Saturday, August 11, 2012
Post # 46 – LISTENING to GOD GUIDELINES and EXERCISE
When you prepare for a time of listening, it’s important that you ready yourself by yielding all of your faculties to God. I suggest always preceding your times of listening by praying through the following guidelines. They are designed to screen out being distracted by all the other voices and influences that clamor for our attention and to fully yield yourself and all that you are to God. Praying through them will place you under the persuasion of His healing presence and in a position where you can hear from Him in a personal way.
1. Come fully present to God. Three powerful verses encourage us to prepare ourselves to listen by silencing the inner noise that so often drowns Him out and fixing our attention fully on the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. “Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” or "Looking away from all that will distract to Jesus" (Hebrews 12:2) . “But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother” (Psalm 131:2, niv), and “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth” (Psalm 46:10, niv).
Many people can quiet themselves and come present to God in a minute or two. For others it may take a bit longer. A few might need even more time — like an entire morning. Susanna discovered that making a special effort to breathe deeply helped her to focus on God. Previously when she sought to listen, she was nervous and without realizing it took only shallow breaths. Deep breathing increases the amount of oxygen we take in, enhancing our ability to relax and focus.
I’ve discovered that when I seek to quiet myself and fix my eyes on Jesus, things I need to do and other responsibilities I have often pop into my mind. I’ve found it helpful to jot them down in the corner of the paper I have ready to record what God might say. This way I won’t have to worry about forgetting and can concentrate on listening to Him.
2. Exercise the authority of Christ over all the other voices that seek to speak to you. This step is based on James 4:7: “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (niv). In Acts 16:18 we see a specific application of the authority of Jesus Christ over voices and influences that are other than God. As Paul was followed by a woman with an evil spirit, he finally “became so troubled that he turned around and said to the spirit, ‘In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!’ At that moment the spirit left her” (niv).
All authority in heaven and earth has been given to Jesus (see Matthew 28:18). We want to screen out the possibility of being led astray by other voices. So we can pray out loud in similar fashion to this: “In the name of Jesus Christ I command any voice other than the true God (voices such as the world, my flesh, the devil, my own understanding) from speaking or interfering with this time.” Why out loud? Satan is not omniscient like God and therefore can’t read our minds.
3. Ask Jesus to come in a very special way and manifest His presence by communicating with you. The Bible is full of invocations for God to come and act, such as, “Hasten, O God, to save me; O Lord, come quickly to help me” (Psalm 70:1, niv). Although God is already present, at times He is especially pleased to manifest His presence by working in special ways.
God’s presence is transformational. Look at what Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 3:18: “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (esv). God’s presence is where we see Him as He truly is and where we see ourselves as we truly are.
So it is both biblical and advisable to ask each person of the Trinity to come in a very special way to minister in a time of listening or healing prayer. If you are comfortable doing so, it’s biblical to pray, “Come, Lord Jesus, come. Come, Father God, come. Come, Holy Spirit, come. Transform me into Your very likeness.”
4. Ask Jesus to search your heart and bring up anything that needs His healing touch. Psalm 139:23-24 says, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.”
And in Jeremiah 17:9-10, God says, “The heart is hopelessly dark and deceitful, a puzzle that no one can figure out. But I, God, search the heart and examine the mind. I get to the heart of the human. I get to the root of things. I treat them as they really are, not as they pretend to be” (msg).
Use the truth represented in these two passages to instruct your petition: “Father God, You know my heart and anxious thoughts better than even I know them. My heart is not a puzzle to You. Would You search below the surface of my life to bring up any hurtful way that might be hidden there? Would You also take me to the root of things? Only bring up what would be beneficial for my healing and appropriate for this time.”
5. Ask Jesus to communicate with you. Two great examples encourage us to ask God to speak. In 1 Samuel 3:10, when the Lord called Samuel, Samuel replied, “Speak, for Your servant is listening.” And in Exodus 3:4, when God called out to Moses from the burning bush, Moses said, “Here I am.” You, too, can invite Him: “Jesus, would You be pleased to communicate with me during this time? I am listening to You and You alone.”
Often, like the prophet Habakkuk, we may come to God asking a question or seeking to resolve a frustration (see Habakkuk 2:1). The question can be as simple as, Jesus, what is Your word for me today? Or it can be more like a complaint: God, why did I get so upset during my conversation with my wife? What was being stirred up?
6. Wait in silence for God’s communication. Waiting in silence for God is very difficult for most of us, especially in our first times of deliberate listening. Resist the urge to rack your brain and to begin to analyze yourself. No one is on trial and there is no pressure on you to come up with something. After you’ve prayed through the preceding steps, the thoughts that come to you are usually God’s communication to you. Avoid the tendency to lean on your own understanding. Instead trust in the Lord with every fiber of your being, following the example found in the Psalms: “My soul waits in silence for God only; from Him is my salvation” (62:1).
Allow Proverbs 3:5-6 to direct you as you wait on Him. “Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don't try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God's voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he's the one who will keep you on track”(msg).
7. Write down the impressions God gives you. When God cares enough to communicate, it’s a good idea to write it down so we won’t forget what He said. I also write down what He says as a way of keeping track of my most personal and intimate dialogues with Him. This is what the writers of the Bible did as God spoke to them.
8. Test impressions with God's Word, His character, and the body of Christ. It's essential to verify what comes to you by comparing it with the written Word of God. Is it consistent with the character of God? Run it by other believers who listen and ask them to substantiate what you sense God is saying to you. "Don’t suppress the Spirit, and don’t stifle those who have a word from the Master. On the other hand, don’t be gullible. Check out everything, and keep only what’s good. Throw out anything tainted with evil."
(1 Thessalonians 5:18 The Message).
This basic process will prepare you for any time of listening to God and help you hear personally from Him.
“I will listen with expectancy to what God the Lord will say, for He will speak peace to His people, to His saints (those who are in right standing with Him)—but let them not turn again to self-confident folly” (Psalm 85:8 amp).
You may also find it helpful to prepare to listen by using this Musical Storyboard on Listening Prayer.
LISTENING PRAYER ASSIGNMENT. Set aside fifteen minutes to an hour to listen to God. Find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed. Turn off your cell phone and anything else that might distract you.
a. First, pray through the Listening Prayer Guidelines. Then ask God one of the following questions:
· Your Word says You think about me often (see Psalm 139:17-18). Lord Jesus, would You please reveal to me some of the thoughts You think about me?
· Lord God, what do You have to communicate with me about my relationship with You?
b. Write down the impressions that come to you on your computer or on a piece of paper.
c. Ask God to give you a verse or passage of scripture to verify that the impressions that came to you are consistent with His written word. Write the scripture down as a way of anchoring your time of listening.
“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” C. S. Lewis
Unless otherwise noted, scripture passages are from the New American Standard Bible.
This post and exercise were inspired by “A Guide for Listening and Inner-Healing Prayer: Meeting God in the Broken Places,” by Rusty Rustenbach, Colorado Springs, CO, NavPress, 2011, Pp 55-57 & 64.