At just shy of double digits I became a Christian, and learned to pray using a checklist of sorts. Maybe you know it: ‘ACTS’ – Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. And while this practice formed in me a habit of talking to God, it didn’t cultivate in me a desire to listen to Him.
“Prayer in the sense of petition, asking for things, is a small part of it; confession and penitence are its threshold, adoration its sanctuary, the presence and vision and enjoyment of God its bread and wine” (The World’s Last Night and Other Essays, 8). C.S. Lewis
A stack of journals full of teenage handwriting reveal how I enjoyed sharing ‘all the things’ with God. But months into college independence, with nerves about new friends and a fear of walking into a lecture hall filled with 200 people alone drew out a deep need to listen to Him. I longed to hear His comforting words when I felt alone. I craved His opinions about my new (and somewhat foreign) surroundings. Thankfully and graciously, He promises that when we search for Him, we’ll find Him. Psalm 107:9 says He “satisfies the thirsty.” I began a journey of thirsting and hungering for the heart of God for me.
I found joy in verses like John 15:13-15:
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.
The disciples hearing these words from Jesus’ lips experienced this marvel in a tangible way, memories of walking from town to town and listening to their Master teach. In our day, this is profound to us because everything Jesus learned from His Father is made known to us in the Bible, so deeper into Scripture I walked.
The power, wonder, and clarity of God I saw in the Bible gave me confidence in who He said He was, even when I couldn’t feel His presence.
“Morning, noon, and night I cry out in my distress, and the Lord hears my voice. He ransoms me and keeps me safe from the battle waged against me..” Psalm 55:17-18 NLT
“For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him… Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.” Psalm 62:5,8 ESV
These days, I’m learning how prayer is a posture of availability before God. It’s a deepening and stretching space – how much of God can I savor at this moment? And it’s not all “A.C.T.S” with a side of listening. Most hours it is finding ways to simply be conscious of Him, a song or line from a hymn, a word inked on my hand, praying a passage like Ephesians 1, or sticky notes with attributes of God posted throughout my life. Lately, I’ve even been memorizing phrases in Scripture so I can imagine and believe Him convicting or counseling me while I’m at the doctor’s office or making dinner (#nerd). Often it is laying my attitude, wandering thoughts, and mess on the table and allowing Him to change or lead them.
I heard John Ortberg say once that “communication is guiding someone’s thoughts.” It didn’t do much for me until I later read Jen Wilkin’s book None Like Him, where she says,
When we fear God rightly, we recognize him for who he truly is: a God of no limits, and therefore, utterly unlike anyone or anything we know.
Since God is infinite and omnipresent, He can certainly guide the thoughts of a creature He crafted. He envelops us completely in relationship. So while I think we should test what is true, and employ the Bible as the lamp to our feet and light to our path, I want to live receptive to the wonderful reality that He is in every aspect of the life we experience. And because of His love and mercy, He works everything for our good. And before we read about His working for our good, we read that His Spirit intercedes for us according to His perfect will.
Whatever you need, God is. Let’s plant our feet in the Bible and enjoy exploring the boundless adventure of interacting with God.
But oh, the discipline of mind, amen? One of the most challenging elements of prayer for me is stillness and quiet. With so much stimulus these days, stilling the wild circus-like jungle that is my mind is critical. It usually requires being outside, and a redirection of my heart toward worship. And maybe sometimes I don’t really want to encounter what I find once it’s quiet. But He’s there, in those unseen by others, deep, untouched places of us.
He desires to refresh your soul. How will you let Him do that in your life?