Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Shut Up and Listen

Dear Friends,

A couple of Sundays ago, during my morning prayer time, God told me to “shut up.” Of course He said it nicer than that. I’d been praying and thinking about a couple that we’ll call Denise and Bob. You don’t know them but I have a suspicion that you may know a “Denise” – most of have at some point in our lives. Denise is a dear lady but talks non-stop and dominates and controls every conversation. If you were ever so bold as to try and interject a comment to join the conversation, she will simply raise her voice over your unauthorized attempt to interrupt her monologue.

We had joined them for dinner one night and the two main topics on her agenda were her recent trip to Germany and her attempts to learn the German language. No detail, no matter how insignificant, was deemed too trivial for our entertainment. She has the amazing gift of being able to actually talk while eating and when I say she talks non-stop, I mean that literally. At one point, she had finished talking about her vacation and asked me a question about the church. But before I could reply, she immediately switched her gaze back to Rhianna to clearly signal to me that she was not interested in my response. I had the audacity to answer anyway and gave her a ten second sound bite which judging by the expression on her face was twice as long as was warranted. She didn’t acknowledge that I had spoken but immediately switched the conversation to the remodel of their Big Bear cabin. I glanced at Bob as he thoughtfully chewed his burrito. He had mentally checked out more than an hour ago and seemed to be happy and content in his non-speaking, support role of husband to his celebrity wife. Dinner was over but we were now hearing about her adventure at the paint store while selecting colors for the new cabinets and Denise didn’t seem to be in any danger of losing her momentum. I signaled to the waiter for more chips...

Back to Sunday morning when I’d prayed for her salvation but now my thoughts about her were becoming more critical than kind. I was feeling a sadness for Bob and thinking that because her only area of interest is her, just how dysfunctional and one-sided any relationship with her would be. I’m thinking the biggest bore has to be the thoughtless, selfish person who can talk at you for an hour and a half non-stop without a shred of interest in what you have to say... 

And at that exact moment the quiet still voice of God interrupted and said: “That’s how you pray to me.” And, that was when He told me to “shut up.” Actually His exact words to me were: “Be quiet and listen..” 

The church often does an outstanding job at teaching us how to pray. We’re given prayer guides and words like A.C.T.S. to remember “Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving & Supplication.” Prayer warriors and intercessors are lifted up to a place of honor as we covet their articulate extemporaneous prayers while we are far less comfortable with the quiet mystics among us who meditate on God’s word to hear His voice. 

And in America the “doctrine of prosperity” has leaked into and polluted our traditional theology and given rise to our practice of presenting our list of wants, special requests and demands to God as if He were a cosmic vending machine at the ready to do our bidding. 

The prophet Samuel said, “speak God for your servant is listening” and too often we seem to be saying, “Be quiet God, for your servant is speaking.” But God has always desired a two-way conversation between Creator and His creation and He has things He wants you to hear. Let’s just be quiet for awhile and listen.  Amen?