Jeremiah 33:3 (ERV)
Pray to me
and I will answer you.
These lessons are about prayer.
So . . . what is prayer?
- I praise God
- I ask for what I need
- I ask God to help others
- All of the above
There’s nothing wrong with those answers. But that’s only half the story. The half that comes from your mouth.
Prayer is a conversation. You speak, God listens. God speaks, you listen. This verse from Jeremiah says, “I will answer.” And maybe you’re thinking, “Yeah, right. I never hear his answer.”
In this lesson, you’ll learn to tune your spiritual ears to hear God’s side of the conversation.
God speaks through the Bible.
People say, “God doesn’t answer my prayers,” when what they need to know is right there in print. The Bible gives us God’s guidelines for living. The better we know them, the less doubt we have about our daily decisions.
Whoever hears these teachings of mine and obeys them is like a wise man who built his house on rock. It rained hard, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house. But it did not fall because it was built on rock.
“But the Bible was written so long ago,” you ask, “how can it apply to what I’m doing right here, right now?”
The basics still apply: honesty, kindness and gentleness instead of cheating, lying and bullying; looking out for the other guy instead of looking out for only you and yours; seeing God at work around you instead of taking all the credit for yourself; recognizing evil and running from it instead of falling into the enemy’s trap.
The Lord’s word is true,
and he is faithful in everything he does.
If your prayer request involves stretching the truth, strong-arming the poor or starting a rumor, you already know the answer.
God speaks through circumstances.
Opportunities come our way. God opens and closes doors.
Got a job interview? Do your best and let God handle the outcome. Short on money? Watch for opportunities to make more and spend less.
People can plan what they want to do,
but it is the Lord who guides their steps.
But take care. Circumstances can be our own wishful thinking or even the work of the enemy. God’s not going to rearrange the circumstances to get you where he doesn’t want you to be. Ask yourself: “Do these circumstances line up with Bible basics?” If not, you already have your answer.
God speaks through godly advisors.
Before you take life-changing action based on circumstances, check with another Christian—one in a mature walk with the Lord (aim high, look for someone with a long record of wisdom). It’s a Biblical method. Ancient kings checked in with ancient prophets.
2 Kings 3:11
But Jehoshaphat asked, “Is there no prophet of the Lord here, through whom we may inquire of the Lord?”
Jehoshaphat asked, Elisha answered, and the Israelites won the battle.
Your wise advisors should know God and Scripture well enough to tell right off if your request isn’t lining up with God’s nature. They might ask for time to pray about it themselves. And God may give them the answer long before you ask.
A friend told me how as a young man, he thought God might be calling him into pastoral ministry. He shared this with the godly couple who shepherded him through his teen years. They responded, “So God finally told you. We’ve known it for years.”
God speaks through visions and dreams.
It took me years to understand this. I used to limit my conversation with God to just words. But he didn’t.
Our keys were missing. I looked everywhere, and I prayed. A mini movie played in my head, my toddler pushing the keys though the side of the laundry basket. I found the keys nestled next to the clean clothes. I thought I’d answered my own prayer.
I later realized that this image came from above, as if the camera was above the ceiling—a God’s-eye view. If I thought it up myself, the image would have been at my eye level. It was God’s way of saying, “This was from me, not you.”
The Bible tells us that God speaks through dreams and visions: Joseph guiding Egypt through a famine, the wise men taking a different road and Peter’s call to the Gentiles confirmed by a vision. Surely God still speaks though images and dreams.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy.
Your young men will see visions.
Your old men will have special dreams.
I read reports from countries that forbid Christian ministry. People are coming to Christ through dreams.
I pay attention to my dreams. God and I share a private symbolic language learned through my dreams. It lines up with Scripture. And the messages God sends to me in dreams are affirmed by godly advisors.
God speaks out loud.
Just once, I heard the audible voice of God. It was a single, life-changing sentence.
Other Christians tell of special moments when they clearly heard God speak. Know this—if God speaks out loud to you, there will be no doubt whose voice it is. And his message will transform you.
Mature believers are apt to say, “God impressed on me,” or “I sensed God’s answer,” or “I felt in my spirit.” It all sounds a bit vague.
That sense, impression or feeling is the Holy Spirit at work. It is probably the most common way God answers our prayers.
I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper to be with you forever. The Helper is the Spirit of truth
. . . He lives with you, and he will be in you.
For me, the “impression” is a bigger and better thought than I would have produced on my own. I can’t demand that God drop it into my head, but I can get ready for it: I clear my mind of other thoughts and open myself to God’s direction. I expect it, I watch for it.
I am a writer. I write prayers in my journal, often as a question: Why is this happening? What should I do? God’s answer may come as just a word or two. As I write the first words, others follow—usually just a simple sentence or two.
Sometimes it comes as a check in my spirit, like a parental hand that reaches in front of a child at a busy intersection. Stop. Look. Think.
Sometimes it is a nudge to action. My prayer mentor, Onie Kittle, called it “God’s thumb in my back.” It’s not pushy, but there’s no getting comfortable till I deal with it.
Sometimes it is like two sandpaper blocks rubbing together in my soul. A grating. I feel it as much as hear it. And it means I’m not where God wants me.
Correctly “hearing” God’s answer feels like wide open space in my soul, a relaxing moment, a deep breath of peace.
It is easy to miss God’s answer when it isn’t what we want:
No. Not now.
We can be so eager for the “yes” that we miss God’s “no.”
Silence isn’t always a “No.” Sometimes it is all about the timing:
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son.
“The fullness of time.” Some versions say “the right time.” Even when I ask for the right thing, it may not be the right time. Maybe I’m not quite ready. Or maybe the answer isn’t just about me.
Are you praying for a new job? What about the person who moves on to open the position for you? God is working in that life too. You ask for sunshine, and the farmer asks for rain. You may eat the harvest helped by that rain.
No. Not now. They really are for your own good.
Lord God, give me ears to hear your answer, even when it isn’t the answer I want. Your will, not mine—yes, Lord.
“And he walks with me, and he talks with me.”
C. Austin Miles, In the Garden (1912)
You speak, he listens. He speaks, You listen. It’s life lived in conversation with God.