Each year on President’s Day, the pastor of the Church I grew up in would take the men on a day of prayer and fasting. I remember when I was finally old enough to go and got to go on my first trip. Several men from the church had a deer lease not far from town, and that’s where we went. Our day was very structured. There were times of teaching, we would go get alone in the woods, return to discuss and then hear another teaching. On this particular trip, the teachings were about hearing God’s voice. On one of the prayer times, we were instructed to go into the woods, speak a few words of prayer and then listen. That was the first time I heard God speak. I wasn’t sure it was Him until we came back to share and several others had heard the same thing.
I like how my current pastor describes hearing God’s voice. The next time you’re in an auditorium, listen for the air conditioner. When it gets quiet in there, you can hear it. The sound is there all the time, but it’s only when you’re quiet enough and listening for it that you hear it. Too many times, we miss hearing God’s voice because we’re too loud and our lives are filled with peripheral noise. There’s a reason God said in Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.” When are we ever still anymore? When do we ever go to where it’s quiet and there aren’t any distractions? We’ve grown accustomed to noise so much that our minds crave it. We turn on the radio when we get in the car. We turn on the TV when we walk in the house. We create our own noise without even thinking, and we’re doing it at the expense of hearing God’s voice.
Psalm 81:13-14 says, “O that my people would once and for all listen to me and walk faithfully in my footsteps, following my ways. Then and only then will I conquer your every foe and tell every one of them, ‘You must go!’” (TPT) God is constantly speaking to each of us. He’s not silent, but He is quiet. He’s begging us to once and for all stop and listen so we can go where He’s called us and to follow where He’s leading. In John 10:27 Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (NLT). How can you know His voice or even follow it if you aren’t listening? It’s time to find a place away from the noise in our lives, to put down our phones and to listen to what God is saying. He’s speaking to you this very moment. Are you listening?
As Michael and I were kicking around the idea of this week’s debate on prayer times (morning or evening), I asked people on my Facebook page when was the best time for them to pray. I got a few people who said that the morning was their best time and a few who said that the evening was. What I wasn’t prepared for was the amount of religious, Sunday school answers I got. Over and over I got, “Pray without ceasing. Duh, Chris!” I rephrased the question multiple times so people understood that I wasn’t asking when should we pray, but when did they find was the best time for them to pray. The overwhelming answer was the same.
Either they didn’t understand what I was asking or they didn’t understand prayer. Since I rephrased, put all caps, and tried a few times to get the question right, I’m left with the thought that people don’t truly understand what the Bible means to pray or they wouldn’t be saying they’re doing it without ceasing. I know I don’t pray without ceasing (and I consider myself a person of prayer), and I’m pretty sure most of my friends don’t either. I can count on one hand the amount of people I know who spend hours in prayer each day. They’re the closest ones I know to praying without ceasing.
Sending up a, “God please help me,” a “please let this problem go away,” or a “bless my food” prayer isn’t praying without ceasing. The Greek word for that verse is proseúxomai. It means an exchange, as in a dialogue. Prayer is not about you giving God a wish list. It’s about you having an exchange of words, a conversation with Him. The quick one liner prayers when you’re in a bind don’t constitute an exchange. They’re one sided and don’t invite God to speak back. They only invite Him to listen and to come to your rescue. He wants more than that from you and me.
My wife and I have a monitor in my son’s room so we can hear him and he can talk to us. The problem is that it’s one way. We can hear him, but he can’t hear us. Too many Christians operate that way with God. They think He’s got a monitor in their life where He can hear us, but not talk back. Just like my wife and I talk back to our son without him hearing, so too we aren’t listening for God to speak to us.
I was in a conference with John Maxwell this week. One of the many thought provoking things he said was, “There’s a direct correlation between you being willing to listen and God being willing to talk.” This week, Michael and I have gone back and forth making arguments for when the best time to pray is. The truth is, the best time to pray is when you have the time to listen. God is always wanting to speak to us. The problem is we only give Him the opportunity to listen. Change that as you go forward. Give Him space and time to speak, then get ready to listen. Once you start listening to God speak, you’ll want to pray without ceasing.