…There is nothing in Scripture to indicate that the biblical modes of God’s communication with humans have been superseded or abolished by either the presence of the church or the close of the scriptural canon. This is simply a fact, just as it is simply a fact that God’s children have continued up to the present age to find themselves addressed by God in most of the ways he commonly addressed biblical characters. The testimony of these individuals…should not be discarded in favor of a blank, dogmatic denial.
— Dallas Willard, Hearing God, 103
We cannot do true discernment when fear and anger are present.
— Elaine Heath
I grew up believing that God’s communication outside of Scripture had in fact ceased. But as I look at Scripture — particularly Jesus’ words about the role of the Holy Spirit in John 14-16, and Paul’s words about the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 2 — I no longer believe that to be a tenable conclusion.
If God’s Spirit lives in those who believe and follow Jesus, and if the indwelling Spirit’s work is to illuminate truth to Christ-followers (as Scripture says it is), then it follows that the communication lines between God and humanity are still wide open and active.
I’ve found this to be true in my own prayer life over the past several years. God still speaks, especially through the still, small voice in our spirit.
If it’s easy to believe that the evil one can plant thoughts in our minds, how much more of a step is it to think that God does the same?
This line of thought unleashes excitement in me to know that I can be in an actual, conversational relationship with God.
My purpose in this post is not to get into the philosophical conversation about whether or not we can hear from God — though it’s a very important conversation. I’d encourage you to pick up Dallas Willard’s book on the subject: Hearing God. The parts of it that I’ve read are outstanding, especially the chapter on the still, small voice.
I only want to share a form of listening / relational prayer that has been a blessing to me for the past six months or so. It emerged as a hybrid of The Papa Prayer (by Larry Crabb), Church of Two prayer (particularly the work of Mark Virkler) and the traditional ACTS framework for prayer. In many ways, it’s a form of prayer that developed from the many questions that emerged for me out of listening prayer through Church of Two experiences – which you can find here.
I call it SHARE prayer. It has provided a framework for my conversations with God since the fall of 2010, and I’ve found it incredibly life-giving. It leaves me feeling like I’m connected to God, which I think is the point of prayer. It also lays a foundation for constant prayer and and listening throughout the day.
- Share your heart with God
- Humbly wait for God to present himself to you
- Attend to your thoughts and write them down
- Rejoice in and weigh what you hear
- Entreat God to be at work in the world
A few observations about this framework:
- Sharing your heart with God comes from the CO2 framework about the “state of your heart” and PAPA Prayer’s “red dot – you are here.” I’ve found that it’s difficult to pray and listen if I’m not able immediately to deal with my anxiety before God. Otherwise I’m distracted by it throughout my prayers. In this framework it deals with it right away; and it’s quite relational and conversational to tell someone how you’re feeling.
- Humbly wait is the moment in this framework for silence and contemplation. We hear something only on God’s terms. We cannot manipulate God into telling us anything. Sometimes I don’t hear anything. My role is simply to make myself available to God by listening.
- Attend to your thoughts and write them down is from Virkler. My most random and spontaneous thoughts are sometimes the very thoughts God tries to use to get my attention. So I write them down and examine them. Sometimes God confronts me about ungodly behavior (like he did this morning), which leads to confession and repentance, and even the directive to make it right with the person I harmed.
- I’ve found that my listening is heightened when I’ve digested a bit of Scripture before praying. I really don’t think it matters what I read; just that I read. For instance, I hit the gym in the mornings before going into the office and read Scripture via IPad (whoot!) while I work out. When I get to the office and pray, I’ve already got some fodder for listening through my Scripture reading. In this way, SHARE prayer becomes a form of Lectio Divina (“divine reading”).
- When God responds, I feel like celebrating. I give thanks. I praise him. I worship him. The ‘R’ is a natural place for adoration and thanksgiving – from the old ACTS framework for prayer (Adoration; Confession; Thanksgiving; Supplication).
- It’s also important to weigh what we hear, because not everything comes from God – probably a lot of it doesn’t. The WEIGH acronym helps me here. Is what I’m hearing consistent with…
- Entrusted counsel of friends and mentors
- Introspection (how I feel; what I’m passionate about)
- God’s character
- Holy Scripture?
- The Entreat move comes from the desire to incorporate petitionary prayer into times of listening and contemplation. It is an important and substantial part of prayer and should not be neglected. But I love that it comes last, after I’ve related to God first – so that it’s clear to both my heart and God that I’m not praying solely for the sake of getting something from God. God is not a vending machine whose buttons I’m trying to push in prayer to get a goody.
What do you think? Try it on and let me know if it helps you relate to God – or even hear something from him!