Prayer Part 6 - Dialog with God
We are in the 6th message of a series on Prayer
In my opinion, prayer is the most important topic Christian can study
Why do I say that?
I cannot do that without an effective prayer life
Imagine that you’re part of a work crew tasked with building a house
Now imagine that the owner of this house did not leave any instructions, written or verbal, to tell you what to build
How well do you think the construction will go?
Not well at all!
In fact, any reputable contractor wouldn’t even begin building
What if it were simply written instructions, but no verbal communication?
It would go better and you could have a house built, but there would be many details not included in the blueprints that would need to be communicated if the owner intends to get what they want
The best building project happens with full communication with the owner
There is no doubt in anyone’s mind what the owner wants
The same goes for our walk with God
Yes, we have the Bible, which gives very basic information on what a Christain life should look like
But if we want to fulfill the call that God has for us we need direct communication with God, e.g. a quality prayer life
In our series we’ve looked at several aspects of creating a quality prayer life
We’ve looked at what prayer is and what it isn’t
We spoke about how to hear from God and then began talking about specific types of prayer with Gratitude and Thanksgiving, along with praise,worship, and adoration
The type of prayer we are talking about today is
Dialog with God
I think all of us get the fact that ideally prayer should be a dialog between us and God
Sadly, for most western Christians, prayer is not a dialog, it’s much more of a monolog
There is a huge difference between a dialog and a monologue
A dialog is a conversation between two or more people that involves both talking and listening
A monologue is simply one person talking
A healthy prayer life involves dialog between us and God
If there is any monologue in a healthy prayer life it’s when God is speaking directly to us
Unfortunately for most western Christians, our monologue is us talking to God
Yes, we can praise God, we can thank God, and we can worship God through monologue
We can make requests of God through monologue
But we cannot build a healthy prayer life, or a healthy relationship with God with just monologue
If we ever hope to be the Christians we are called to be we must engage in dialogue with God - it has to be both talking and listening
There are a couple bible stories that I want to take a look at that give us a good example of dialogue
The first is a story that almost all of us know
In fact, many who do not know much about the Bible have heard this story
We find it in Exodus 3 and involves Moses
Just to set the stage a little Moses had fled Egypt
We all know the story - he was born at a time when Pharaoh ordered all Hebrew baby boys to be killed
Moses’ parents didn’t do that, and successfully hid him for 3 months
At that time they put him in a basket and placed him in the Nile where he was found by Pharaoh’s daughter and raised as her son
When Moses was about 40 years old he saw an Egytian slave master beating a Hebrew slave and killed the slave master, hiding his body in the sand
Not long after he saw two Hebrews fighting, asked them why they were fighting and they replied “are you going to kill us and hide our bodies in the sand too?
Moses realized that his murder was known, so he fled Egypt and ended up in the land of Midian
We don’t know exactly where Midian is, but scholars estimate that the distance would be somewhere between 30 miles and 235 miles away
Moses ended up getting married in Midian and worked for his father in law as a shepherd for about 40 years
Picking up the story -
Exodus 3:1-15 Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. 3 So Moses thought, "I will go over and see this strange sight--why the bush does not burn up."
Personally I don’t think is is exactly what Moses said!
Think about it - if you saw a bush in the middle of nowhere that was on fire, with no apparent cause, and on top of that was not being consumed, would you say “I will go over and see this strange sight?”
I don’t think so!
Whatever it was that Moses said, he walked over to the bush to check things out
4 When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, "Moses! Moses!" And Moses said, "Here I am." 5 "Do not come any closer," God said. "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground." 6 Then he said, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob." At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.
God used the burning bush to get Moses’ attention
Moses was not seeking God, and quite honestly I don’t even know how much knowledge Moses had about God at this point
He was born a Hebrew, and I am positive that he knew he was a Hebrew, but he was also raised in Pharaoh’s household
Whatever Moses’ knowledge, God revealed Himself to Moses
God spoke to Moses directly, called Moses by name, and revealed that He was the God of Moses’ ancestors.
The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
Moses was so afraid that we are told he hid his face
Honestly I can’t say as I blame him!
God continues talking
7 The LORD said, "I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey--the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 9 And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt."
God reveals why He has called out to Moses - He has a mission for Moses to undertake
God wants Moses to go back to Egypt, to go directly to Pharaoh, and have Pharaoh release the Israelite’s from slavery
A very noble undertaking!
However, it seems that Moses is less than enthused
11 But Moses said to God, "Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?" 12 And God said, "I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain." 13 Moses said to God, "Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' Then what shall I tell them?" 14 God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.'" 15 God also said to Moses, "Say to the Israelites, 'The LORD, the God of your fathers--the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob--has sent me to you.' This is my name forever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation.
Moses is making excuses, but God is steadfast in what He wants Moses to do
I don’t know about you, but I think Moses is either really brave or really dumb
Because he’s arguing with God!
