I believe it is time to wrap up our series on hearing God’s voice. I have not taught everything there is to know. I am still learning myself. I have tried to share enough insights to encourage you to seek more on your own.
I will close with a few words concerning visions, angels, and the audible voice of God. Each of these is a valid mode of His divine communication. You can find awe-inspiring testimony to each in the pages His Word and in testimony of believers throughout the centuries.
Visions became interchangeable with “the word of the Lord” to Old Testament prophets. Peter’s vision changed the entire focus of the church toward reaching the Gentiles. John’s vision fills the pages of Revelation and gives readers insight into the end times.
Only once in my life have I known a true vision. During a time when I was in deep repentance of sin, I saw before me the crucifixion. It was as if the scene was playing on video and I could not stop it. I wanted to. It was agony for me to see His pain because of my sin. It served as a reminder of His grace then and still today nearly 20 years later.
Visions happen when we are awake and as John put it “in the Spirit”. As with divine dreams, they come with a message that confirms the truth of His Word and of His character. They can be prophetic as well as reflective. Some are personal for you. Others are to be shared to edify the church. I strongly recommend that before sharing any message, you test it against God’s truths and confirm it under the counsel of godly mentors.
Far too often, immaturity and impatience has caused His holy name to be defiled when believers speak without discernment. His name is at stake. Your reputation can be hurt. I encourage you to be safe rather than sorry. I believe with all my heart that God will honor your desire to keep His name holy. He will be patient with you and give you all the confirmation you need. Trust Him and He will trust you with His visions.
Angels in Holy Scripture are often the messengers of God to man. Abraham, Lot, Daniel, and Mary were just a few who encountered angels. The Bible has multiple testimonies to their work for the Kingdom. We cannot dismiss their effectiveness. God still uses angels today.
Stories of angels protecting missionaries on the front line of battle are my favorites. Even my Sunday school children delight in hearing the same ones over and over. Angels have been used to guide believers toward the safest routes when they were blindly heading to disaster. Angels have been sent to deliver answers to questions.
Mike wonders if it were angels who stood outside the office door when he was struggling to unlock a code on the computer. He had worked for hours and in desperation cried out for God’s help. Almost immediately two young men stood in the doorway and in conversation one shared the code with another. They then just walked off.
Years ago when Mike and I were seeking confirmation about our move to Arizona. Driving home from school, I picked up an elderly hitchhiker on a road in West Virginia. He was a delightful man that I guessed to be in his 80s. He started praising the Lord almost instantly of settling into our van. He, without prompting from me, began to talk of the need for God’s workers in Arizona. It was such a divine moment that my children, who were young at the time, were even taken aback. After awhile, he suddenly said let me off here. I turned into the vacant lot of a church and he opened the sliding door of our van. I was just about to offer to help him out when he winked and jumped onto the pavement. He slammed the door and began to skip away. The kids and I giggled and looked back to see where he could be going since the lot was vacant. He was gone. We never saw him again. We soon moved to Arizona to fulfill God’s mission.
The same warning applies here as with all methods of communication. Confirm it with His Word and character. Use godly mentors to keep you accountable. Test and approve all messages with the whole counsel of God’s Word. Be trustworthy of His Voice and His messengers.
The final method is that of an audible voice. This is one method where I have no personal experience. I must admit the thought of it terrifies me. I know how the Israelites were shaken at Mount Sinai when the voice of God thundered from the mountain. One thing I know for sure, if I ever heard the audible voice of my God, I would know it. There would be no doubt. The thunderous voice that sounds like rushing waters has the power to twist the bark from trees and move mountains. His voice can fell His enemies and calm storms. This voice would shake me to my core and leave me speechless.
I long to hear His voice. But I am content if He chooses to allow me to hear it for the first time when I step into His glory. My truest desire is to hear Him say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
I find warnings on packages to be entertaining. We are instructed not to blow dry our hair while in the shower. We are warned not to operate gas-powered machinery near open flames. Of course, all labels warn us to never consume toxic chemicals. Did you know that operating a vehicle while intoxicated could be hazardous to your health?
These warnings are often so ridiculously obvious that we tend to ignore the labels all together. I don’t know how many times I have read one and laughed, “Who in their right mind would even consider doing such a thing?”
Hearing God’s voice through circumstances should come with a warning that says: Do not obey unless it is confirmed to be God.
It is true that God speaks through our circumstances. But this mode of communication can be greatly misused if not properly understood. Too many people read into the situation what they want to see and hear. When I see the messes people get themselves into, I think there are times we need to ask, “Are we in the right mind?”
Here are a few warnings to heed if you are reading your circumstances to hear God’s voice.
