Saturday, September 23, 2006

This Sunday

Tomorrow at Hills Church we continue to experiment with "hearing from God." Our guests will be Mary and Rob Lee from Acts Fellowhip. They were with us two weeks agao and gave us something to think about. The biggest thing was to recognize that God is talking to us all the time. We don't always have ears to hear nor the propensity to listen. The other thing is that it seems that we expect the voice of God to be booming and sound like he does in that Bill Cosby comedy sketch about Noah. Instead it's usually "a still small voice" that sounds a whole lot like the thoughts that flow through our minds. We are going to try to listen "out loud" with each other.

This can be a bit intimidating for some and I've been doing some emailing to describe what it's like. I quoted a portion below ...

As for "part two", I've had a few conversations with a couple of others about that (listening to God corporately) - some excited and some anxious. The conversations I've had reveal many of our preconceived ideas about hearing from God. I think we have tended to over spiritualize it so that we can't relax and see it as a natural part of our lives. I think God is talking to us all the time - about ourselves, about others around us, about our situations, and has been since we were born. Much greater clarity comes when we get born again because His Spirit takes up residence in our hearts. The difficulty is that we haven't learned to distinguish between our thoughts and His thoughts - because many times at first glance (so to speak) they both sound the same. It's the training of opening our ears and pressing in and listening intently that helps us discern the difference.

We actually do this all the time when we pray in small groups. How do you know what to pray for? People don't usually give really specific prayer requests outlining what to pray for. We actually listen to God as we pray and then pray out what we hear. (Granted we can just go through the motions and mimic other prayers that we have heard but that's not exciting or rewarding.) I've heard you pray and I know (and so does everyone else that hears you) that at certain times as you pray for someone, you have really heard from God. Others have done it too and we all know that the prayer came from God. Those are the powerful prayers. Unfortunately they are too few and far between and the reason is that sometimes we just go through the motions (me included) instead of taking some time and effort to ask God "Father, how do you want us to pray about this?" and then listen for a bit.

This learning to listen to God is actually very much like the "small group prayer" thing, except that we separate out the process to identify what we are actually doing. For example if someone asked for prayer for "a friend" what would I do? I would think about that person, picturing him in my mind and think about what he might be going through. I would focus on God, thinking "spiritual" thoughts maybe asking Him how I should pray. Then I would begin to pray while listening to God for what to pray. I would start with what I know (pray blessing and comfort and guidance) all the while searching in my heart/spirit for that insight that God almost always brings as I pray. Then I get an impression or picture of what to pray. So then I pray in response to the picture. My prayer would be describing the picture and praying God's presence into that situation to bring hope, future, healing, release - whatever. So the picture is God speaking to me and my prayer response is me talking with God.

That's what I think Rob was trying to communicate as he shared the pictures and impressions that he got. But really, they all started with a simple picture or image or impression and then he prayed or spoke into that picture. When we learn how to see and hear, it helps us in our prayer life, it helps in our exhortation of one another. I think it really helps in evangelism if we can discern the stuff God is saying to us as we interact with those who are coming to know God. The timing and method of delivery will require both sensitivity and courage but that can also be learned.

I was hoping that "part two" would be a non-threatening way of practicing how to hear from God. I've done that exercise before and it is easy and enjoyable. It's especially interesting in a group of people you have never met before because some of the stuff is right on. What normally happens is that we start by just sharing one word or one image that comes to our mind about someone else.

Hope that helps a bit and I hope I'm not just rambling and answering questions that you aren't asking.

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