our time talking. I'm not saying we shouldn't voice our needs, requests, and desires to god, but we shouldn't allow these things to keep us from hearing what he wants to say.
Scripture repeats the pattern of god calling his people away from action to stillness. e.g. Habakkuk 2:20 - " The lord is in his temple. Let all the earth be still". Psalm 46:10 - " Be still and know that I am God. Isiah 30:15 - " The Lord God the Holy One of Israel, has said 'In repentance and rest you will be saved, In quietness and trust is your strength'
There are 2 types of listening - passive listening and aggressive listening. We engage in passive listening most of the time. We hear with our physical ears, but we don't digest the truth of what is being said. God wants aggressive listeners who look intently at his word and listen deliberately to what he has to say.
Although its easiest to listen to God during times of prayer, meditation and worship we need to learn to listen during other times too when we are doing mundane tasks. We must learn to purposefully focus on God and invite the Holy Spirit to speak and concentrate our attention on him.
For some of us prayer often seems like a one way conversation and we feel like we receive no response and we long to desperately have an encounter with God. As much as we want more from our prayer life,God wants us to have more out of it as well. We therefore need to take the art of listening seriously and making prayer more about God and less about us/me.
Stephen Verney suggests that there are 3 stages of listening prayer or contemplation.
First, it is me and him - I come to prayer conscious of myself my needs and my desires. I pour these out to God.
Second, prayer becomes him and me - Gradually I become more conscious of the presence of God than of myself.
Then it is only him - Gods presence arrests me, captivates me, warms me, works on me.
Listening to God involves your participation. You must engage your body, mid and spirit. In her book " The Joy of listening to God" Joyce Hugget describes this experience - " I closed my eyes to shut out visual stimuli.....i closed my ears......by dealing authoritatively with the distractions which threatened my ability to tune in to God.....I closed a series of shutters on the surface level of my life, thus holding at bay hindrances to hearing the still, small voice of God".
There is no formula that one can follow when spending time listening to God. It will be different for each person. God wants to deal with you as an individual. God clearly speaks to his children, when they pray, meditate on his word and worship him.
In Cor 14:15, Paul said he prayed with his mind and also with his spirit. Mental prayer is what we participate in most often, but we shouldn't limit our prayer lives to it. In praying with the mind, we work through our prayer list. We ask for forgiveness of sins, offer him thanks for specific things, bring him our needs and intercede on behalf of others. Instead of ending our prayer time at this point, we must wait and quiet our minds so that we can move to Spirit-led time of prayer.
Spirit led prayer gives the holy spirit an opportunity to direct our prayer time. He alone knows the thoughts of God and can express them as he leads us in prayer. When we turn to this level of prayer the holy spirit may bring to mind people or situations about which we may not normally think. He causes us to recall sins we don't realise or had forgotten. He may bring a specific verse to mind. The more you practise this kind of prayer, you will develop an ability to do it anywhere no matter the chaos around you.
Over and over the scripture points to meditation. Some of the most precious times we have with God can come from time spent in meditation. Meditation is a discipline because it requires you to control your desire to fill the silence with activity. You just sit, think and ponder; you concentrate on Scripture, the goodness of God to you or the Goodness of God himself.
Psalm 77:12 - "I will meditate on all your work and muse on your deeds".
Psalm 119:15 - " I will meditate on your precepts and regard your ways".
Joshua 1: 8 - " Don't for a minute let this book of the revelation be out of mind. Ponder and meditate on it day and night".
Meditation often leads to spontaneous worship. Often during praise and worship we become aware of Gods presence, guiding and leading. We sense that he is with us .
By listening to God through prayer, meditation and worship the Holy Spirit will begin to speak to you, revealing Gods personal and timely word for your life.