Friday, May 14, 2010

Day 17 -- 30 Days of Prayer in the Home

(Photo is section of Atlanta skyline)

Listening to God:

Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong. Ecclesiastes 5:1

Have you ever been in a friendship with someone who did all of the talking? Have you ever felt that you were "talked at" rather than "talked with?" Have you ever felt that a relationship with someone was one sided, and that the person cared more about airing their own thoughts to the point of not really getting to know you? Or, have you, yourself, ever been in such distress that you found yourself talking and talking about your own situation? I, myself, have been on both sides of this fence.

So many in our hurting world are in need of a listening ear. Think of those who are shut in by illness or by age, or those who have been ignored by the significant people in their lives, or those who are going through an overwhelming trial. We can do people in these and other like situations a service by listening patiently as they talk about their joys, their frustrations, their sorrows, their doubts, and their faith. After we have fully listened, we may need to gently encourage our friends, for their sake and for the Lord's, to break out of a conversational self-focus. Yet, we can be sure that our willingness to listen can do great good in the lives of others.

Even though we serve by listening, we will likely find that our best and deepest relationships are those which are reciprocal, with back and forth conversation. Healthy friendships flourishes when both parties are interested in hearing and knowing each other on a deep level. In healthy friendships, both parties listen to each other and both parties talk with each other.

Thus, we do well when we are speaking to remember that we show love and respect to others when we do not dominate the conversation, but take care to hear the other person. Likewise, we must realize that we cannot learn from others or really know them if we are not paying attention to what they say. Really listening to another can be hard work, for we must focus on the speaker, ask questions to make sure we have heard correctly, and show an interest in the things that interest the speaker. We have to be careful, lest we incorrectly interpret another's words by jumping to conclusions or filtering them through our own biases.

The Bible is full of references to our need to listen, rather than to be full of our own words. This one from Proverbs always convicts me: Proverbs 18:2 A foolish man has no pleasure in good sense, but only to let what is in his heart come to light. The NIV puts it this way: A foolish man has no pleasure in good sense, but only to let what is in his heart come to light. James 1:19 is also one that I think of often: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.

If it's important to listen to others and not to dominate conversations with regard to other people, how much more important is it to listen to God through His word! To say that His words are above all other words is an understatement. When God speaks, worlds come into existance. Whatever He speaks stands. Whatever He speaks is true and good and perfect. Because He is Holy and powerful beyond measure, His words are holy and powerful beyond measure, as well.

To think that God graciously speaks to us through his creation, through the Bible, through His Spirit, and through His Son is inspiring. If a celebrity we admired were to take notice of us and say even a few words to us, we'd likely be excited and tell everyone we knew. We might even savor that greeting over and over again in our minds. Likewise, if we receive a letter from a loved one, we eagerly rip it open and read it, then read it again, and , perhaps, save it among our cherished mementos. How much more exciting is it that the Sovereign Creator has written the 66 books of the Bible that we might hear his words to us!

In Jesus, God even sent His Word to us in the flesh! John 1:14 "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth."

What did God say of His son? "This is My Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!" Matthew 17:5

The importance and power of God's word in our lives can't be over-stressed. "The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever." Isaiah 40:8 "For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." Hebrews 4:12 "There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day. John 12:48"

God invites us to talk to him about anything and everything. Phil. 4:4-8. However, He also admonishes us to listen. That is an important thing to remember in our study of prayer.

Here are some verses about listening to the Lord through His word:

Isaish 55:1-3 "And you who have no money, come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for waht does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me and eat what is good, and let your soul delight itself in abundance. Incline your ear and ocme to Me, Hear, and your soul shall live."

Matthew 4:4 Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.' "

Matthew 7:24-25 "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. "

Matthew 13:8-10: "Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. He who has ears, let him hear."

Matthew 13:23: "But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown."

Mark 13:31 "Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away."

Hebrews 1:1-4 In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs."

Hebrews 2:1-4 "We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. For if the message spoken by angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will."

Revelation 3:22 "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

When we listen to God, we must combine what we hear with faith: Hebrews 4:1-2 "Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard." What is the point of listening to God, if we do not believe what He tells us?

We must also put God's word into practice. James 1:22 says, "Be doers of the word and not hearers only." If we truly believe God, we will act on His word. Real faith leads to obedience. Just as we cannot say we trust a doctor if we will not take his advice, we cannot say we trust God if we do not trustfully and respectfully obey what He tells us.

Listening to God's word must also be combined with a desire to know Him. Jesus said to the Pharisees, "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." The Pharisees knew the word of God backwards and forwards, yet they did not combine their hearing with faith. Thus, they completely missed the greatest opportunity in their lives. Christ stood right before them, and they did not recognize Him! Likewise, we, too, have an opportunity to recognize Christ, to be saved by Him, and to know Him. What could be more important in life?

Prayer goes hand in hand with meditating and studying the Lord's word. Before we speak, we do well to listen!


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