What the Heck is Listening Prayer?
I used to pray all the time. You know, the kind that is just you speaking. Out loud or in my head. Talking ad nauseam. It's not that I enjoy hearing myself speak. It's that I did not know that God would talk back to me.
God responds to us? When we are praying?
He speaks (or communicates) to us in different ways. Usually not the audible way (that would be amazing though, wouldn't it!?)
What does the bible say about this?
Before we dive into the different ways God speaks to us, what does the Bible say about it? In John 10:27 Jesus says, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." We know Jesus is our Shepard. Those of us who follow Him would be the sheep He is talking about.
So now we know He communicates to us and we are to follow what He tells us.
How does God speak to us?
The bible is full of history of God communicating in different ways to men. I am sharing just a few with you. You can google more if you like.
Elijah describes it as a small whisper (read here.) God asks Habakkuk to write down the revelation He is giving him (look at this). So we know God gives revelation. To Habakuk this may have been audible, a vision, a picture or it may have been that small still voice.
Daniel saw major visions that knocked him out. Read about one here.
A man named Cornelius and then Peter each have recorded visions here.
In 2 Timothy He explains that God speaks to us through His word.
Why does God communicate to us?
In the Bible, it is shown over and over again that messages were given to teach, warn, lead, and heal. Jesus said that He can only do what He sees God do. Which means that when Jesus healed people, He watched God do it first.
We also know that God gives us wisdom. Read here. We know that wisdom comes from the Bible, but when we hear something we believe to be from God, it must also line up with scripture, as it tells us:
"But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere."
Always check with scripture to make sure your vision or word from God matches the Bible. Satan masks himself as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). So if your word from God sounds like it matches, but it's off a smidge, it's NOT God.
What if your word from God involves a big change/move/overhaul? Sometimes we can bring that on ourselves. We know scripture. We think we hear from God and what we "hear" instead is our own self-serving thoughts.
Ask your listening prayer friends to pray on your behalf. But here is the key...do not necessarily tell them all the details of what you think you heard. If you do...that could taint what they think they are hearing.
Need an example? Here you go: Bob is stressed. He does not like his job or his house. He believes he senses God telling him to move to another state. He has a family that he will uproot, and a mortgage to deal with in an uncertain market.
Bob does not discuss this with anyone else. He does not seek wise counsel as the bible instructs us to.
They move. The family is miserable and stressed.
Deep down Bob wanted to escape his job and home. Could this escape feeling morph into Bob believing God was"talking" to him? Sure can.
Bob would have been wise to seek the "wise counsel" the Bible speaks about for many reasons in this scenario.
Moral of this example? Do not pull a Bob.
Find wise friends and prayer partners to help discern what is God, you, or the enemy speaking to you.
Another example: This one is personal. I was a licensed psychotherapist for many years. I felt God tell me to give up my license and only be under His authority (not the state's authority). Well, I did not listen. That would have been a huge decision that would totally change my career.
Instead, I ignored it. But His voice was constant. A nudging. He would bring me articles and scripture about it. I was unsettled for a few years about this. Unsettled because it was career suicide, but wanting to be obedient. I was not certain this was God talking to me.
I finally found three listening prayer friends that prayed on my behalf. I did give them a few details and how I did not want to listen. All my wise friends (each did not know each other) told me they sensed complete peace with this decision as crazy as it sounded.
So, three years after that first nudge, I did it. I gave up my state license as a psychotherapist. Once I made that decision and voiced it, I was at complete peace. I do not at all regret that decision. But I do wonder "why me?" I am very glad I had wise counsel to help navigate that choice.
How God speaks to me
Thoughts, vision, and dreams. God is the creator of all. He is not limited by anything. So the way I experience God may differ from the way you do.
The way I experience God is this: His voice lights up my mind like a new thought. Have you ever had that experience of someone popping in your mind for no reason? Could be that God put that there. Ask Him.
I also experience Him with vision. God created our imaginations, right? Picture a pink elephant. Or think of an early childhood memory.
See it? That is your imagination. I meet God there. We sit together in different settings and talk (this would be listening prayer).
He speaks to me in dreams. When I have a vivid dream, I write it down (so it does not dissolve) and ask God for His interpretation. He tells me in my thoughts. What He tells me are things I would never have thought of on my own, but make complete sense.
Next time you pray, ask God to meet you in a special place in your mind. Want to talk at the beach? Go there. The woods? Build yourself a campfire and hang with God there. I have created some guided experiential meditations to help with this if you are interested.
You may see Him or not. You may just know He is with you. Then talk to Him. Thank Him for your day. Honor His holy name. Ask what He wants you to know. Then be silent and listen. Ask what He wants to work on in your life. Then listen. Ask for forgiveness of any sin. Listen. Ask Him who you need to lift up in prayer (listen), then do it.
Enjoy your time with Him. For He wants to have a relationship with you. The creator of all wants that with you!!
Cheering you on,