God Speaks Through: Prayer
While you're having a conversation with God in prayer, do you ever stop to let Him talk? Find out some practical tips on how to listen for God in prayer.
Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
Thanks to Brian for filling in for our Worship Pastor Zach Foty today…who is leading hundreds of students in worship at Camp Shamineau as we speak
Zach will be back with us next week.
Let me start w/ a personal confession.
I simply do not have good hearing.
I was always the kid in elementary school when they did the hearing tests…you know the ones where you’re supposed to raise your hand when you hear the beep?
I was the kid who just sat there and said, “Have we started yet?”
It was always bad, but never bad enough that I had to get a hearing aid
And now…as I’ve gotten older (just turned 31 yesterday), it’s continued to get worse.
I probably should go get a hearing aid or something, but I’m too prideful or afraid I guess.
Poor hearing does have a few advantages though:
Like…if I’m on a missions trip and staying with other people…and someone’s snoring…I usually don’t hear them.
Or…like a few weeks from now…when there are two crying babies in my house…I can say to Lindsey, “Oh…I’m sorry… I just didn’t hear them crying last night.” J Just kidding.
Mostly though, there are just disadvantages to not hearing well.
Like, for instance: I misinterpret things.
Lindsey will say, “Hey, could you get me some orange juice?’
I’ll say, “Why would you want to me to get you orange goo??”
Or sometimes I plain just don’t even hear things.
And it obviously can even affect my relationships with people.
And poor hearing also can affect our relationship with God.
Because God’s always trying to speak to us.
And if we aren’t hearing…or not listening…or misinterpreting what He says…then we’re missing out on a lot.
This morning as we continue our “I Need a Sign” series I want to teach you how to better hear from God through your thoughts and prayers.
Because if anything is clear in reading the Bible, it’s that God speaks to his people:
He speaks to Adam and Eve, to Abraham, to the judges, kings, and prophets.
Jesus speaks to his disciples, God speaks to the early church Even in The Book of Revelation, God speaks to John to give His vision of the end times.
This is the narrative of the Bible: God speaks to His people!
Jesus says this about God speaking to you:
(John 14:26) – NIV
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.
The Holy Spirit, who is God, WILL speak to you in your life and teach you about God and his will.
WHY LISTEN IN PRAYER?
And one of the most common ways He’ll do that is through our thoughts. Particularly in prayer.
We’re covering the 3 most common ways God speaks to people in this series: Through other people, through prayer, and next week, through the Bible.
But interestingly enough…even though it’s unbelievably amazing to hear God speak through prayer…we rarely stop and listen for God while we pray.
It’s kind of odd actually.
It would be like…let’s say you were really interested in science, and you had a chance to meet a brilliant scientist.
Like, give me an example of a Brilliant Scientist?
(All I could think of was Bill Nye the Science Guy) – Science rules!
Let’s say you have 30 minutes to talk and learn from this (brilliant scientist) and all you did is talk…talk…talk…talk.
What a waste of time, right?!?
That brilliant scientist could give you such great input…and you wasted your time talking.
Well, the example is even greater when it comes to prayer.
God makes the greatest scientist look like a 1st grader struggling with their addition.
And yet…when we come to Him in prayer…we tend to do most of the talking.
And God wants to speak, but so often, we’re just simply not listening. We’re babbling on about our own stuff and our own agenda
(Jeremiah 6:10) – NIV
To whom can I speak and give warning? Who will listen to me? Their ears are closed so they cannot hear. The word of the Lord is offensive to them; they find no pleasure in it.
And part of the reason we don’t listen is because we don’t really want to hear what the Lord would say to us…as Jeremiah said to the people in His day.
Or maybe…we’re not listening because of a misunderstanding of the order in which prayer works.
Here’s what I mean:
I think too often we’re not listening for God in prayer because we’ve got this false idea that God is waiting for us to ask for help with OUR plans.
It’s like we have this idea of God sitting up in heaven, twiddling his thumbs, waiting for us to ask for help…sitting there thinking, “Ooo…I hope they need me.”
And then the phone rings, and it’s one of us saying, “God, I need you to turn all the lights green cuz I’m late for a job interview!” And He goes, “Ok…ok…something I can do…I can do that! Let’s get on it!”
But God functions much differently than that.
The reality is that God ALREADY has the plan. Not us. He is already at work.
And God doesn’t consult the servant before He begins the work.
Henry Blackaby wrote an amazing book on hearing from God called “Experiencing God.”
I highly recommend you read it. You can get it on Amazon for like $5-10, or as my mother who is a librarian would like me to say, you can check it out at your local library for free.
And Blackaby has some amazing and insightful illustrations on hearing from God:
For instance, he tells a story of when he once bought a blue Schwinn bike for his 6 year old son’s birthday because he got a good deal on it
He bought it and hid it in the garage
Then, he realized, he had a task: He had to convince his 6 year old son he wanted to blue Schwinn bike J
So they worked on it and worked on it: Showing him in an ad “Wow! What a bike!” They saw it in the store…”Look at this one!”
