A Friendly Voice
And through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of the cross. (Colossians 1:20)
The Voice of God is a Friendly Voice. No one need to fear to listen unless he has already made up his mind to resist it. The blood of Jesus has covered not only the human race but all creation as well. We may safely preach a friendly Heaven. The heavens as well as the earth are filled with the good will of Him that dwelt in the. Sun. The perfect blood of atonement secures this forever.
Whoever will listen will hear the speaking Heaven. This is definitely not the hour when men take kindly to an exhortation to listen, for listening is not today a part of popular religion. We are at the opposite end of the pole from there. Religion has accepted the monstrous heresy that noise, size, activity and bluster make a man dear to God.
But we may take heart. God says, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10), as if He means to tell us that our strength and safety lie not in noise but in silence. It is important that we get still to wait on God. And it is best that we get alone, preferably with our Bible outspread before us. Then if we will, we may draw near to God and begin to hear Him speak in our hearts.
I think for the average person the progression will be something like this. First, a sound as of a Presence walking in the garden. Then a voice, more intelligible, but still far from clear. Then the happy moment when the Spirit begins to illuminate the Scriptures, an that which had been only a sound, or at best a voice, now becomes an intelligible word, warm, intimate and clear as the word of a dear friend. The. Will come life and light and best of all, ability to see and rest in and embrace Jesus Christ and Savior and Lord and All.
There are those moments when we are to speak. We are invited to come into the Presence with praise and worship. These are to be expressions of our hearts. Gratitude and thanksgiving, exaltation and awe-filled adoration are the gifts we bring before the Lord. The Lord’s Prayer opens with “Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name.”
We are given the privilege of making our requests known to God. Jesus invites us to “ask, seek, and knock,” so we make our specific requests before the Savior who already knows what we need before we ask. Again the Lord’s Prayer models this. We are instructed first to ask His will, then to ask for our daily provision and help. “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread…….Lead us not into temptation, it deliver us from evil.”
We ask for forgiveness and the ability to forgive and we conclude our asking by acknowledging that to God alone belongs the kingdom, the power and the glory.
When we have prayed through this model of prayer, even if we have done so using it as an outline of prayer, our time with God is not complete unless He has been given time to respond.
Conversation is always a two-way street so our conversation with God cannot be one-sided, us to Him. Often I hear people say that they never hear of have ever heard God speaking to them and while in our modern, busy world, the idea that God still speaks seems to be no longer accepted even by His church, it is not what the Bible teaches.
When I observe people in our world today, I find that more often than not we would rather be speaking than listening. As a matter of fact, quite often the person that is not speaking is also not listening. Many times we are already rehearsing what we will say when we get the chance to input into the meeting and so we do not really hear what the other person is saying. I remember being in a minister’s gathering some years ago. Five different denominations were represented in that meeting and the theological discussion became somewhat intense. As I listened to the two who were dominating the conversation, I began to observe that they both were saying literally the same thing with different phrases and descriptive words. What also became obvious was that neither was listening, they were focused on their defense of their point. Watching them I realized that God was teaching me something for I too, am quite often so focused on what I want to say that I don’t hear what others are saying.
In my training as a hospice chaplain, we were taught “active listening.” That is the art of really hearing what someone is saying without any attempt to correct or to direct their thoughts. What I’ve learned is that when you really listen, you come to know that person better for they will tell you deep things that will not surface in light conversation.
Now let’s apply this to our prayer life. Isn’t it amazing that God who is responsible for and over all creation is willing to take time to hear little old us, one of six billion people. The fact is not only does He hear us, He knows us and knows every detail about us. What a Listener. I tell people that it usually takes me a while to remember even their name, much less very much about them, but God immediately knows both our name and our need. And by the way that started even before we were born according to Jeremiah. So when you or I come to God in prayer, He doesn’t have to have an angel pull up our file, He recognizes our voice in the same way as a mom recognizes the voice of her child in a room filled with children.
Most of us must confess that we repeat ourselves when we pray. Day by day we pray the same prayers, bring the same needs and make the same requests, but God never tunes us out. He listens to the pleas of His children and He does really hear us. I think the reason we question whether God hears us is due to the fact that we listen often don’t hear. It’s kind of like when we make announcements at church. We can email them, print them in a bulletin, project them on the video screen and make a verbal announcement during service and there will always be those who will say, “Well I wasn’t told that!” 😳 Perhaps it could be that we were distracted or focused on other things and so we missed hearing. One thing is sure, God is never distracted or tired of us coming and talking to Him. I’m sure that He could repeat back to us verbatim our words.
But let’s look at the other side of the coin. What would you feel about a friend who called you and from the moment you said hello, they talked nonstop? Even more, what would you feel about your relationship with that friend who was asking for advice or help and before you got an opportunity to provide that, they hung up the phone? And then on top of that suppose you heard them say to another friend that they had called you and asked for your help, but you gave them none? I’m sure you would think, “Well if they had quit talking for a moment and not hung up the phone, I would have been glad to offer my advice and help, but I guess they were too busy to listen.”
I think that to some degree this is the same with us and God. We spend great amounts of time talking to God about our situation and asking His help and little or no time listening for His reply.
Some friends of mine and I have an arrangement when we get together. We have all recognized that we all like to talk so our arrangement is that when the person speaking pauses for a breath someone else jumps in the conversation. In order to have a say with this group you really have to be a little pushy and have no problem interrupting someone else. I think it’s challenging for us to listen to each other because we’re so busy thinking about what we want to say. To help us out we set limits on the time someone can speak and everybody gets a chance to speak before we are allowed to speak twice. While this works well for us it doesn’t work well with God. God is the perfect gentleman who will never interrupt us. He will stay silent while we speak. If we are to hear and Jesus tells us this is a problem with humans, we must wait in silence after we have spoken.
I truly believe God wants to answer our prayers. I realize that we can see His answer in results and for many this is how God speaks. We pray about something and it works out as we wish and we take that as God speaking. And that’s a wonderful thing when we see answered prayer visibly. What an incredible love and grace that answers our prayers this way.
But let’s visit for a moment our relationship between us and our friend. What if when they call us and we hear their need, we just decide to do something about that need. We have responded to their requests and I’m sure for them they feel blessed to have such a friend. But what about you? Wouldn’t you like the relationship to be more than you always being the one to listen and to respond? Wouldn’t you like to talk to this friend as well, perhaps teaching them so they aren’t always in need? Wouldn’t you like to give them advice and counsel so they would make wise decisions rather than you having to pick up the pieces after the poor decision? Wouldn’t you like to talk to them about yourself, your dreams and hopes and plans?
O beloved child of God, yes, God wishes to hear your voice and He also wishes you to hear His. So when you come before the Lord with your requests, do yourself a favor and also have a time of waiting silently in His presence for Him to speak. To hear God we must train ourselves to listen to His voice. Sometimes it will be that still small voice that speaks in the midst of the noise of the world. But what child does not also recognize the voice of their mom or dad even in a busy place with many voices speaking. O that the people of God would engage in conversation with the Father and would know His plans and desires. We can!
Dr. John Thompson