Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Prayer and Listening to God

“I believe that prayer should be as much about listening to God as it is about talking to him.”

Listen to popular Christian radio, take a walk down the aisles of most Christian bookstores, or do a Google search on the topic and this is the sentiment and belief you're sure to hear. But is this really what the Bible teaches us to believe and to expect about prayer and about listening for God's voice? It's certainly what a large segment of the Church has come to expect. But believe it or not there was a day, not so long ago, that the claim that we are to listen for God's voice would have been soundly rejected. Why not these days? Has the church learned something new-- or have we forgotten something we used to know?

I believe that the latter is true. I'm not alone in saying so; the record of Church history, and (I believe) the Bible, and fortunately a growing number of people speaking on this issue today, agree. We're up against a battle in trying to shed light on and correct this wrong view, though. Popular teachers and speakers hold conferences and write books that promote just the sentiment quoted above. It's a difficult and emotional issue to talk to people about, because the effort to convince of a better way necessarily involves pointing out a bad, but very accepted, way.

But the Bible tells us, if we are willing to hear what it says, just what God wants his people to know about prayer and listening to God. What God's people believe about prayer and about how to hear God's voice is very important. What we believe about it will determine how, and why, we pray. We must gain the knowledge from God's word we need to discern whether popular authors and speakers are right in what they are claiming about listening for God's voice. We must determine if it's possible that the wool has been pulled over our eyes concerning this whole idea of hearing God's voice in prayer.

It's not a simple issue in our day and time. Much has been mistaught (as I'll provide examples to show in later posts). It takes a lot of words, and patience, to accurately convey what the Scriptures teach on this. As with all doctrine, the doctrine of prayer and of how God guides his people won't be grasped simplistically or overnight. But over the course of some upcoming blog posts, I'd like to offer some things for people to consider, chew on, go prayerfully to key Scriptures about. I hope you'll consider reading them and interacting with me, if you'd like, in the comments.

Next post, "A Definition of Prayer," something we may think we've had down pat, but could find surprising in some ways.

(This is Part 1 of a series of posts on Prayer and Listening to God. Click here for Part 2).

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