We all hear the admonition from our spiritual leaders to pray. Talking to God is one of the disciplines of the Christian faith and is one of the basic elements of having a relationship with Him. Yet, prayer is a commonly misunderstood activity and often is less practiced than we think in the church. Only when there is a crisis in our lives or society at large does prayer become a priority. But God wants us to pray without ceasing:
1 Thessalonians 5 16Rejoice always, 17pray without ceasing, 18give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
What an attitude. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks for everything. Now that’s an objective we should all try to maintain.
It is my observation that prayer is definitely our opportunity to engage God in our daily lives by talking to Him. We tell Him about our problems, the issues with family and friends, and we may even ask for the revival of God’s principles in our culture.
Yet, as important as it is to speak to God, it is also important to listen to Him. For example:
1. We listen to God in prayer to learn discernment.
Discernment is a critical aspect of knowing the truth about a matter. It helps us to see the sneakiness of evil, the deception, the twisting of truth, and it provides us a clear understanding of how to apply God’s Word. Today we have Christians practicing yoga, incorporating cultural nuances into their worship, and making idols out of things that have no place in our lives competing for the priority that belongs to God alone.
2. We listen to God in prayer for taking action and find direction.
One pastor I know says that prayer is the first step for taking action. Prayer can be an action step if we are asking God and then listening to His response. Direction is very important as we discern if the patterns of our lives are prosperous for our spiritual life or not. Finding a mate, looking for a career, buying a house, starting a family, or changing jobs, or retiring. All are directional changes that need help from God for us to know how to respond. It is also important to know what our assignment from God is as we choose to get involved in some kind of ministry to others.
3. We listen to God for instruction.
Instruction is a great description of prayer. Why? Because God directs us to His Word to learn His principles, His values, and His commands. God wants us to be informed about what and who we face in this life. There are daily experiences that are always trying to bring about a compromise to not follow God’s Word. It is easy to slide by things thinking it’s not a big deal, yet every little compromise is a path to the broader way of condemnation that Jesus talked about:
Matthew 7:13 You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way.
4. We listen to God and acknowledge our dependence upon Him.
God wants us to communicate with Him, as this is the central ingredient to developing a relationship with anyone. Friendships always start with our willingness to talk to people … it is the same for God. He desires to be our God and we His people, and that relationship needs a two-way street of prayer to develop. We talk to Him and we listen to Him. Our dependence on earth is not on the government, not on the counsel of man, nor is it on our ability to prosper and succeed. Our dependence solely rests upon our need for God. That dependence puts Him first in everything our lives are about, and nothing can be first before Him.
5. We listen to God because it is an act of worship.
Prayer is the personal connection experience we need in knowing God. We can experience Him by reading His Word and learning about Him. We see from His Word His personality, His values, and His desire for us to know and obey Him. Prayer furthers that knowledge in communication with Him that only prayer provides. Prayer is placing God first, and it shows God that He is important to us. By placing Him first, we are worshiping Him with priority.
Prayer keeps us centered on God, and on His plan and will for our lives. Here are a few quotes I thought were notable from Christian leaders:
Prayer lays hold of God's plan and becomes the link between his will and its accomplishment on earth. Amazing things happen, and we are given the privilege of being the channels of the Holy Spirit's prayer. ~Elisabeth Elliot
Nothing tends more to cement the hearts of Christians than praying together. Never do they love one another so well as when they witness the outpouring of each other's hearts in prayer. ~Charles Finney
In worship, God imparts himself to us. ~C.S. Lewis
My suggestion to you today … let’s revisit prayer without hesitation and without delay.
Challenging the Culture with Truth … Larry Kutzler