Have you heard God speak? I mean really speak loudly right at you.
This week, we continue with our series on the power of prayer. Last week, Pastor Terry reminded us that our prayers need to be a two-way conversation, i.e., not only are we talking to God, but we’re talking with Him and leaving room to hear what He has to say.
Ever since becoming a believer, there have been times I thought at best I was only hearing God whisper. And, other times, I was running into God “sightings”, God “messages”, everywhere I turned. These are the times, I say God is really loud …and sometimes has a bit of a tone! In the most random places and most random circumstances, God would yell at me. Ok – maybe not yell, but you know that tone of voice that sounds like yelling but is really just a tone and the decibel count doesn’t actually go up? Yeah, that’s the one.
Do you hear His voice? Do you hear Him guiding you, coaxing you, helping you find your path?
Yeah me neither. At least, I don’t actually hear His voice, though that would be cool – also incredibly terrifying! I don’t see burning bushes, snakes crawling or angels descending. It’s more a knowing. A knowing that this message is for me. An awareness when I see or hear a scripture, or story, or circumstance over and over in a 4-5 day span – then, “ah got it! – this one’s for me.” It’s like being in church and thinking, wow the pastor is speaking directly to me! That’s God.
From the age of 12 to the age of 30, the Word of God is silent about the life of Jesus. All we know is that He grew into manhood as the son of Mary and Joseph. Around the age of 30, as Jesus began His public ministry, He went to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. As He came up from the water, the voice of God was heard, “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.”
If you listen, really listen, you can hear His Will for your life. Maybe it’s a whisper or maybe it’s a shout but it’s there. Do you hear His voice? Every day, each and every day He says to you, “You are my beloved son or daughter, in whom I am well pleased.” He may not always like what you are doing or what you have done, but He loves you.
I feel like God has been quiet in my life for a while. But, in the past month, God has been loud. At each turn, I have felt a prompting, of sorts. Mostly, one after another doors have closed. I head in a direction, all seems right in my mind, yet it stalls. So, I take control and head in a new direction or different path, and again nothing. Eventually, I get it – God is speaking very clearly…I’m just running my own show and not asking or His guidance or His will.
Running my own show … it’s a problem.
Once I remember and am obedient to His will, the promptings become clear, and the doors remain open. It’s just His direction, not mine. Yes, life is easier when I let God be God. He’s God and I’m not.
The simplest way to hear from God, though, is to read the Bible. Now you are thinking, that is just too obvious. The Bible is God’s Word, so of course, if you read the Bible you will hear from God. It’s easy to read the Bible somewhat by rote, see the words, read the words, get the point but not hear from God.
There have been many times in my own life when I have read the Bible but did not feel like I heard from God. Although I believe there may be multiple reasons why a person does not hear from God (personal sin, God’s silence, apathy, etc.), one reason we do not hear is that we are untrained in how to use the Bible to hear from God, so we just read.
It’s easy to fall into a rut when reading the Bible. Maybe you are in a habit of reading through the Bible every year and your reading time has just become a ritual of rushing through the next passage. Or, like me, you have tried one of those Bible reading plans and fallen behind and now feel guilty. Or you’re the Bible study type and you keep gathering more and more knowledge, but it isn’t really bringing you any closer to God on a personal level.
There are many systems in Western Christianity designed to promote our communion with God and to increase the knowledge of God’s word. First and foremost, we have to remember to not treat scripture as texts to be studied, but as the living word. Following is something to try this week.
Today we are looking at Martin Luther’s Four Stranded Garland. This is a method of prayer taught by Martin Luther in his book A Simple Way to Pray. Picture a garland or ribbon with four strands, each of which represents a way of listening to the Scripture. The four strands are:
- Instruction Thanksgiving 3. Confession 4. Guidance
Silence yourself and open yourself to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
Read the Scripture multiple times until a word, phrase or image stands out to you. This is the Spirit’s message to you.
Seek to understand the message using the four strands.
- Is God instructing you through this?
- Does this lead you to thanksgiving?
- Is God drawing you to confess sin through this?
- Is God guiding you through this?
Dialog with God about the message.
This is huge. Tell God what you think scripture is saying to you or what you are feeling when you read it. This does not need to be fancy – just talk! That is the key to prayer – just talk. God wants to hear from you, your heart. He doesn’t need the fancy words.
Rest in God’s presence.
How you ask? Be quiet 😊 Just sit, be quiet and listen. And, yes if you should fall asleep, it’s fine. Jesus took naps too.
Thank God for His word to you.
The key to Luther’s Four Stranded Garland is to use a short passage and wait for the Spirit to highlight something. It is less about analysis and more about listening. The four strands are simply to help you understand the word, phrase or image more clearly.
Try it out and see what God wishes to say to you. Dialoging is most powerful when written down but can also be done in your head or verbally. The idea is to talk to God about what you just read. What did you like about the passage, what did you not like, what did you not understand? Talk to God about it and then listen to see if God may respond. Don’t just talk, but dialog with God, expecting Him to respond. Just remember, prayer is actually just a conversation with God.
We will continue to explore prayer and communion with God over the next couple of weeks. Our prayer for you is that these thoughts and simple tools help you to expand and enhance your conversations with God. Let us know how it’s working for you!
Right there with you,