I have so many things I want to write about, but I never seem to make enough time. I need to do that - I'm so annoyed with myself for only writing once each month since I started this new blog.
I just started taking this "Inner Healing Class" on Tuesday nights through my home church. Last night was the second class I've been to, and next week ends the first unit, but already, I am blown away by what I am learning.
In the first week, we covered the questions of "Does God speak to us? Does He want us to hear Him?" and "How do we hear Him?" These may seem like such simple questions, but I think a lot of us struggle with them. I know that I have asked, "Why would God choose to speak to me?" I sometimes wrestle with the idea that the creator of the universe would actually want to take the time to speak into my life, but this is the kind of relationship the Father deeply desires. He wants us to run to Him, and then He wants us to listen.
There are so many examples of how God has spoken to people through history, and the Bible is chock full of them. Samuel hears God's voice audibly but doesn't realize who it is speaking until Eli discerns that it is God and tells him (1 Samuel 3). Moses sees God through the physical manifestation of a burning bush, and then hears a voice (Exodus 3).
If Yahweh, the Hebrew God of the Old Testament is true to His character, from the beginning until the end of time, that means He still wants to speak to us today.
I believe I have heard God speak before – through His word, and through other people, but I have always had trouble with hearing God in prayer. I think my biggest issue has been that I feel like I had never been told or hadn't understood - until now - that God expects us to have a conversation with him like we would with a friend. My tendency has been to hand over my list of questions and requests to God, say “Thank you!” and walk away. Instead, when I ask him a question, I need to ask it with the expectancy that he will answer – and may choose to do so right then.
For years I have been waiting for God’s direction, some inkling as to what his will is, and yet I really haven’t sat down and asked him directly and waited for an answer.
An exercise we did last night in class really helped me in beginning to do this. We were told to picture a place to meet with God. This could be a physical place where we have met with God in prayer before, or it could be somewhere that seems peaceful, like the mountains or the beach. Then we were to ask Him to meet us there, and ask Him what he wanted to say to us.
It can be that simple.
Of course, there can often be things in the way, blocking us from meeting God – the sin in our lives. Unforgiveness, bitterness, hatred – these are things we have to work through with God before we can hear and accept what God wants to say to us.
One of the books that has been part of the leader’s preparation in this class is Jim W. Goll’s “Wasted on Jesus,” which is about cultivating a contemplative prayer life. I borrowed it last night, and am working my way through the fourth chapter. I don’t think it is necessarily the most compelling or well-written book I have ever picked up, but already I am being learning what a “contemplative prayer life” is, why it is essential in order to know God, and is challenging me to delve further into the subject.
One of the things I really appreciate about it so far is that Goll makes it clear that our focus needs to be God himself, on better knowing who the great I AM is - not the things He can do for us. There needs to be balance between seeking God's voice and carrying over out the truth we hear during those intimate conversations and living it out in our lives - in other spiritual disciplines, in conversations with people, and service.
I am realizing that I feel like Jesus could easily be speaking to me to in John 5:39-40: “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” I don’t want my life to be based on morals from a holy text, but about intimately knowing the holy God that these scriptures point us to.
The truly rich spiritual life is a life of balance, and I, with God’s help, am wholeheartedly going to be working on balancing my imbalanced prayer life. I am so excited to know my God in a new way and finally quiet myself enough to give Him the chance to speak the things He has always been waiting to say.