He’s making excuses for why he can’t do what God wants him to do
If you continue reading the passage Moses continues to make excuses, but God doesn’t let him off the hook
You would think that if God gave you direct instructions that you would follow through
Yet Moses didn’t
Why Moses didn’t want to do what God commanded is a sermon in and of itself
But without getting too deep let me just say this
Most of us would love to have God communicate to us exactly as He did Moses
To have direct dialog with God would be amazing!
Scary as all get out, but still amazing!
However, before we come down too hard on Moses for making up all kinds of excuses for not doing what God asked of him, maybe we should examine ourselves and see if we are guilty of the same thing
I’ve never had God speak to me as He did Moses - I know people who have, but it’s never happened to me
Yet God does make some of His requests of us known through the Bible
None of these are new to us -
Love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength
Love our neighbor as we love ourselves
Make disciples of all nations
Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, take care of the widows and orphans, stand up for the poor and oppressed, etc.
All of us, myself included, have made up excuses for why we aren’t doing as well as we should with this
Maybe God isn’t speaking to us like He did with Moses because He’s waiting for us to do what He instructed
Kind of a “when you’ve done your part with what I have already told you I will give you more instructions”
So, Moses was not seeking God, probably didn’t know much about God, yet God called out to him and they had some dialog
As we know, in the end, Moses did what God asked
The next story I want to look at is found in the book of Acts and involves the Apostle Peter
Acts 10:9-16 About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. 10 He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance.
Peter goes off by himself to pray
This is something that Peter, as an observant Jew, would have done two to three times a day at minimum
So Peter was actively praying - seeking God - when the Bible tells us he fell into a trance
What exactly does that mean?
It means that while Peter was praying he became disconnected with the reality around him and entered a state of heightened spiritual awareness - he had what many would call a vision
What did Peter see?
11 He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. 12 It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles of the earth and birds of the air. 13 Then a voice told him, "Get up, Peter. Kill and eat." 14 "Surely not, Lord!" Peter replied. "I have never eaten anything impure or unclean."
Peter saw what looked like a sheet filled with all kinds of animals
He was then told to eat them, but Peter refused and said he had never eaten anything impure or unclean - what did he mean by that?
In the Old Covenant Law there were several dietary restrictions that were given
Certain animals were okay to eat - like beef and lamb
Certain animals were not okay to eat - like pigs and snakes
Apparently the sheet was full of animals that were forbidden, so Peter naturally refused
Why would Peter refuse a command from God?
Because Peter was an observant Jew
He had been raised under the Law and would have had a natural aversion to unclean and impure food
It most likely seemed disgusting to him
Let me give you an example
Many years ago I was listening to a missionary speak about life among a remote tribe
One of the things that was a regular part of the tribes diet was grubs
He stated that grubs were quite nutritious, and if you could get over the fact that you were eating a grub, they didn’t taste that bad at all
I don’t know about you, but I would have to be pretty hungry before I ever considered eating a grub!
The thought of it is quite disgusting, but for some people around the world it is a normal part of their diet
Asking Peter to eat a pork chop would probably elicit the same response as asking one of you to eat a grub
The story is not over, however
15 The voice spoke to him a second time, "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean." 16 This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.
It seems that Peter saw the vision 3 times, and probably gave the same response 3 times
In the end, if you keep on reading, Peter gets what God is trying to tell him - namely things that were once considered wrong under the Old Covenant were now okay under the new
That’s why we can eat bacon! Praise God!
The differences between Peter’s dialogue and Moses dialogue are quite large
Moses was not seeking God at all, and probably didn’t know much about God
Peter was actively seeking God, personally knew God the Son, was filled with the Holy Spirit, and actively serving God and performing miracles
Moses made all kinds of lame excuses
Peter also said no, but he wasn’t making excuses, Peter was falling back on what he had been taught was the will of God
In the end, both of them did what God asked them to do in their dialogue with Him
So, what does this mean for us?
I want a deep and meaningful relationship with God
I want to follow His will for my life
I want to know what God wants me to do next
How do I do this?
By actively seeking a dialogue with God
I promise you, God wants to dialogue with you!
If one of my children came to me and said “hey dad, let’s have a conversation” I would, of course, say yes
In fact, I would most likely be excited! I love deep and meaningful dialogue with my kids!
If I went to my dad and asked him the same thing, he would also love to engage in dialogue with me
It’s what loving father’s do!
If my dad and I, as flawed and imperfect as we are, love our children enough to want to dialogue, how much more would our perfect and endlessly loving Heavenly Father want to dialogue with us?
Ask God to dialogue - to speak to you and with you
Then, shut up and listen!
Quiet your mind
Be silent, and listen
I don’t know how God will speak to you, but I promise that He will!
It takes discipline and it takes time, but you will eventually learn to hear God’s voic