By Sonya Triggs-Wharton
This article is designed to equip you with the tools and know-how to really and truly hear from God. To be able to understand the direction He wants to take your life in, and to receive understanding and guidance on those things closest to your heart. If you need to hear from God in a way you never have before, this article is for you.
First of all, you can be assured that God does hear and answer prayers. The Apostle Paul said in Philippians 4:6-7 that you should make all your requests known to God through 'prayer and supplication' and that the peace of God will keep your heart and mind through Christ Jesus. And Jesus said in Matthew 21:22 that, in all things 'whatosoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.' Lastly, David refers to God as 'O thou that hearest prayer' in Psalms 65:2. In the bible, there are many examples of individuals praying to God and many more examples of God answering those prayers. So you can be assured that when you pray, He does hear you. And, even more importantly, God wants to hear your prayers.
Before You Pray
It would be helpful if, before you pray, you develop an understanding of who God really is. You must recognize and acknowledge that you are communicating with the Creator of the entire Universe! He is Awesome! He is Majestic! Also, understand before going into prayer that there are many, many things that we can never fully know about our Creator. So approaching God in prayer should be a careful, well-thought out venture. Of course, at times it will be necessary to pray quickly over some urgent matter, but, for the most part, you want to devote regular time to prayer and communion with God. Know that as time goes on and your relationship with God develops, it will be easier and less intimidating for you to pray, but if you have not had much success with your prayer life in the past, this may be a good time to re-think your concept of God.
Next, in order to hear from God, you must be in the mind frame to listen. Too often we approach God with the idea that we are going to tell Him all about our problems, but rarely do we approach Him with the idea of listening to what He has to say. Let me ask you this - wouldn't you like to spend serious time with God not only praying, but actually receiving what He has to say? In order to do this, you must remember that praying to God is not only a time to air out your problems, but a time for God to talk to you as well. In other words, it's a two-way street - a dialogue, not a monologue.
So, after you have mentally prepared yourself to pray (recognizing what an Awesome God we serve) and you have prepared yourself to listen, you are ready to pray! Following are steps that will help to ensure the time you spend with God is productive for both you and for Him:
Find a Place To Be Alone
Find a place where you can be alone. Your 'secret' closet may not be just an expression, but a real place where you retreat to get away from the hustle and bustle of the house. Any place is fine (even outside) if it is relatively free from interruptions. Find somewhere away from all the distractions, and turn off the telephone (and the cell phone, and the pager and the Blackberry and the Palm) and the television set. Turn your phone or ringer off and, if necessary, leave it in another room so that you will not be tempted to answer it or check for messages. Close any open doors and shut any open windows. If you're outside, find a quiet spot or put on some headphones, a baseball cap or sunglasses. You want to spend this time enclosed with God, focused only on Him.
Take Your Time
Give yourself as much time as you can with God. An hour is great, and a half hour will suffice as well. And, when you get there - relax! Think to yourself, I'm not going anywhere. Take a moment to enjoy your surroundings - the peace, the serenity. Remind yourself that you are going to live for the moment, forget about everything else and truly enjoy the presence of God. Take deep breaths. Breathe in deeply through your diaphragm... Breathe out... Feel your body relaxing. Remind yourself why you are there - think of how much you are looking forward to hearing God's voice; think of how you much you long to be in close communion with God. Think of how much it would truly mean to you to understand what God has planned for your life. Take another deep breath. Prepare to meet God.
Set the Mood
If you were inviting a friend to dinner or children to your child's birthday party, would you invite them over to a dirty house? Of course not! You would spend days or hours cleaning your house, decorating and buying party or dinner supplies. Why then don't we make those same preparations for God? You hear people talking about inviting God in, right? But how do you do that? Think about what God would like - play some nice gospel music. Light some candles for intimacy. Make your secret closet nice - make sure it's not cluttered, messy or dirty. Not only will it distract you, it will not foster the mood of anticipation and excitement you need to communicate with God. God will meet you where you are, but wouldn't it be much better to greet God in nicer surroundings? Put on some aromatherapy and have your bible in reaching distance. Prepare your surroundings as you would for any honored guest. Make sure that you have prepared a place for Him as you invite Him in.