And pretty soon, his son, wanted a blue Schwinn bike.
And guess what he got for his birthday.
And God works like that when we pray.
When we pray, “The Holy Spirit already knows what God has in the garage”
He’s just leading us to it. To pray for it. To see it.
Prayer is designed more to adjust you to God than to adjust God to you.
In fact, God doesn’t technically need to be made aware of your prayers. He already knows.
Prayer is more about what God wants to do in and through your life during prayer. That’s why we pray.
And thus…listening in prayer is INCREDIBLY important!
Often when we first start out trying to hear from God, it starts with something simple like, “God, I NEED A SIGN!”
But what happens is…we have to develop a relationship with Him.
We as sheep, have got to hang around with the shepherd.
And when we hang around with Him we start to recognize His voice.
And the more we recognize his voice, the more we can discern His will
(Romans 12:2) – NIV
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
So the more time you spend w/ God, the more He’ll RENOVATE your mind, and the easier you can discern his voice, and thus His will!
IT TAKES TIME
In just a little bit, I want to talk about some real practical things you can do to starting hearing more from God in your prayer life…but it’s worth mentioning that it’s not something you just start doing with amazing results.
Like, say I catch MN Wild fever, and decide I want to pick up Hockey.
I’m not just going to go out on the ice and be amazing at skating and stick handling.
It’s going to take some time…A LOT of time!
“And so will the art of hearing from God in prayer.
Often, God may spend years…developing your heart and your relationship with him before He tells you something dramatic to do
So you’re probably not going to sit down and say, “Ok, God, speak to me,” and immediately hear, “Go and start a church in Mozambique!”
It takes time.
(Romans 10:17) – NIV
Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.
Faith comes through hearing.
We get faith initially through hearing about God, and our faith grows the more we hear about Him, and better yet, FROM Him.
It works like this…let’s say you’re pretty sure you hear in prayer that God wants you to encourage your friend today..
So when you see your friend at work, you say, “Hey…I don’t say this a lot, but I’m just really impressed with what you accomplish here.”
And they say back to you, “I just simply can’t tell you HOW MUCH I needed to hear that today!”
So you go home knowing, “Huh…I heard God…I obeyed…it was amazing!”
So the next time…when God tells you something else…I can guarantee you it will be both EASIER to identify his voice AND easier to obey.
The more you hear, the more your faith will be built, and the easier it will become.
But that’ll take time.
HOW DO YOU ACTUALLY DO IT?
Ok…so what do you actually do to hear God more in prayer?
The number one thing you can do is make the decision that you’re going to take time to LISTEN for God every time you pray.
If you pray for 5 minutes a day, take 1 minute of that to listen.
Make a plan where you will listen every day.
And remember…it probably won’t come easy at first.
But most good things don’t.
But it’s making a plan to listen…
And when you make time to listen…just listen.
This isn’t eastern meditation. You don’t need to “clear your mind” and concentrate on nothing. Just listen.
But what will it sound like? Will it be an audible voice?
I suppose it could be. God can do that. It hasn’t happened in my life…and I know only a handful of people where it has happened…but it certainly can.
Usually…God just speaks to us through our own thoughts.
And, honestly, most of the time…it’s pretty simple stuff.
I think we have this misconception about God speaking, that every time He speaks it’s something earth shattering like, “MARRY THIS PERSON!” or “SPEAK THE FOLLOWING PARAGAPH TO YOUR FRIEND JIMMY!”
Most of the time…God says things like, “I love you. You’re forgiven. I’m faithful. Don’t worry. I will provide.”
It’s relational stuff.
And as we begin to get used to identifying that voice…often His words will come even when you’re not praying.
For instance, a few weeks ago, I had a rough day. Honestly, I felt like I did a terrible job of living for God that day (don’t worry I wasn’t doing drugs or anything…just being a normal, average, sinful human)
But the next morning, when I woke up, I woke up with this song in my head, loud and clear: And the lyrics went “There’s no more guilt. Hello new mercies. Hello every morning. And every day I live, is another day, I know that I’ve been forgiven.”
In that moment, I absolutely believe that God was speaking to me through my thoughts.
And sometimes God will do that.
For instance, you might just be driving in your car…and you can hear Him speak “Trust me” to you.
Again…the more you hang out w/ the shepherd…the more you listen…the easier this will become.
Or you could just be walking along, and maybe a completely random person will pop into your thoughts
Now…that could be completely random…but often I believe that’s God prompting us to pray for people.
Whenever a random person pops in my head…I always pray for them.
If it was random…and that’s not why they were in my head, what harm is there in praying for them anyway?
But what if you are trying to get a specific answer from God?