Open doors can lead to disasters. Just because the path seems easy and clear does not mean God is directing you through the door. Remember, Jesus warned us that wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction. The easy way can often be the wrong way. Jesus said that small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life. The word narrow suggests a rough road to travel. God’s voice will often guide you down a path that is difficult to tread. But remember, His ways always bring the greatest growth and blessings.
Closed doors need patience to open. When all our options seem to shut down around us, we can’t assume that God is not in it. So often when one door closes we quickly move away looking for another more friendly door to enter.
God often uses closed doors to teach us to wait upon Him. For reasons known only to Him, He can want us to sit still and listen. Maybe we need to seek more of His wisdom before proceeding. Maybe we need to allow Him to mold our hearts into a more usable tool for the work ahead. Often times, He wants us to stay put until He has all the circumstances we cannot even see lined up perfectly for His plan.
When we try to force the door or run away to another door, we can often miss the best of God.
More is not always God. Elijah discovered this truth at the mouth of the cave. God was not in the great wind, earthquake, or fire. Sadly we have the viewpoint that if it’s big and showy then it is God. Satan often masquerades as the angel of light. He can counterfeit God’s miracles and mislead us with his deceptions. God often speaks in the still small voice that could be easily missed in the hoopla of grandeur.
Faith requires an unknown first step. Whether we like it or not, there are times when we just have to move ahead in faith. If we have prayed earnestly with humble hearts and God has not directed our steps through any circumstance or word, then faith is required. We move ahead in the direction that appears most Christlike of all the options, trusting God to bless. Oswald Chambers says that we need to become the will of God. We need not always ask and watch for signs to line up. An act of faith will be a step into the unknown knowing that God is there ahead of us…even when we can’t see Him.
Use your past to guide your future. God follows patterns. He has in His Word and He will in your life. For example, God has a pattern of giving warning of coming judgment then rescuing the righteousness before His wrath is poured out. Consider Noah, Lot, and the coming rapture.
Now look back over your life and chart how God has worked. How has He most often spoken to you? At the crossroads in your past, what method has He used to direct your steps?
In our family, God tells me of the coming change then He tells Mike. He always warns us months ahead that a change is coming. We then know it is time to pray with open eyes and ears to see what it is. He always tells us the same thing, “You will know when it comes!” This allows us not to try to predict or to be mislead with every seemingly available path. When He moves it is divinely apparent to everyone involved.
I will continue this topic next week. Until then, use your time wisely by creating a timeline of your life charting how God has directed your steps. Look for His pattern in your life.
Pray that God will make His ways clear as you seek Him in your circumstances.
I am standing in a vacant room of no color. The walls appear to be close but when I focus on them I realize they have no distance.
Before me is a large pottery jar. All my attention is on the jar. I wouldn’t describe it as ornate though I know it has great value. Is it old or new? I really can’t tell. I really don’t care. The value is not in the jar itself but in its contents.
It is then that I hear His voice. He is telling me that every thing of Him for me is in that jar. It contains all His power to do all His will. It is filled with all the love I will ever need. All His grace and mercy for my life is contained within the jar.
As He speaks, I draw closer. I must take hold of that jar. It is mine and I want it. It is all of Him and I need Him.
Suddenly before my eyes with no apparent force acting upon it, the jar falls over. It shatters. My heart shatters with it. I leaped to the floor and try desperately to catch all the oil that is pouring out. My life depends on this. Frantically I am scraping oil from the floor and trying in vain to refill the broken vessel.
Tears are streaming down my face and mixing with the oil. I weep and I scrap. The more furious I work, the more force of the spill. I simply can’t stop it. I am losing everything that is anything.
It is then, that I am awakened by Mike leaning over the edge of the bed asking, “What in the world are you doing?”
Startled to my senses, I realize I am on my knees scratching violently at the carpet. There is no jar, no oil, and no voice. I was awake. The dream was over. What did it mean?
For hours I laid awake trying to determine the meaning. I concluded two things. I was passionate for the Lord. I have never in my life known such desperation. I felt as if I would die if I didn’t get that oil. I knew then without Him, I would die.
But also I had to conclude, He didn’t want me to take possession of the jar and hoard it for myself. I am of better use to Him as a broken and poured out vessel.
I have never forgotten this dream nor have I turned back from this call on my life. Two things motivate me now: His amazing love and my desire to give all.
There are many within the church that may bulk at the teaching that God speaks through dreams. Scripture has several accounts and all of them are powerful to teach lessons and declare the will of God. I do not see how we can declare Him to have ceased from using this method of communication. In my life He has used dreams to powerfully teach and motivate me. Each one has been supernaturally vivid in its meaning. No matter how many years pass by; I can still recall the dream in all its detail and emotion. That in itself is a miracle at my age!
Dreams may not be His primary source of communication but please don’t discredit them. When they do come, dreams are a powerful and effective tool in the hands of the Master.
- Therefore, never limit God’s methods of communication. Be open to His divine will.