Find a comfortable position to pray in. The bible is filled with examples of individuals standing up, laying down or praying in other ways (Jonah prayed from the belly of a fish!). Find a position that is comfortable for you and you alone - don't be guided by what other people have told you is right or appropriate. It's okay to lay prostrate, stand up, relax leaning against the back of a couch or sit cross-legged on your bed or on your floor. Find some pillows. Dig in. Whatever works for you in this case will also work for God. It will also put you in a better mood for when He arrives. Don't spend one second worrying about form or fashion - arrange yourself in a position that you can easily remain in for a good 20 or 30 minutes, because you won't be going anywhere any time soon!
Clear Your Mind
You have a hundred things on your mind. Things that you've done that day, things you need to do and things you wish you had time to do. If you're anything like most people, you don't just have one to-do list, but several categories of to-do lists! One for home, one for work, one for the kids, one for your family, one for school, one for church, and one for your spouse. It's good to be busy, but having too many to-do lists can cause too much confusion which makes it much more difficult to hear what God is trying to say to you. Learn how to center yourself and clear your mind. Here is a simple exercise. If you have a candle lit, focus on that little flame that is swaying back and forth. Slowly drop all other thoughts from your mind as you watch the different colors in the flame - blue, orange, yellow, and white. Marvel at this thing that God has done - bringing such beauty to such a small, little flame. Now is a good time to think about God. Not talk to Him, but think about Him. Think about when you first met Him - where were you? How old were you? What did His presence feel like to you? Revel in those memories and begin to let them warm you from the inside out. God is wonderful! Remember the first time you discovered that for yourself.
As you are beginning to think about God and remembering when you first met Him, talk to Him about what you are feeling. Talk to Him about how grateful you are that He saved your life. That Jesus died for your sins though he did no wrong. Tell God how you are grateful because of all that He has done in your life. Remember all the bad times He brought you through and all the prayers that He's already answered. And, if He has not answered any (yet), thank Him that He is taking the time to listen to you today. Express your confidence and faith in God. Tell Him how you know that He is capable of solving any problem you might bring His way. That you know that He is God alone and though your problems seem so big to you, remind yourself that they are just a tiny speck in the huge kaleidoscope of this thing we call life. And, remind yourself that since He created the heavens and the earth and all that is within these two realms, you know that He can easily remedy your little situation. Remind yourself of how big He is and how small your problems are compared to His Greatness. Tell Him again how grateful you are that He is going to provide an answer to in response to your prayers.
Ask For Forgiveness
As you praise God, you will begin to be reminded of your own unworthiness. And it's okay, because we are all unworthy. It is simply impossible to be in the presence of such a Holy God and not think of every word, conversation or deed in where ou said or did the wrong thing. To remember the times when you disobeyed God or clearly did things you knew He would not approve of. Reflect (momentarily) and then repent of all those things. Try to be detailed in your recount to God and offer Him complete access to your heart to clear up any wrongdoings on your part. It's very important at this point that you DO NOT try to hide or MAKE LIGHT of your sins to God. He knows all you that you have done - He just requires that you admit to those things to Him so that you can understand the significance of what you've done. Ask Him to forgive you for all that you remember and for all the things that you cannot. Accept His open-handed forgiveness of your sins and let those issues go!
Tell Him Your Problems
Now you are ready to share your problems, issues or concerns with God. You have prepared your heart and your mind, you have been cleansed of your sins and can boldly approach the throne of grace. You can feel confident at this point, knowing that He will hear you and that He will answer your prayers. So, talk to Him.
