In a couple of my previous posts, I’ve discussed prayer – what to pray and where. But there is still so much more to be said about this topic. Why is it such a lengthy and important topic? Because it is our one way of communicating with God. How important is your cell phone? Your email? You use these items to communicate with friends and loved ones. Imagine if you were unable to contact them… think of how lost you’d be. This is how it is with prayer. Prayer is our direct line to the Lord, and without it, we’d be lost.
I can’t really speak for anyone else – but I will tell a bit of how I used to be when it came to prayer… and how it appears to me that some other people often are. Prayer used to be a one-sided conversation for me. I would pray for something, and eventually I’d get an imagined reply. I’d assume God had answered me through actions and events, because God didn’t speak to me (as I said… the conversations were one sided). Let me give an example:
When I first started getting physically abused, I prayed a lot. I wanted it to stop… I wanted to know why it was happening. I didn’t feel I deserved the pain being inflicted on me. And during my prayers, I expressed this to God. I wanted God to give me what I deserved. That night, at around 2am, my mother drug me out of my bed by my hair, dragging me down the hallway, punching me. When my father tried to stop her, she told him “she’s your daughter… you deal with her.” He started kicking me.
As I lay in bed that night, bruised and bleeding, I (wrongly) realized that this had been God’s answer to my prayer. I had gotten what I deserved. I’m sure you can imagine the damage that realization… that answer from God… inflicted.
Now yes, this is an extreme example. But, how many of you have prayed and prayed… and “in response” something tragic (or at least not-so-good) happens. How many times have you said “It’s part of God’s plan,” or “God gave him what he deserves”? How much damage is this thought process inflicting on us? If your child came to you crying and said “I prayed to God for a puppy, and now my fish died”… would you tell him that this is God saying he’s not ready for a pet? Would you tell him God killed the fish because of something the child did or said? Basically, when we imagine God’s reply – especially when it is something tragic – we are causing damage to ourselves, to our loved ones, and most especially to our relationship with Christ.
Now granted, yes, it is entirely possible that these actions and events are an answer. But if we’re only having one-sided conversations with God, how can we know this?
So, how do you have a two-way conversation with God?
This is an excellent question. But, it isn’t an easy answer. It requires one thing many of us aren’t too skilled in…
Actually, it takes two abilities… the ability to listen, and the ability to shut up. I am particularly bad at both.
So, how do we gain the needed skills? Practice. When you take your morning shower, talk to God. Speak to Him out loud if you want to. Tell him your plans for the day. Ask Him to guide you through the work day or school day or whatever you have going on. And then be silent, allowing the water to flow over you as you simply open your heart to him.
You may not recognize it right away – the first few times I felt it, I brushed it off as me just being “out of it”, but eventually you will come to feel… different. I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me… I feel happy and yet completely calm. Sometimes, I can feel tears rolling down my cheeks, but they aren’t tears of frustration or sorrow. They’re tears of a sudden, bursting, overwhelming, insane… peace. Joy. Comfort. I have an overflowing amount of wonderful thoughts dancing through my soul.
This is God speaking to me. This is God letting me know He is here.
God doesn’t always answer in the sense of saying “Ok, you screwed this up… here’s what to do to fix it.” Instead, God calms my chaotic thoughts and comforts my frightened soul and consoles my crying heart, to the point that quite often the answer is just suddenly clear.
And now this brings me to the next skill that is required for a good, effective, two-way communication with God. Trust.
When that calm surrounds you – don’t fight it. Trust in God. When those answers just suddenly appear in your mind out of nowhere – don’t brush them off. Trust in God. Accept the answers he places there for you.
And don’t forget to thank Him. Just as you would show your love and appreciation to a friend who helps you through a difficult time, show your love and appreciation to our Lord. Even if you didn’t feel that calm or get the answers the first time you prayed, still thank God for being with you, then try again. It takes time to learn to listen.
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for your presence with me tonight, and always. I know I do not always listen to you with an open heart and open mind. I know I do not always follow the advice and wisdom you impart. Please help me to become better at listening to you and to what you want for me to do, and where you want me to go. Help me to learn to stop talking long enough to hear you. Help me to develop a more trusting and open relationship with you, through Christ my Savior and Lord.
In His name, Amen