Prayer is two-way
communication. God wants to speak to us when we meet with him in prayer. His desire to
speak to us is far greater than our desire to hear from him. He is not going to make it
difficult. Often God makes it too simple, and we can miss what he is saying to us because
we are seeking the wrong thing - an obviously supernatural voice - audible, and preferably
from a six foot angel dressed in white, so that there is not the slightest doubt that it
is God speaking to us! We should take comfort from Samuel, who took three attempts before
he was able to recognise God's voice speaking to him. ()
Remember that God wants us to listen to him. In Proverbs we
read "Blessed is the man who listens to
me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway. For whoever finds me finds life and
receives favour from the Lord."
(Proverbs 8:34) and Jesus said "My
sheep listen to my voice." (John
God speaks to us in many ways. Here are some
of them :
- Through the Bible. The Bible is God's
living word. We should not be surprised that when we read a passage there is something in
it which jumps out at us, that is particularly relevant to our situation. Particular
verses come into our minds as we pray, and God will use some of them to speak to us.
Hebrews 4:12 reminds us that "the word
of God is living and active" and
"sharper than any double edged sword." Clearly we need to be reading the bible regularly if
God is to use it to speak to us.
- Through Others God can use others in
unremarkable ways such that they themselves are often unaware that they are being used. We
can recognise significance in their words or actions, or in their timing. A series of
coincidences becomes God-incidences!
- To us in our hearts. When God speaks to us as
we pray it can be similar to the "voice" of our conscience. Over time we come to
recognise God speaking in our thoughts and placing things onto our minds. This will take
practice, and there will be times when you are unsure whether it is God or your own
- Through words and pictures. Through the Holy
Spirit, God can give us certain pictures, visions or words. We may understand the meaning
of these immediately, or they may require sharing with others, so that someone else can
explain them to us, or God may reveal it to us over time.
Sometimes when we pray God can be silent - we can
listen yet hear nothing. At these times it may be up to us to respond to what he has
already spoken to us by putting it into practice in our lives. However, we should
test things that we believe have come from God. I Thessalonians 5:19 says "Do not put out the Spirit's fire; do not treat prophecies
with contempt. Test everything."
Whilst we should believe that the word of God is active today, and that God wants
to communicate with us, it is only wise to check out what we believe God may be saying to
us. These words don't carry the same weight of scripture, and do need to be weighed
carefully. Otherwise we run the risk of believing something is from God, waiting for him
to fulfil it, and being disappointed when that doesn't happen, and feeling let down by
God. Whilst the principal test is whether something is in line with scripture, God will
not give us any words which are not in line with the Bible, His Word; it is also useful to
share the message with other mature Christians for their reflection and discernment.