The heart is commonly reached, not through the reason, but through the imagination, by means of direct impressions, by the testimony of facts and events, by history, by description. John Henry Newman

But obviously, prayer is not just about getting what we want, and in fact, this is not even high on the list of why prayer is so crucial to our lives. At the end of the day, prayer is about fostering and growing a relationship with God. As friends to him, we have the opportunity to come into a close relationship with the One who loves us deeply. This is the central purpose of prayer—to get to know him better. Through talking, listening, responding and expecting, our relationship with God will have the ability to grow to uncharted depths. Have you ever met someone you just really like a whole lot? Someone that when you are in their presence, it is easy and fun and engaging? A person who is kind, reassuring, and listens well to your stories and concerns you share? This is who your Father is. This is the reason for prayer; to get to know this Person at his deepest levels.

Because this is one of God’s deepest drives, He wants to be known. He wants to speak. He wants to listen. And he wants to respond. If God has a desire, it is this—he deeply wants a relationship with us. This is the chief reason why he created us like himself—to be in relationship. Now, does he need to be in this relationship? If we reject this want of his, will he saunter away angry, depressed and lonely? Will he cripple under the weight of being rejected? Of course not. God is completely secure in himself and does not need a relationship with us, but in his self-giving and self-sharing nature, he wants to give himself away to anyone who would want to share in what he has to offer.

But how does one pray? How does one have a conversation with God? Of course, asking something of him is easy and straight-forward. “God, I want _____________.” But again, to have a conversation means one has to listen. How does one listen to God? The main way in which we can listen to God is through the Scriptures he gave us. But even here, the Bible is conclusive in declaring that “The Word became flesh.” (John 1:14) To listen to God on some level means that we need to engage him flesh and blood and hear the words he has to say to us personally. We want to genuinely hear his voice and while at this point in time, we cannot actually sit down and literally have a conversation with him, he still speaks. Somehow, someway, he does speak to us. Through the Holy Spirit, we can literally hear what he wants to share with us and he often does it in unique ways. In the Bible we have stories in which God spoke through a donkey, visions, an angel, even through a bush that had caught on fire. When desiring to speak with us, he will do anything to make sure that he gets his point across.

But how does one listen to God? Actually, listening to God is not complicated at all. In saying that, it does require some dedication and for you to section out time in your life to just sit and listen to him. There really isn’t a formula, but some simple guidelines would be as follows:

  • Set aside about thirty minutes each time you pray. Make sure you find a quiet place where you won’t be distracted. It sometimes can be good to find a favorite spot where you like to go (e.g., a favorite park, a comfy chair, outside on your deck, etc.)
  • To begin, take about ten minutes to read some Scripture. The Psalms or the Proverbs are a good place to start.
  • In terms of beginning to pray, ask for two things:
    • That the Lord would speak to you clearly.
    • That he would block out any voices from yourself or from any other demonic influence.
  • With a private journal that you use specially for this time of prayer, write down a question or two that would like to discuss with God. Now, wait and listen.
  • Without judging what you are writing, listen to your inner voice and begin writing down what you hear in your mind. You may be flooded with lots of words or just a few. Take about five to ten minutes to write what you are hearing the Holy Spirit say to you. During this time, some people like to use two pens of different color—with one, they use to write what their own thoughts are and with the other, what they believe God is saying to them.

In terms of deciding if what you heard was from God, here are some questions you should ask yourself:

  • Was what you wrote clear or just an impression of something?  Sometimes what we write is for the present moment of our lives or for a later time when we piece together things from our lives. This is why keeping a prayer journal is important—it is so that you can go back and read it. Recently I was reading through one of my journals and I was astonished at something I had written four years ago as it clearly spoke into my life at that moment.
  • With what you wrote is it scriptural?  Scripture is our authority and God does not contradict his Word. (Proverbs 30:5-6)
  • If it is an important decision that you must make, you should always speak with other Christians about what you heard God saying. Do these friends confirm what you heard God say? (Proverbs 20:18, Proverbs 15:22)

This is a rudimentary framework for attempting to listen to God. If you would like to delve deeper, I highly suggest you read the classic by Leanne Payne entitled Listening Prayer. It will be worth your time. Remember, God is very inventive and creative in how he speaks to us and will use unique ways to create a conversation with us. Once you begin listening purposely to his voice, he will often speak to you in other ways, especially through others, through dreams, and who knows, perhaps even in a vision like he did with Peter. In your desire to get to know him, he will continue to make himself available to you and reveal many different things to you. Be on the watch, because again, he deeply desires to be your friend and hear from you and speak to you in evident and astonishing ways.


In: Friend to Jesus
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