Thursday, 13 March 2014

LISTEN UP!

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Alright, so last time we established the fact that God needs to have a say in our prayers once in a while, right? Right. But I can almost hear you whine, “Yeah, this all sounds like a mighty fine idea. But how will I even hear God speak to me?”  Well, I understand your plight which is why being the thoughtful genius that I am (I permit you to roll your eyes), I decided to write on it.

 Believe God is NOT a snob   
    
 The question of listening to God’s voice is an issue which most of us feel is for just “men of God” and “prophets” but the first step in listening to God is believing that God can and will speak to you. He is not a snob who gives "ordinary" people the silent treatment but is ever ready to chatter with more "spiritual" people. He deals everyone an equal hand. God is more willing to speak to us than we are to listen. He is not one to be biased. The same God who spoke to Moses, Apostle Paul and others still speaks to great men of God and even “everyday” people like you and me. Like Jesus said in John 10:27, My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me”.  But listening to God is an art that needs to be consciously and purposefully cultivated.

Make an appointment 

One of the sure-fire places to listen for the voice of God is during quiet time. What some of us may refer to as devotional time. But, whichever side of the coin you choose, it still speaks of a time set aside to pray and study the Bible. Well, you see the predominant word here is ‘quiet’.  But due to a general understanding that this time is only when we are away from people and the environment is quiet, we have at best misconceived the whole idea placing more emphasis on the environment than the person. True, the environment should be considered but God is more interested in you. Choose a convenient time, most people prefer mornings but it’s not a hard-and-fast rule although it does seem more plausible. You may also want to decide on how long you stay…thirty minutes? An hour?

Just be quiet

You may be thinking, “Now what? I should just sit down and keep quiet?” Well, actually yes. And not just that but be still; in mind and in body. There are times when I pray and my hyperactive, super imaginative mind could be going over what I needed to do for the day, what someone had said to hurt me the previous day…or just plain spinning imaginations that I can categorically tell you had nothing to do with the matter at hand. Most of us are like that. Our minds are too busy, we’re always on the move, we have little patience for “idleness”. Why can’t we just still our hearts? 
The lures of free imaginations, ghostly whispers of our subconscious, calls of personal ambition and vanity, grumblings of unfinished projects, murmurs of misguided relationships, echoes of leftover pasts and enticing voices of the world fill our mind. Our thoughts are chaotic, we’re easily distracted…the noise in our minds far exceed the blaring horn across the street or the annoying hums of a neighbour’s generator. How do we expect to hear God above all that racket in our hearts? And each time God wants to speak to us, he has to yell over all that noise but we can’t listen because we cannot disentangle his voice from the web of commotion. In hearing God we have to still our hearts and not just our mouths or environment because God will NOT speak to us physically but through our spirits. This takes practice and discipline. It takes time.

Wait and listen

 After we’ve successfully stilled our hearts, the next thing is recognizing God’s voice. Most people wonder, “What does God’s voice sound like? A thunder roll? A deep, echoing voice? A small whisper?” Actually, there is no particular ‘voice’. God speaks to different people in different ways; to some it could be a small whisper, to others a strong impression, to some a feeling of God thinking through them. The trick is discovering how God speaks to YOU personally. And that also takes practice and perseverance, lots of it. I will climb my watchtower and wait to see what the Lord will tell me to say and what answer he will give to my complaint” (Habakkuk 32:1, GNB).
Like little Samuel in the Bible (1 Samuel 3:1-10), we may have to make several trips back to God’s presence after fruitless efforts but in the end we will be able to say, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening” because we have successfully filtered God’s voice from all else.

The Word

I cannot overstate how important the Bible is in hearing God. It is in fact the main instrument. God will not speak to us outside His word. But we are not to only read the word but to also meditate on it. It is in meditation that the words become life in us through the Holy Spirit. When this has happened, it becomes easier to recognize when God is speaking and  what He is saying.

Write it down

It is also very important to have a pen and paper when you’re listening to God…that way God knows you mean business! And when he speaks, you can write it down for later reference. “Then the Lord replied: “Write the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that whoever reads it may run with it…” (Habakkuk 2:2, NIV).

So, you’ve heard God’s side of the story? Alright, now talk!

Prayer: Lord, I thank you because You are more willing to speak to me than I am to listen. Lord, I ask for the grace and discipline to still my heart and hear you when you speak. This I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Aurevoir!


Tuesday, 11 March 2014

KEEP QUIET!

