Updated: Sep 23, 2020
The voice of God is wild and wonderful, terrible and quiet.
As a child, I spent many hours praying for God to heal me.
My eyesight was terrible. When I got glasses, I couldn't believe how crisp and clear everything was. I'd learned to adapt and didn't know it was a problem until one day in class when the teacher required me to read something off the chalkboard at school. I stood up and stepped forward to read it, but she told me I was supposed to stay in my seat. When I responded that I couldn't read the board if I stayed in my seat, she accused me of trying to get attention. She finally sent me to the school nurse, who let my parents know that I was badly in need of a visit the eye doctor because I couldn't even read the large E at the top of the eye chart. Whoops.
Every year when I went back to the eye doctor, my vision had worsened significantly. I was terrified that one day I'd be told that there was nothing more they could do. I'd lay awake in bed at night, silently praying for a miracle, closing my eyes, then opening them expectantly to find that the room was still very blurry.
Has there ever been anything as powerful as the faith of a child to believe that God will heal her? I believed with all my heart, but my eyes continued to get worse.
Then an older girl from church told me one day that God wants us to pray to Him out loud. Silent prayers are weak. She said that people often thought she was weird as she walked around school praying aloud. She had a convincing argument for it, so I figured that God hadn't answered me because I hadn't been praying out loud. I tried that, but God didn't answer those prayers either, so I stopped for awhile.
Eventually I figured out that if we're to "pray without ceasing" (I Thessalonians 5:17), I'd probably have to pray silently now and then. Spoken prayers are for the benefit of those around us - like before meals or in a worship service. God isn't hindered by human limitations. He created our minds and He can certainly understand our silent prayers. So once and for all, I told God that I believed He could heal my eyes and I wanted Him to, but I wasn't going to keep begging.
As a young adult, I had LASIK eye surgery and the result was 20/20 vision. It was a method of healing that worked for me! However, after a couple years, they began to change and today I am dependent upon glasses again. Then, I made a friend who told me that God had healed her vision when she was a child! It appears to me that God isn't nearly as disturbed about my blurry vision as I am, so I asked Him what the purpose of my poor eyesight is.
His answer came clearly, "My grace is sufficient for you. My strength is made perfect in your weakness."
I've stopped praying for God to heal my eyesight. I can accept that God is working through my weakness, and if He ever perfects my vision, I'll be incredibly grateful. But I can handle glasses, and I can be very thankful that doctors are able to correct my vision well enough to drive and work at a computer all day.
In these stories today, I've introduced you to silent prayer, spoken prayer, and listening prayer.
All three of them are important for a growing relationship with God. We can have a near-constant conversation with God going on in our minds as we pray for small things that concern us throughout the day, thank God for His blessings, and ask for strength, wisdom, and grace to handle ourselves well. We can speak these prayers aloud, or we can whisper them in our hearts.
When we stop for long enough to listen for His answer, those are listening prayers. I've found that often, if I'll quiet my mind for long enough to listen, God speaks very clearly. When He doesn't, I need to go back to the last thing He said to me.
The thing with listening prayers is that we often have a hard time simply quieting our minds. We have places to go, people to see, things to do, and the constant background noise can be deafening. When I want to listen for God's voice, I turn off all the noise and get alone. Sometimes I hear His voice the clearest on a long drive or in the shower. I don't have a "prayer closet" and I don't do well for long on my grumpy knees. But quieting my mind through activities that are second-nature and calming works well for me.
It can be hard to know for sure that the voice we hear is the Lord's or if we're hearing what we want to hear, but
God's voice is nothing like our own.
The things He says to me are often nothing I could ever come up with on my own. It also must line up with Scripture. If it's in blatant contrast to clearly defined laws of God, it's not of him. Period. For example, if what you hear when you listen for God's voice is to steal someone else's husband, that isn't God, sister. It might be a good time to do a media fast...
Sometimes the thing we hear when we listen doesn't violate Scripture, but is something we're hoping God will say to us. When I was single, I thought I heard God tell me that a particular man was the one for me, and I was wrong. He appeared to be godly and everything I wanted, so the idea was exciting to me. For that reason, I refused to act on it. I kept to myself and prayed. It turned out that the man had a seducing spirit and several vulnerable young women were deeply wounded by his outrageous disregard for their honor. It took the prevailing prayers of some of the godliest women I know to lay hands on me and pray for God to release me from that lie before I could let it go.
Some listening prayers require action. If God tells you that it's time for you to wait, then you wait. If He tells you to take action, then you take action. You can trust that if you're doing the wrong thing with the right motives, God will redirect you, just like He redirected me.
As we get to know God better and grow in our maturity, we will no longer have to present every decision or opportunity to the Lord in prayer. We will know the heart of God so well that when opportunities or decisions come our way, we can move forward with confidence (or back away).
Isn't that what it's all about: getting to know God on a deeply personal level so that we walk in step with Him?
I'll write more about fasting, prevailing prayers, laying on of hands, and spiritual warfare later. For this week, I hope you understand that God loves it when you pray - silently, speaking out loud, or listening. (He may be especially partial to listening.) For all the prayers I've prayed that He hasn't answered the way I wanted Him to, He has answered many more. When He doesn't answer in the way I ask, I'm learning to trust that His heart is kind and He sees me waiting for Him.
My sister, God sees you.
God understands what you're going through - even better than you understand it yourself. His heart longs to be aligned with yours and He will do whatever it takes to help you in the best way for eternity. That may not feel good in the present, but our holy God is also full of deep love and compassion for us. Give God a chance. Ask Him to speak to you and quiet yourself for long enough to really listen.
I'd love to know what wildly wonderful thing He has to say to you.
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For further reading on this topic, here are some verses to get you started:
In Jeremiah 33:3 The Lord told Jeremiah to tell His people: Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.
John 10:4 says that the sheep (that’s us) follow the Shepherd (that’s God/Jesus) because we know His voice.
John 14:26 says, "But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you."