Again, not trying to get him to bend to your will, but your sincerely trying to find out of if this is His will? You’re trying to find out what’s in the “Holy’s Spirit’s Garage?”
What do you do?
Often, serious matters require you to take serious the discipline of listening.
It might take repeated listening every day for quite some time.
And at times…it might even take an extended period of listening.
If you’re looking for God’s plan for a key event in your life…I always recommend that you take a longer period of time to listen for Him.
In my life, this happened when I was trying to figure out whether to plant Renovation or not.
Do I just stay as a youth pastor at a large church where my salary is guaranteed and there isn’t a lot of risk?
Or do I risk it all and go try and start a church from scratch?
So I went on a prayer retreat for a few days.
To have an extended time to listen for God.
And on that retreat…after I had been there for quite sometime…I was just thinking through whether I should do it or not.
And I vividly remember thinking, “God, I want to do as much as I possibly can to change this world for you, but I don’t want to do something that’s not there.”
And then all of a sudden I had this thought, “But it is right there! Two other pastors have just approached me saying they want to coach me, and give me finances and people to help start a church!”
And in that thought…I clearly felt God speaking through me…through my thoughts.
It wasn’t even in the silence.
I wasn’t on my knees. I wasn’t fasting.
I was just in a period where I was listening…and saying, “God speak to me
And He did.
And If you’ve got something in your life where you just really need to find God’s will, I can’t encourage you enough to go on a Prayer Retreat
At Renovation, we highly recommend a prayer retreat place called “Wilderness Fellowship” about 90 minutes away in Wisconsin.
(SHOW PRAYER CABIN PICTURE)
I’ll even show you a 50 second video tour of one of their cabins I made the last time I was there
(Show Cabin Tour) – ON MUTE
For only $45 a night (and you can go for as long as you want…even just 1 night)…you get your own prayer cabin
The cabins are super nice, they’re heated (or AC in the summer), and even have a fridge & microwave.
The grounds are on a lake, have TONS of trails to walk and pray, and it’s a really quiet place to get alone w/ God.
HIGHLY recommend it!
We have brochures in hallway!
I think that the discipline of just stopping to listen in prayer is perhaps the most important…but there are plenty of other ways God can speak to you while you pray as well
One of the best ways is journaling your prayers.
Perhaps it’s just simply the delay that happens while we write…and in that moment…we are thinking
But God often speaks to His people when they write.
If you’ve never tried journaling your thoughts and prayers. Try it.
It’s also a great place to record what you think God is saying to you.
Prayer walks are another great way to listen.
Which in January, you probably have to do on a Treadmill J
But they give us an opportunity to pray…and often in the moments when we’re just walking…we’re silent…and God will speak.
I find that happens when I pray and drive a lot too.
Maybe it’s because we don’t tend to be “forcing it” as much when we tend to normally pray
Another really great way to listen for God is while you worship to music.
And again, all of these things are great ways of simply just turning up our spiritual-hearing-aid, and turning down the volume of the world and asking God to speak.
In 2 Kings chapter 3, the Prophet Elisha even requests a harpist come and play, so he can better hear the World of the Lord
There’s just something about worship music…
It gets us in a place where our hearts are focused on God. And in a place where we are ready to listen.
In fact, when we get back into worship this morning, I want you to do something:
Instead of just singing to God…I want you to spend at minium, at least one of the songs…NOT singing.
This is a great discipline to learn for a Sunday morning.
Instead of singing…try and listen.
Just pray, “God…speak to me while I read these words. While I think of you”
And let’s see what God will do
But…again…just like we’ve asked every week…if you hear these thoughts, how do you really know it’s GOD?!?
“Just like we said last week…we always have to see if what you think God said lines up with the other ways God often speaks.
So…do other people see it too?
So for instance, if I feel God putting something on my heart for the direction our church should go…I ALWAYS talk to other people about it.
I don’t want to assume that I alone have access to God’s will for our church.
That’s just stupid.
And we also confirm it with Scripture…which we will cover next week.
Henry Blackaby tells the story of the Canadian Mounties that train people in anti-counterfeiting work…the art of identifying fake currency.
And interestingly enough, in their training, they never let the trainees see a counterfeit bill. They only thoroughly study the real bill, so that if they see a fake one, they will absolutely know it’s counterfeit.
Because you simply can’t imagine all the ways people can make counterfeit money.
But you can study the truth.
Which is why you growing not only in your relationship with God, but you growing in your knowledge of God’s word is also critical to you being able to hear and IDENTIFY God…even in Prayer.
So start listening for God.
Make a point to listen for Him each day this week.
Whether that be to just take a minute out of your prayer time, to journal, or to do it in worship on your commute or whatever
And be encouraged…that even if you’ve never heard from God in your life…that He wants to speak to you even more than you want to hear from Him.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
You may use this material all you like! We only ask that you do not charge a fee and that you quote the source and not say it is your own.