Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Be Quiet And Listen...

Dear Friends,

There was that one Sunday morning during my prayer time, that 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 had dinner with the night before. These are not their real names but we’ll call them Denise and Bob. You don’t know them but I have a suspicion that you may know a Denise – most of us have at some point in our lives. A top salesperson for a large nation-wide company, 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 at a restaurant 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 nonstop, 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 extroverted 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. I’d prayed for her salvation but as I thought about last night’s dinner, my thoughts about her were becoming far more critical than kind. I was feeling a sadness for Bob and thinking that because Denise’s only area of interest is her, just how dysfunctional and one-sided any relationship with her would be. I’m thinking that 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 acronyms like A.C.T.S. to remember “Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving & Supplication.” In many Evangelical churches, “prayer warriors” and intercessors are lifted up to a place of honor as we covet their articulate extemporaneous prayers. Many of us have been taught that the purpose of prayer is to ask for His help for us and for others, and we present our list of wants, needs, and special requests to God as if He were a cosmic vending machine at the ready to do our bidding. Churches publish prayer lists of people’s needs which can be helpful, but not if our prayer time is simply checking off the items on our list as we tell God what to do.

And yes, of course God wants to know the desires of our heart because He loves and cares for us. And our prayers of petition are efficacious. Remember James tells us, “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” James 5:16 NLT But it’s worth noting in the A.C.T.S prayer guide that adoration, confession and thanksgiving are the priorities that come before our supplications. 

And while many of us are good at praying, we’re not so good at listening. Churches often do a good job in teaching us how to speak to God in our prayers, but it’s a one-way conversation. And many of those same churches forbid, discourage, or mock those mystics among us who meditate on God’s word to hear His voice. And yet we read in the Gospels that Jesus often went to the mountaintops and withdrew to the quiet places to pray and then to hear from God. The prophet Samuel said, “speak God for your servant is listening” 1 Samuel 3:10 and Jesus often said to His disciples, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”  

Meditating on God’s word is to read scripture, or pray to Him and then just quietly sit still in His presence and open our ears. We may sense or hear that quiet still voice of God. We may feel His peace. We may be filled with a Holy Spirit given conviction. God has always desired a two-way conversation between Creator and His creation and He has things He wants you to hear. His life-changing words to me may also be His words to you.. “Be quiet and listen.”

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