Tell Him about everything that's on your mind. Yes, He already knows about it all, but it helps you to get it all clear in your mind. Take as long as you need to tell Him your story, to talk about who did what, what was said and why you have a problem with it. Clearly ask Him for what you would like to have happen in this situation, but always with the provision that you are more than willing to let His will override yours. Say something like, 'God, I would like to get that promotion, but if it is not Your will, then I accept that I will not get it.' And remind yourself at this point that everything God does is for a reason (even if we don't understand why) and, if He says no, there is a reason for that as well! You have to remember that He sees so much more and so much further than we ever could. So, if He says yes, no, maybe, maybe later, or never, accept it! Know that He only does things for our good and faithfully accept His decision as such. And then thank Him again for listening to your prayer.
This is the most overlooked part of prayer. Listening to God. We talk and talk and talk and talk and never take the time to listen to what He has to say. How should you listen to God? You stop talking. You stop talking, you wrap your prayers up, you thank Him and then you stop everything else. Sit tight, because this is where it sometimes gets tough. Now, you listen! And you wait. And you hope that this is the time He chooses to respond. And, in your waiting, you think positive thoughts and remain in good spirits. Don't try to think about too much, just maintain an internal silence into which He can speak. Hum a little if you want, think a bit about what He has done, but, mostly - wait.
And in your waiting, know one thing with confidence - God will answer, though it may not be when you expect it to be. Wait at least 10 minutes for God to respond. And, if you wait and wait and wait and still don't 'hear' anything - don't lose hope! Worship Him and Praise Him as outlined in the last two steps and come back later to try again. And, if that doesn't work, come back later and try again. And, if that doesn't work, well you get the point, right? Keep trying until you 'hear' from God.
And how do we 'hear' from God? God communicates to us in many different ways in one-on-one prayer. He will sometimes put a thought into your head. He sometimes places a song within your spirit. He will sometimes give you a scripture that'll send you straight to the bible to dig out its deeper meaning. He sometimes gives you a vision or a sudden picture of something or someone in your mind. It's very important that you take away exactly what He says or exactly what is in that scripture, picture or vision - don't add or take away anything.
Many times people ask, does God speak in an audible voice? Scripture tells us that this very rarely happens, but don't let that discourage you. God did and does indeed speak, but it may not be the way you expect it to be. So be open to however He chooses to 'speak' to you.
After God has responded to your prayer, take time to reflect on what He has said or shown you. Be sure that it was God. How can you be sure that it is God? There are a few good clues. Know that God will never contradict anything that's in His Word, so you need to have a good working knowledge of the bible. He also will not tell you things designed to tear you down or make you feel worse about yourself, without any directions about how to improve or do better. God is a God of comfort, love and peace. He will not say anything that contradicts these characteristics. If He tells you that you need to work on some things, He will also tell you that He will be there to support you in your efforts. Rest assured - He will never leave you alone with your problems. At times, you might receive news that is not so good, but even with this news, He offers comfort - Himself. He has promised you that the Holy Spirit will provide you with comfort in your time of need to lead, guide and to teach you. It's also good to reflect because it cements in your mind what God has just told you or shared with you. You don't want to forget or misplace one single word that comes out of the mouth of God or forget any insight that He has given you Lastly, thank Him for sharing His wisdom and time with you and accept whatever He has told you faithfully and with an obedient spirit.
Last, but not least, make sure you spend the last few minutes of your time with God in worship. What is worship? First of all, only a true believer can worship God. It says in the bible that you must worship God 'in spirit and in truth'. Worship then is a spiritual exercise. Worship can best be described as an intimate communion with God. It can be wordless, it can be done in dance, it can be in song or it can be done with outstretched hands, with your fingers upward, palms facing God (indicating that you are magnifying God, not in the receiving mode). It is an adoration of God above and beyond your everyday, normal experience. It is a beautiful, uplifting experience that fill your spirit with enough of His love to face any problem you might be having.
You have thanked Him many times during this time or in these multiple times of prayer - but make sure you thank Him one last time. Thank Him for answering your prayer, for listening to your prayer, and for whatever else your heart leads you to thank Him for. He is worth it and it helps you to have an attitude of gratitude towards God.
So, in closing, remember - Pray! And pray often! And be assured that in your time of need, God will hear and answer your prayers.
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