"But it is the spirit in a man, the breath of the Almighty, that gives him understanding."
Job 32:8

Monday, April 22, 2013

Quiet Answers

Today, I wanted to move onto a slightly different topic on prayer but after writing the previous message focusing mainly on traditions, I felt in debt to elaborate on a point that had been raised last week. A point that I feel is worth elaborating on and is crucial to our prayer life. 

Last week the concept of conversation in prayer was discussed and how our prayers are more than simply our own requests going up to Heaven, but at also have to do with listening in response. And it would seem simple enough to think of it as us sending up our own prayer requests and thanksgiving for a given number of minutes and then listening to see if He responds in the moment with an audible voice. 

But how often does it feel as though God speaks to us with an audible voice? 

Don't get me wrong here, I don't intend to discredit those who claim to hear Him audibly. One testimony I heard of a man in prison talked about how God spoke to the man audibly at one point. The fact that the voice confirmed what would happen in the close future gave credit to the voice coming from God. 

But when we look at the Old Testament and we hear how the Israelites would go and ask the LORD about whether they should go fight a certain nation or whether they should respond to this particular sin in this manner, and God would respond in what would seem an audible voice. 

If we look at Judges 1 for example, the verse two verses say,

"After the death of Joshua, the Israelites asked the Lord, “Who of us is to go up first to fight against the Canaanites?” The Lord answered, “Judah shall go up; I have given the land into their hands."" (NIV)

I'm sure, in response to our own prayers, we would love to have such a clear cut answer as the Israelites were given by God again and again. 

Now, this has the potential to raise the question of the means by which the LORD  responded to the Israelites. I have always believed it was an audible voice. However, the truth is, concerning the point I'm trying to get at here, it doesn't matter. 

Here is what really matters: that it is not necessarily the manner in which God spoke, but the confidence and certainty by which the Israelites knew that God had responded and that His answer was what He desired.
Because that's what we really desire when we pray, right? That confidence that when we feel we have received a response, that we know that He has responded and His answer will come through and prevail. 

But listen to what Christ has to say.

 Jesus Himself said in John 10:27, "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me." (NIV)

Or as the New Living Translation puts it, "My sheep recognize my voice". 

Just to give some context, in this passage, Jesus was responding to a question that it seems many people ask even today. The question posed to Him was, "How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly" (v. 24). 

Doesn't that sound familiar

"If only God would make Himself known or provide some miracle to show His existence or..." The list goes on, yet these are the exact same accusations and questions Christ faced while on earth posed to Him by those who considered Him as crazy, a blasphemer or demon-possessed. 

But Jesus says His sheep recognize His voice. It seems too tempting to give into the belief that they had it easy in the Old Testament, that all that was required was to ask the prophet of the time to inquire for oneself what God wanted.

So if we don't hear an audible voice and yet know His voice, how does He respond? 

Well, He can choose to respond however He desires. You see, we seem to focus too much on 'how' God responds. Sometimes, its tempting for us to hear the testimony of another Christian and think, "Aha, now I know how God will respond next time I pray." 

But hearing His voice is not so much a matter of knowing how He will choose to respond, but a matter of simply knowing God.  

Scripture is riddled with promise after promise for those who fear Him, for His children. Promises of asking and receiving, of our prayers being heard, of escape from temptation, forgiveness from sin and answers to prayer. 

God may not respond with an audible voice, but He will respond nonetheless and not out of obligation in the sense that our faith forces Him to respond, but out of love and for the sake of His glory. 

Again and again, we emphasise the importance of knowing God. Why? Because regardless of how this world changes and our prayer requests change from financial, to health, to marital, to family issues. God never changes. 

Malachi 3:6a says, ""I the LORD do not change." (NIV)

And if God never changes, then the same answers that seemed crystal clear to the Israelites can be just as clear to us today because God is just as capable of answering our prayers today as He was capable of answer the prayers of the Israelites. 

So before we ask ourselves whether we're listening, first we need to ask... do we know Him? Because once we know Him, then regardless of how He chooses to respond whether it be through Scripture, our circumstances, friends or even a stranger, we know He will respond and we know we will recognize His voice because we are His and He is ours and He won't leave us hanging. 

And before I finish, I want to share a piece of wisdom that God taught me a few years ago:

"God's delays are not God's denials."

Remember, He works on His own time and His timing is always perfect. 

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." Romans 15:13 NIV

No comments:

Post a Comment