In a meeting last week, I led a devotional on prayer. I am a huge fan of Walter Wangerin and used one of his books as a stepping off point for our discussion. If you have never heard of him, you have to go get any of his books, because they are written with an eloquence and wisdom. Wangerin is a prolific writer on a wide-range of subjects; he’s written a novel that was awarded the National Book Award (essentially, the American novel of the year); books on marriage, prayer, adoption, the resurrection, inner-city ministry; he’s even got a book of poetry. His latest book is about his journey having cancer.

Anyway, he has this little unknown book called Whole Prayer, which is simply a book which discusses how to pray. The book has a simple premise which then becomes profound. Wangerin makes this proposition about prayer:

First, we speak,

While, second, God listens.

Third, God speaks,

While, fourth, we listen.

There is obviously a lot there in those four points. How does one speak to God? What is the process in which God listens? Finally, how does God speak to us? And in what ways can we listen?

As I shared this with some of our staff, one conclusion was made in terms of the reading: isn’t it amazing that God is always listening for us. Wangerin, in the book, makes this beautiful analogy of a sick child crying out for her mother and right away the mother comes into her room to attend to her. Almost as if even before the child cries out, the mother is there. As he writes, “And immediately with understanding came the active response of a mother whose love is nearly omniscient, whose heart is almost omnipresent.”

This is no different then how God attends to me. Even before I know what I need, He does—that is his relationship to me as a Father—taking care of me. The Lord is moving ahead of me, trying to prepare the way so that I can pass through unharmed and unhindered. As my favorite Psalm declares:

He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me. Your right hand sustains me; you stoop down to make me great. You broaden the path beneath me, so that my ankles do not turn. (Psalm 18: 19, 35-36)

In: Spiritual Formation
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