This article was originally published in Edition (5) of Prayer Magazine,  Jan-Mar 2006.

One of the most important lessons in life that you and I can learn is how to listen to God. In our complex and hectic lives, nothing is more urgent, nothing more necessary, and nothing more rewarding than hearing what God has to say to us—both as bodies of believers and as individual people.

If you are going to develop a relationship with another person, you have to converse with that person in some manner. That means both talking and listening. Most of us do better with the talking part. We can some times have the tendency that we get so busy and  too occupied doing things for every day life or even we could call it doing the Lord’s work to pay close attention to God’s voice. In the midst of it all, we do mostly spend time talking to God, very often about the needs that we could be facing in our personal lives and ministry, but not much time listening to God.

I can remember a time that I ended up in the hospital for a week and out of circulation of my normal and every day routines and my busyness for the Lord. The end result for all of us if we don’t learn how to listen to God is that we can make unwise and, ultimately, very costly mistakes.

You may ask, “Does God really speak to us today?” The Bible assures us that He does. We would only need to open the book of Hebrews and see the opening statement

 “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds” (Heb. 1:1–2).

Our God is not a speechless or tongue tired God. Our God if we would allow Him is alive and active in our world. He speaks! Furthermore, He doesn’t speak to us in obscure terms, riddles, or mysteries. He speaks to us plainly- in a language we can understand.

If we look at what the “learned” of this world are saying then they would say “The goal of any communicator is not to speak well but to be heard.” Our God is a wonderful communicator to us who also not only wants to talk but also has a longing and a desire to be heard. That is why we know with confidence that when we turn our ears towards Him our God speaks in a way that we can hear Him, receive His message clearly, and understand with precision what He wants us to do.

God’s Language Is Personal But it Does Not Mean Exclusive

When we engage with God and hear Him talk to us we need to realise that this does not mean to say that God has an exclusive word for a person. God doesn’t deal in secrets. He won’t reveal truth to one person and deny it to another. Be on guard if you hear somebody say, “God told me something, but He told me I can’t tell anybody else,” or “God had a word that’s just for me and not for you.” God doesn’t play favorites.This could only mean that this person is trying to be over spiritual and seem to be more in tune with the Lord, but I know that the God that I serve doesn’t speak to one child and totally ignore His other children. It could be that His word of correction to you may be so personal and may need your response that could be quite painful or even be a but touchy to your pride that you don’t want to share it with other people, but ultimately, God’s word of correction is an absolute that applies to all people. The reverse of this wonderful truth is that the same goes for God’s promises, provisions, and insights.

This is a must to Remember.

When we come to dealing with the things of God we need to remember that God doesn’t speak flippantly. He doesn’t joke around. He is not changing His mind day to day but God means what He says. He will do what He says. This is because this wonderful God is serious about His relationship with you. He will not speak to you in redundant terms. He expects and desires you to respond to His voice, heed His Word, and then to be obedient and act on it.

Can you remember the church meeting you attended last week and the sermon? Oh maybe you say that is to far back so lets move closer today and let me ask can you recall what you read in God’s Word yesterday? Or are you unable to remember because you did not take time for your relationship in His word? You are nurturing your relationship with Him then you’ll be able to remember if you were listening for what God had to say to you and if you take seriously the idea that God intends for you to do something in response to His Word. What a wonderful privilege that this can be a daily experience for you and me!

Why does God speak you might ask? The answer is simply that God speaks for your and my benefit. He desires for us to listen to Him and then respond to His words. It might be that sometimes He will challenge you to change and adjust your thinking or to leave go of certain feelings and opinions that you have been harboring. It could be that He will command you to change certain aspects of your behavior – this one is often a sticking point for many of us as many times when God asks us to do this it is with things where we feel we are justified for our feelings and behaviour. Sometimes He desires to encourage you so that you might live your life with greater joy and strength. The most important thing is to remember that God’s Word is for your transformation. It is intended to change you in some way.

In the light of this we need to approach God’s Word seriously. Listening to God is not a casual pastime or a let’s-try-it-and-see-if-you-like-it activity. Listening to God is the most important thing you can do in your life for your eternal benefit.

Praying Within the Father’s Will for Us

Our primary desire as Christians must always be to pray within the will of the Father for us. Our Father’s will includes all that is beneficial and good for us personally, and all that is beneficial and good for all His children—simultaneously and eternally.

Remembering His plan is greater than our ability to understand it; His purposes for our lives are beyond our comprehension. How, then, do we pray within the Father’s will?

If we are praying for unsaved loved ones of the lost in general, our prayer should be that they come to accept Jesus Christ as their personal Savior.

 If we are praying for believers, then there are certain things are always within the will of the Father. We have a good model for this in Paul’s letter to the Philippians, in which he tells the Philippians what he prays for them:

I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.… And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God (Phil. 1:3–6, 9–11).

We too can pray these things at all times for all believers:

•  That Christ will complete the work in them that He has started

•  That their love may abound

•  That they may grow in knowledge and discernment

•  That they may live sincere lives as they follow Christ, never bringing offense to His name

•  That they may be filled with the fruits of righteousness

•  That their lives may bring glory and praise to God

Colossians is another wonderful writing that provides us with yet another model prayer that we can always pray for our fellow believers and know it is God’s will:

[We] do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light (Col. 1:9–12).

We learn that it is God’s will always that our fellow believers know God’s will, have God’s wisdom, grow in spiritual understanding, walk in righteousness, bear fruit, grow in intimacy with the Lord, and be strong, patient, and joyful.

These above mentioned passages and points that we can learn from I would encourage you to use these prayers as your basic pattern of intercession for others.

What If We Don’t Know What to Pray

Mainly our struggle with praying within the will of the Father occurs most often when we don’t know how to pray or what to ask for. It may also occur when we do know how to pray, but the way we feel led to pray isn’t always the optimal way that others desire for us to pray for them.

Several years ago, I visited a person who was in the hospital. They were very ill, and asked me to pray for their healing. I tried to pray as requested, but the more I prayed, the more I prayed for everything but healing. In my spirit, I had a growing knowledge that healing was not God’s plan for this individual. He was about to call this person home. Sure enough, within a few days this person was home with the Lord.

It is so often that in the difficult times when we don’t know how to pray, or we find ourselves stopped from praying what we had intended to pray, Paul tells us the Holy Spirit “helps in our weaknesses” (Rom. 8:26). This phrase in Greek literally means that the Holy Spirit shares the load. He gets up under the burden that we feel—about our lives or others’ lives—and He helps carry the prayer.

Amazingly enough it is this same Greek word for help that is used in Luke 10 where we read that Martha was distracted from sitting at Jesus’ feet because she was concerned about getting a meal on the table. She asked Jesus to tell her sister, Mary, to help her in the serving preparations. (See Luke 10:40.)

We see that the implication in both places is that the help being given or being sought is practical in nature. Martha is “cumbered about”—as the King James Version says—with serving her guests. This phrase implies that she was running in circles. That’s the way we often feel in our prayers, isn’t it? We run all around the problem, hoping to enclose it.

If only we would and we can trust the Holy Spirit to help us in a practical way—to guide us very specifically into God’s answers and solutions so that we truly are praying in the will of the Father.

We get to know the will of the Father in the two way relationship that He desires to have with us. I would encourage you and implore you to seek Worship Him, seek His face and then turn your ear towards Him listening to His voice for your direction, correction or encouragement. This will be truly time well spent and building a future for eternity and getting to now your maker, friend, prayer partner and saviour!

 

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