Part 1: Pray
READ Luke 11:1-13
DOES GOD STILL SPEAK TO US?
As Christians, we believe that God has spoken to and through the authors of the bible, and that much of what God desires to teach us about Himself is contained in its pages. But, we might ask, does the desire to speak to His children still exist? Or did God cease speaking when John penned the last words of the Book of Revelation?
Aside from the revealed word of scripture, God still desires to speak to His people. This desire is most clearly seen in some of Christ’s teachings. Jesus makes it clear that the role of the Holy Spirit is to guide the church by revealing the will of God the Father (John 16:13-15). Also, in John 10, Jesus describes himself as the Good Shepherd, guiding his sheep by his voice (verses 4, 16, and 27). We must be listening for the voice of the Good Shepherd.
Now when we say God desires to speak to us, we do not necessarily mean that God will speak to us in a miraculous way or in a voice that can be heard (though God is perfectly capable of this as well). Most often, God chooses to speak to a person’s heart. To their mind. To their sense of fairness and morality. God also speaks to us during times of prayer, though it is a diﬀerent kind of prayer than many of us are used to. For most of us, prayer involves presenting God with all the things that are on our mind: we pray for blessing, peace, and healing for our self and others. We often pour our hearts out to God, but rarely do we enter a prayer time of silence and mediation (often called a listening prayer) where we give God the opportunity to speak to us. There are usually two reasons for this: we don’t know how to pray in this way, or we allow distractions to derail this silence with God. The rest of this devotional is a guide to help you with listening prayer, and we pray that it will be a blessing to your walk with Jesus.
1) Meditation on Scripture
The practice of meditating on scripture (often referred to as Lectio Divina or divine reading) is one of the oldest prayer traditions of the church, dating back to the third century AD. This prayer exercise involves reading a small section of scripture, such as a verse or just a few words of a verse, and holding it in your mind, repeating the words over and over. The purpose of this reading is not to consider meaning or theology, but rather to allow the scripture to speak to you by the power of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 2:10-12). In the monastic tradition of Lectio Divina, there is a time of preparation followed by four steps:
Find a peaceful place, and calm your heart and mind. Take your time, relax, get comfortable, and breathe deeply. If it helps you, focus on the words of Psalm 46:10,
“Be still and know that I am God.”
1. Read – Examine the verse or words that you desire God to illuminate for you.
2. Meditate – Very slowly, repeat the words of the verse in your mind, and ponder them. Don’t try to analyze them, but rather wait for the Spirit to speak meaning into them.
3. Pray – Based upon what you feel God is telling you, respond to Him. Talk about what you feel, and ask for further guidance from the Spirit if needed. Be honest with God, for He knows our hearts regardless.
4. Contemplate – Silently turn your focus on God, and think about what He has shared with you. It may help you to concentrate on the incarnated form of God: Jesus Christ. Focus on the person of Jesus speaking to you, and re-enter the prayer phase as often as needed. If you ﬁnd you have lost your focus, take a moment to prepare again and then reenter the process. As you pray about your Second Stories contribution speciﬁcally, here are some scripture suggestions.
Hearing God’s voice – John 10:27-28, 16:13-15
God’s blessing to those who give – Malachi 3:10
Asking God for the desires of your heart – Luke 11:9-13
Commands to be generous – Proverbs 11:25, 2 Cor. 9:6-7, 1 Timothy 6:18
2) Keeping Your Focus, Keeping Notes
The biggest problem some people have with a listening prayer is keeping their focus. In periods of silence our minds tend to wander, especially if we are new to this type of prayer. One of the best ways to help with this problem is to keep notes while you pray. Use a notepad, your laptop or iPad, or some other way to write things down while you are in prayer. Oftentimes you will ﬁnd that making notes of your prayers will help maintain your focus on God and your responses to His promptings.
3) Don’t Rush, Leave Room for God
Many of us are tempted to try and ﬁll any silence with our words or thoughts. We honestly don’t know how to handle silence, and so we try to ﬁll it. But we are much more likely to hear God share His will with us if we don’t speak. Once again, focusing on God in the person of Jesus can help. Picture Jesus sitting next to you, and that you are speaking with an old friend. There may be moments of silence, but they are ok. Resist the temptation to ﬁll your prayer time solely with your words. It can be frustrating, but keep in mind that listening prayer is a discipline, and like other disciplines, it takes practice in order to get better. Don’t rush, and give the Spirit the chance to share God’s heart with you.
4) The Disciples of Abstinence- Silence, Solitude, Fasting
These three disciplines can be incredibly helpful in the improvement of our prayer life. They can make it easier for us to focus fully on God and therefore make it easier for us to hear Him speak. We consider these disciplines crucial to successful listening prayer, and therefore made our second prayer devotional on these important topics.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION:
1. Does this listening prayer make you nervous or hesitant? Do you fear what God might say to you? What might be generating this fear?
2. There is always sacriﬁce involved in learning a new discipline. Think of a time you tried to master something new (playing an instrument, learning a new language, or new craft), and examine the process of mastering it. What did you have to give up in order to gain this new skill? What might you have to do in order to master the discipline of prayer?
3. The New Testament tells us that Jesus often withdrew from the crowd in order to commune with God the Father (Mark 1:35, Luke 6:12-13 are but two examples). Why do you think it was so necessary for Jesus to speak to God?
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