Personal Handpicked Provision

  • 13 September 2017
  • MinistryLift blogger

Many of us search for ways to better hear the voice of God's Spirit in our lives. It's no different if you are an experienced leader or a stay-at-home mom. That's been my experience as I look over the landscape of my prayer life as an experienced leader and as a stay-at-home mom. Recently I had opportunity to lead my daughter in hearing the counsel of God's Spirit. This is her story, my distraction, and our Father's faithful provision for both of us. 

It was Monday morning and my 12-year-old daughter awoke in tears. We had lots of Monday mornings all summer but this one was different. This was the Monday before the Friday she was scheduled to have surgery. Neither of us wanted this to happen, but the closer Friday came the sharper in focus was this reality. Those Monday morning tears now make perfect sense to me. 

I wanted to comfort her, but I felt my skills and resources were too limited. I wanted to whisk her away from all the turmoil maybe even more than she wanted to be delivered from the pending surgery. I knew this was a perfectly shaped set of circumstances for God's Spirit to speak to her in ways that only He knew how.

We took time to remind ourselves of some very important truths—Jesus is always with us, the Holy Spirit is our comfort and our counsel, and how wonderfully loved we are by our Heavenly Father. I didn't recognize it at the time, but these truths were for me too. From there I invited her to share her heart with Jesus—her fears, her disappointments, her questions—and invite Him to speak to her as she listened. This is what many call listening prayer. Whatever the label, I knew my daughter needed to hear for herself the words of life that only He authors.

We often do this listening and sharing on the "outside"—talking and responding to one another as we discern the Spirit's presence and counsel and then process the message together. Today, she would listen on the “inside”—just her and Jesus. This is a double-edged discipline for me. On the one hand, I'm free to patiently wait for the results of my daughter's listening. But on the other hand, I have no opportunity to be tracking the twists and turns. This was a faith exercise as much for me at it was for her.

Her inside listening lasted a long time. Longer than I was comfortable with. I thought maybe she had fallen back to sleep. But she was listening and God's Spirit was speaking. Finally, she shared with me. Mom, I have a thought. The nurse who was supposed to be in the ward to check me in won't be available and then (our good friend who is a nurse) would be there!

Listening for God's Voice

  • 1 September 2017
  • MinistryLift blogger

From Genesis to Revelation, God our Creator is revealed as One who is interested in relationship with people. One early example of this is the relationship between Moses and Yahweh. We read in Exodus that God and Moses spoke as friends—face to face. Some call it intimacy with God, friendship, or communion. Part of this intimate relationship between God and people is the experience of hearing God's voice. The Bible is filled with examples of how people hear God. Variety as to how they hear abounds. Some have dreams; others have visions; some hear God at work in the circumstances of their lives; some are prompted by the Spirit in their hearts; others experience God in and through creation in alignment with what the Scriptures say in Psalm 19—the heavens declare the glory of God.

When my wife Evy and I wrote Your Ears Will Hear we were increasingly aware of how people around the world were hearing God in similar ways. The same common ways that are found in Scripture continue to be ways people are hearing God today. We identified five common ways, but there might be a hundred and five. We’re not trying to be exhaustive, but we are finding it helpful to bring these five to people's attention as they journey with God: 

  1. Listening to God through Scripture
  2. Listening to God at work around us in the circumstances of our lives
  3. Listening to God through our hearts
  4. Listening to God in silence and solitude (like Jesus did) out in nature
  5. Listening to God in community (God speaks to people through people)

The Scriptures describe—in one story after another—how people are guided by God. Whether it is "the counsel of the Lord" or "the word of the Lord" or "a gentle whisper" or "a voice" or other ways, God is communicating and He's given people "ears to hear". Promises abound throughout Scripture encouraging all believers of all ages to believe their ears will hear the voice of the Good Shepherd.

How does God speak to you? Are there common ways you have experienced God speaking to you over time? I’d love to hear from you (click here to contact me). 

Simple Prayer

  • 3 August 2016
  • Keith Reed

Do your silent prayers sometimes get ambushed by your overloaded brain? For instance, as you pray for your friend, you think of his smile and it reminds you of how happy he looks when his mouth of full of his favourite candy. The image makes you think of the sweet taste of sugar and suddenly your mouth is watering and you begin to think about what you should have for dinner. Then you remember that you’re not meal planning, but praying! You’re only four seconds removed from an earnest prayer, but now you feel frustrated—maybe even embarrassed—that you can’t stay focused while you talk with God. 

It happens to me too. 

I’ve heard (and tried) different ways to keep prayer distractions at a minimum. You can pray out loud or write down your requests instead of composing them in your head. You can make a note of everything that comes to your mind and then take care of these things at a later time. These strategies work just fine, but they don’t always relieve me from the negative feelings that discourage me when I’m interrupted by the endless sea of my thoughts. Having my prayers intercepted by a distraction can make me feel like I’m failing or that my faith is too weak because I can’t stay focused. I want to give up because of the gap between what I’m thinking about and what I ought to be thinking about. 

John Ortberg suggests that this gap can be removed through a practice called simple prayer. In simple prayer, I pray about what’s really on my mind, not what I wish was on my mind. Ortberg's motive for praying this way is based on the conviction that nothing kills prayer faster than pretending to be more noble than we really are. 

The answer then, is presenting ourselves to God as we truly are and embracing the distractions as they enter our minds. This means that instead of responding to my errant thoughts with regret, I can attend to them with a prayer. Every person deals with their share of distractions. Instead of wishing them away, we’d be wise to present them to God. 

Choosing to pray in this responsive way will put you in good company. Consider these words from a number of spiritual guides: