Prayer Part 2 - Hearing from God
We are in the second message of a series on Prayer
In my opinion, prayer is the most important topic Christian can study
Why do I say that?
I say that because in any relationship communication is key
If there is not effective communication, there is no relationship
You cannot mature and grow in a relationship unless you are able to communicate
Over the years I’ve done a lot of relationship counseling and I can safely say that the number one issue I run into when couples are struggling in their relationship is communication
I have been teaching communication skills for many years - not just in relationship counseling but I also taught communication skills for the Pennsylvania College of Technology
I know how to effectively communicate, but guess what the biggest issue that my wife and I have in our relationship?
I fully believe that communication is also the biggest spiritual issue that people face
People do not know how to communicate with God
As I’ve stated before, you cannot have a strong relationship with anyone unless there is effective communication
You also cannot have a strong relationship with God unless there is effective communication
Here’s the thing about that - if I am having communication issues with someone else it may not be my fault
I may be communicating exactly the right way, but for whatever reason they are not hearing what I am trying to communicate
We’ve all experienced situations like this
However, if I am having communication issues with God who’s fault is it?
Mine and mine alone!
God communicates just fine - perfectly in fact
Me, not so much!
I think all of you are catching on that when I am talking about communicating with God I am referring to prayer
Prayer is how we communicate with God
Let me ask you - how’s that going for you?
How is your prayer life?
My goal in asking that question is not to make you feel guilty - however if you felt guilty when I asked the question it probably means that your prayer life isn’t that great
If that’s the case, then quite honestly you are not alone
Most people that call themselves Christians have a pretty poor prayer life
In fact, many will say that they are not even sure exactly how to pray
That is why Pastor Mike and I are doing this sermon series!
Last week Pastor Mike spoke about what prayer is and is not - if you missed that message I would encourage you to listen to it online, or for those here in person this morning you can always grab a CD in the back before you leave
Today I want to take a look at another very important part of prayer - Hearing from God
Another way to say this is listening to God
Effective communication involves both speaking and listening
It’s saying the right things in the right way as well as actively listening to what the other is saying
If I am the only one speaking it is not effective communication, it’s a lecture
Lectures have their place - after all, that’s what I am doing now
Sermons are nothing more than lectures on a spiritual topic
We can learn a lot from lectures
But you cannot build a relationship through lectures
For a relationship to be built the communication must go both ways.
We must not only speak, but listen
I want to take a moment and talk about listening in general and then look at how to listen to God
When it comes to listening there are 3 levels
3 Levels of Listening
Level 1 - Not listening
We may be pretending to listen, but we are not hearing anything that’s being said
Level 2 - Listening to respond
We are listening, but only to know when they pause enough so we can respond
We’re really not interested in what they are saying, we are only interested in responding
Sometimes it is to only tell them why they are wrong
We see this in televised debates all the time - people talking over each other without hearing what’s being said
Level 3 - Fully engaged listening
I am hearing what is being said
I am understanding what is being said
I am responding appropriately to what is being said
This involves reflecting
When it comes to listening to God it can be challenging at times
What makes it challenging is that it’s sometimes difficult to know when God is speaking
I’ve had many people tell me “God told me such and such”
Some of these people I have no problem believing, some I have an incredibly hard time believing
Genesis 12:1-5 The LORD had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. 2 "I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you." 4 So Abram left, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Haran. 5 He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.
Notice that Abraham had no doubt that it was God speaking to him
Why? Because Abraham had encountered God
There was a relationship
Also, God was not real specific with His instructions
He just told Abraham to go
The deeper the relationship, the easier it is to respond with minimal directions
Acts 9:1-19 1 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples. He went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" 5 "Who are you, Lord?" Saul asked. "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting," he replied. 6 "Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do." 7 The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. 8 Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. 9 For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything. 10 In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, "Ananias!" "Yes, Lord," he answered. 11 The Lord told him, "Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight." 13 "Lord," Ananias answered, "I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name." 15 But the Lord said to Ananias, "Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name." 17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord--Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here--has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit." 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul's eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength. Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus.
This is a pretty interesting passage of Scripture!
Saul, who later became the Apostle Paul, was going around arresting, persecuting, and even killing Christians
I bet that if you asked Saul he would have told you that he was doing God’s will
Nobody could accuse Saul of not loving God
Pharisee of Pharisees - mentored by Gamaliel, meticulously followed the Law
Was well respected among his peers
Yes, he was absolutely convinced he was doing the will of God
But then he discovered that he wasn’t!
Imagine how Saul felt when he asked “Who are you lord?” and the reply was “Jesus!”
Talk about an “Oh crap” moment!
This is a perfect example of the fact that someone can be a very spiritual person, be very well educated, very well respected, and live their life according to all the rules, yet still miss out on listening to God
Sometimes the voice of God sounds an awful lot like my own
Sometimes the voice of God sounds like my belief system and traditions
Just because I’ve heard accurately from the Lord in the past doesn’t mean I am hearing accurately now!
How do I know that it’s God?
Will always match up with God’s character
Ask the advice of others
Ask God (motorcycle on fire)
We must listen to God!
How do we do that?
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