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I was getting really irritated. I was getting bored and I certainly wished I was somewhere else. Ayo had been keeping at it for several minutes now. Both of us were talking about something I’m not even sure had any bearing or moral lesson. Or maybe I should rephrase – he was doing the talking, a one-man conversation better called a monologue. And each time I tried to say something; he would either cut me off or just continue his tirade like my opinion was not called for and I didn’t even exist. I’ve had several experiences like this and it irritates me to no measure.

But even as I huff and puff at this breach in classical communication, there is a realization that dawns on me that there is a lot of this going on in the Christian body, an alteration in what ought to be but is not – Prayer.

 I’m quite sure that if I asked people what they understood by the term ‘’prayer,’’ I will probably be getting something along the lines of; “Communication between man and God,” from nothing less than 50% of them and rightly so. But there is a problem, not in the definition but in the understanding of what it is.

As a communication student, I’ve had my ears full on what communication really means. One of the classical definitions I’ve heard over and over is; “Communication is the exchange of information, ideas, thoughts, feelings etc between two or more people with the receiver(s) having a clear understanding of the message and then giving a feedback.” I won’t bore you with the details and technicalities of it but communication is not complete without feedback. Almost everyone will agree with this definition that if one doesn’t get a feedback, then communication hasn’t taken place; at least not effectively. So why do we find it hard to apply this to God also?

Several times I’ve heard it stressed that prayer is very important in growing spiritually and each time I picture it in my mind, I can imagine God sitting up there and little me down here talking, talking, talking and God listening patiently, it never occurred to me how very inappropriate that picture was. The absurdity of this kind of communication dawned on me fully when I was discussing with a friend of mine and he was talking about how he wasn’t really “big” on prayers and how his prayers entailed him drafting a long list of all he wanted to pray about, then reading them back to God and there the prayer ended. I thought it was really funny and you may think that it’s really ridiculous but that is what most of us do, we give God this long list (maybe not a paper list) of what He should do for us, stay for few minutes; talk, talk and talk! And think we have prayed. What happened to communication? What happened to fellowship? (Which is even the main reason why we were created), what happened to listening?

Little Samuel was born of a covenant and as such, at a tender age, given to the work of God and lived in the temple with the Priest – Eli and his naughty sons. From 1 Samuel 3, we see how God called Samuel to be a Prophet and gave him a message about Eli. Before this happened, there was an antecedent. In verse 3, the Bible talks about Samuel lying down in the temple/tabernacle of the Lord and whenever tabernacle is mentioned, it speaks of God’s presence. So, Samuel was in God’s presence and then suddenly God calls him. This just tells us that for us to hear God we need to be in His presence and this is in the place of prayer (fellowship).

Although Samuel did not immediately recognise God’s voice, through persistent search he got it. If he had probably laid there on his bed after the first or second time and just assumed it was someone playing tricks (probably one of Eli’s notorious kids), he wouldn’t have gotten the revelation he did. So, in listening to God persistence is very important.

One very important thing that’s very striking was the fact that throughout the whole conversation Samuel was silent after he said “Speak, for your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:10). This lad was probably terrified and must have also been very excited about the fact that The Almighty was talking to him, especially at a time when “the Word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions.” (1 Samuel 3:1). I’m sure he had a thousand things to ask God for, I certainly would have! But instead he just lay there silently as God spoke. What an attitude!

There are times when we as Christians are not to talk to God or do anything but listen. Times when we put all our thoughts, petitions, even intercessions (as self-sacrificing as that is) aside and just listen to what God has to say, reading and meditating on the word and times when we should just ‘’be still” and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10), this also speaks of worship, not in singing or eulogies but as The Message says: ‘’Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God....”  (Psalms 46:10)

It speaks of devotion, of taking “long, loving looks,” of still hearts and silent lips – “Quiet down before God, be prayerful before Him...” (Psalms 37:7 – the Message), of “fixing our eyes on Jesus” (Hebrews 12:2). Therefore, let us stop boring Him with our monologues and diatribes, keep quiet and allow God speak!


Sidenote: I know I've been MIA for some time. How long now? A month? I apologize. Lately, I've had this crazy deluge of work thrown at me and it's been kinda hard to keep up with the tangled world that is blogosphere. Please, bear with me. I still need a bit more practice at this. Pleeaase, have mercy! Pleeaase? Pretty pleeeaase? Sooo...am I forgiven?  *most whining smile*. Oh, thank you! You're a darling!

Oh well, see you some other time then. Let's just hope "another time" wouldn't have that much apology attached to it. That was really draining. Alrighty, toodles!

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