Talk about honesty! One of my seminary students admitted, “My past practice of prayer…has been mostly a monologue.” He then made a simple yet powerful case for centering or contemplative prayer: “I am attracted to it because it will help me grow in my commitment to listen more to God…” Can you identify with that?
Isn’t it time we all confessed that we tend toward monologue because there is really only one side of the conversation that is important to us? Prayer for most of us is presenting God with a grocery list of our wants and needs, “seeking His hand instead of His face,” as Daniel Henderson put it in his book, Transforming Prayer, [Bethany House, 2011. p. 27].
Sounds pretty selfish! But, are we not also inclined at times to make the throne of God, the customer service department of heaven, where we voice our complaints and vent our displeasure or anger about matters great but usually small? Then after a perfunctory expression of thanks for blessing, and faint praise [After all we don’t want to “tick” God off, do we?], we close the conversation and walk off. I used the first person plural because it is easier than admitting, I personally have done this!
In Psalm 37, David says,
“Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for Him.” Psalm 37:7a
It could be argued that we are to be still and wait patiently for God to handle our complaint. The context certainly suggests that is part of it. But, I wonder if it isn’t also, that we are to be still and patiently wait for God to speak a word to us.
Several years ago, while working as the Social Services Director of a large nursing facility, a new administrator had been hired who didn’t like me for some reason. She had a reputation for terminating departmental staff left over from the previous administration, beginning with the social services department. My department! Ouch!
She really did try to make my job difficult. Within weeks my prayers were consumed with “get me out of here, Lord” prayers. And, then early one morning, I sat out on the lanai of my Florida home, and finally said, “Lord, I need an answer, and I’m just going to listen and wait until you speak. Whatever you tell me to do, I will do.” For several minutes I was totally silent before the Lord. And then the Spirit impressed on my heart, “Ed, I want you to be willing to stay put regardless of what goes on around you. Quit fighting.” That is all God said, and somehow it was enough.
That morning at about eleven o’clock, the phone rang in my office. I was invited to lunch with the administrator of a local retirement center up the street. The outcome of that lunch was an invitation to take his position, and no one but God knew about the battle that had been waged in my spirit, no, not even my wife. But God taught me the lesson of stillness before Him in prayer. Had I not been offered that new job, I would have been just fine. God spoke to me, and somehow that was enough!
Like small children, we are sometimes more interested in one sided conversations with God. But God is longing for us to be still and quiet before Him, and to listen for His voice. Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice and they follow me.” When was the last time you heard His voice?
- What do we mean by centering or contemplative prayer?
- Is there a biblical basis and are there examples of it?
- How does Satan counterfeit this practice?
- Some suggest that God has but three responses to our prayers: Yes, No, or Wait. Do you agree? Why or why not?
- In what way can we discern the voice of God from all other voices?
- What does waiting for God to speak look like?