Take Time to Listen When You Pray, Part 2 of 2

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

The second thing I want to say is, “Some misconceptions regarding prayer may lead to disappointment and skepticism.”


We should not think of prayer as some kind of supernatural “grab bag” into which we can reach in order to obtain some prize. Prayer is not a substitute for hard thinking and hard work by which we solve many of our problems. God does help, but He wants us to add feet to our prayers. He wants to bless us as we work through the problem, with faith in Him. It’s not that prayer alone is not enough; rather it is that God wants to show our faith to others by what we do. Prayer was never meant to be a magic shortcut to success. Paul prayed three times for God to remove his “thorn in the flesh,” but God never removed it, and he had it until the day he died. Paul was a successful Christian and he talked frequently to the Lord in prayer, but if you were to judge him like the world does today, you would not see him as very successful. God wants us to pray, and then work hard; that’s what brings success. But look at what Paul did for the kingdom of God. He started more churches and lead more people to the Lord than anyone else, and he took the Word of God to the world of his day. In God’s eyes, he was a success.

Prayer is not an arrangement of beautiful religious words used to gain God’s attention. I have been in churches and heard high sounding prayers that made the person giving the prayer seem very intelligent and religious, but I don’t believe the prayer got any higher than the ceiling. It was like the rich man who prayed in the temple, “I am glad I am not like other men…I tithe and I do good deeds.” This man prayed to himself, not to God, because God will not listen to a prayer that praises the one who prays. Prayer is a personal experience of dialogue with God. Even when the congregation prays it’s personal, because God looks into every heart and mind for the intention of the individual worshipper. It is God who invites us and moves us to come into His presence, and we come into His presence with mingled emotions of fear and joy and expectancy. It’s the Holy Spirit that tells the person what to pray, and He will present the prayer to God in a form that pleases Him. As we communicate with God in prayer we see things more clearly, and understand more fully, and God gives us strength and courage for life. Now, the last thing I want to say is:
Prayer is communication between the Father God and His children.

Verse 6 said, “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.” We are to enter the closet, the private place, and shut the door. There are three important reasons for why we are instructed to shut the door.

FIRST, WE ARE TO SHUT THE DOOR SO GOD CAN GET OUR ATTENTION. We have a problem with being distracted and preoccupied and not listening when we pray, and especially when others pray. I am ashamed to admit that I have this problem. Often, I find that my mind is on something else when I should be listening to the sermon or participating in the prayer. It’s not a new problem, since the Old Testament had something to say about it. The psalmist says, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10). Be still means “to sink” or “to relax.” God knows what He is doing, and His timing is perfect. When it is all over, He will be exalted, and you will be blessed.

We are encouraged to stop all struggling and to find the peace that faith brings. Such peace comes only when we acknowledge God’s Lordship in our lives and then surrender to His will. What a wonderful thing it is, when we are confronted with a problem which has no solution, and yet God

works it out for our good and His glory. It is good for us, on occasion, just to stand still and watch the mighty hand of God at work in our lives and the lives of others. Then we too will know, beyond all doubt, “The Lord of hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge.” Habakkuk declares, “The Lord is in His holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before Him” (2:20). God is in his holy temple (heaven); and He is all-powerful because He lives! We don’t need to spend time trying to make God talk, since he has, in fact, already spoken. The only sensible thing you and I can do is to keep silence, listen to Him, and heed what He says. Folks, God is on His throne and has everything under control.

ANOTHER REASON WE’RE TO SHUT THE DOOR IS SO WE CAN HEAR GOD’S VOICE. The heavenly father does not shout or scream when he speaks to us. Instead, He speaks with a still small voice. That’s why prayer involves listening as well as speaking. Listen to what God says to you when you pray, because it will be important. The writer of Hebrews encourages us to listen when he wrote: “Therefore, as the holy spirit says, ‘today when you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion”’ (3:7-8). The verses refer to the time Israel had been out of Egypt for only one month. Within that one month, they had repeatedly witnessed God’s miraculous deliverance and provision. They had witnessed the last of the plagues, God’s leading by cloud and fire, the Red Sea divided, the bitter water of Marah purified, and the provision of manna and quail. Yet, almost immediately they murmur and harden their hearts against both Moses and God. How does a believer’s heart become hard? By refusing to listen to God’s words, or by despising His works and being ignorant of His ways. Sin is deceitful. You think you are getting away with it, but all the while it is hardening your heart and robbing you of blessings.

FINALLY, WE ARE TO SHUT THE DOOR SO THAT WE CAN SPEAK FREELY TO OUR FATHER GOD. We need to take time to adore him, and to praise him, and to thank him when we pray. Jesus said, “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matt. 6:14-15). With the door closed, we can take time to confess our sin and to confess to God that we will forgive those who have sinned against us. With the door closed, we can voice our petitions for others in prayer. All of the pronouns in the Lord’s Prayer are plural, and the God to whom we pray is “our Father.” When we pray for bread, we are to pray that the Father will “give us our daily bread,” all of us. Instead of praying only in church in front of others, enter into your closet, into some place of privacy. Isaac went into the field to pray, and Christ went to a mountain, and Peter went to a housetop. Secret prayer is to be made in private, so that we may be unobserved, and thereby avoid making a show of it. And it should be undisturbed, to prevent all distractions, and unheard, so we may have greater freedom to speak our hearts to our heavenly Father.

Conclusion

Take time to listen when you pray. Especially listen to the Scriptures, because reading them can be the listening side of prayer. Remember, God speaks to us through His Word. Listen to the prayers of others when they pray in public. Listen to the needs of those around you when you pray. Listen to the voice of God’s indwelling Spirit within you when you pray. I’ll end the message with this poem by B.B. McKinney:

Speak to my heart, Lord Jesus,
Speak that my soul may hear;
Speak to my heart, Lord Jesus,
Calm every doubt and fear.
Speak to my heart, Lord Jesus,
Purge me from every sin;
Speak to my heart, Lord Jesus,
Help me, the lost to win.


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