- God’s message will always line up with the Truth of His Word. Anything else is a lie.
- Pray for wisdom and discern at all times.
Remember a fool is easily led astray. Spend more time in the Word and on your knees in prayer than you do in dreaming.
Just minutes ago, I was just holding Eli while He slept in my arms. I was reading to him from Psalms and Proverbs. While I was reading and singing praises to the Lord, his little body lay so still and content. It made me wonder, is this how God delivers dreams to us? Does He hold us close and sing sweet love songs to us? Does He speak His truth into our souls while we are so peacefully resting in His arms?
A more beautiful God.
I have few words this morning. Stillness is a proper response to an astounding message from the Almighty One.
He announced on 3.30.11 at 2:40 AM that He creates miracles in the form of babies.
He declared His love for us…over and over and over again…through the eyes of our tiny grandson.
He calmed all our fears through the wailing of a infant’s strong lungs.
His joy-filled promises of unending future blessings rang clear in our hearts as we each held Eli for the first time.
His majesty filled the room. We humbly bowed to His glory.
He revealed yet another way He speaks: through the birth of a newborn baby.
We heard You Lord. May we now be found worthy to care for this precious gift.
The Lord has blessed me abundantly. He has given me more opportunities than I could ever have imagined, more love than I can comprehend, and more delights than I can acknowledge. And if that were not enough, He will give me even more. He loves to lavish me with His goodness and I love to receive all His blessings. They are like kisses from heaven.
Dee Brestin shared the following in her study, Falling in Love with Jesus:
“A kiss from the King, according to rabbinical tradition, is a living word from Scripture. When a verse leaps out at you and you have the sense that God has spoken personally to you, you have been kissed by the King.”
This quote is a beautiful illustration to hearing God’s voice through His Word. Bible study and devotional reading are two methods we can use daily. We need both methods when approaching the Word. They are equally important to our spiritual development. One is just far more intimate than the other.
Most believers are adept at Bible study. We have countless study guides to help us delve deeper into His Word. We can do exegetical studies of a book dissecting it verse by verse using commentaries of the original language. Topical studies can take us on a thrilling journey from Genesis to Revelation to discover God’s amazing truths. Wisdom is more precious than all the world’s hidden treasure. The Bible never disappoints in providing new revelation.
But when all we do is Bible study, we maintain control over our time in the Word. We approach His Word as a textbook or resource to find answers to our questions. Most of the time is spent searching for the fill-in-the-blanks of our workbook and when the day’s lesson is complete, we stop reading. Our work is done.
I know God speaks through these studies in His Word. I don’t wish to imply that Bible study is in some way inadequate. I would still be a crippled, weak, useless Christian if it were not for the dozens of Bible studies I have completed. God has spoken to me throughout the years when I have been studying to teach a lesson or complete another teacher’s course. His Words have been the double-edged sword that has shaped and molded me into His image. I intend to continue doing Bible studies daily for I want more of His character developed in me.
A few years ago, we hosted Dr. Henry Blackaby at a dinner. I invited a few friends including a couple of seminary students. He was asked to give these students a word of advice. His answer was simple but profound. I have never forgotten.
He told the students to draw a line down the center of their notebook pages. On one side of the line they were to take notes from their professors and textbooks. On the other side, they were to record what the Spirit said to them. He then told them to live by what the Spirit said.
It was then that I realized the difference between Bible study and devotional reading. In Bible study, we are in control searching for a predetermined lesson. With devotional reading, God is in control of where we read and the time we spend.
The Bible becomes a love letter more than a textbook. Someone once said that the Bible is the only book ever written where the author is present every time we open it. To read devotionally, we approach our time with prayers similar to these:
Father, I want to hear from You.
Show me something new about You as I read.
I want to see Jesus on every page.
I will read until You stop me.
Reveal to me what is on Your heart.
Use Your Word to transform me into the image of Your Son.
This is Your time, guide me. I yield to You.
(Please refer to my last Wednesday blog to get ideas on how to know when He speaks and how you should respond.)
I don’t recommend you just randomly open the Bible and begin reading. Though there are times He will speak a passage into your heart. It is wise to use a daily reading program like the one used by Billy Graham. He suggests that you begin in Genesis 1 and read until the Spirit stops you….with a Kiss. Respond to Him for you have truly been supernaturally touched. Worship, obey, repent, or simply delight in the truth revealed.
Day two, you will do the same but begin in Matthew 1. Day three return to where you left off in Genesis. Day four you will return to Matthew. Keep this alternating schedule and allow Him to astound you at how personal He will make each passage to your daily needs.
Devotional reading takes time and openness to the Spirit. Some days you will read for hours while other days He may stop you on the first verse. When you become attuned to the Spirit, then you can merge devotional reading into your Bible study time using Dr. Blackaby’s suggestion. After you record the proper answer to the study question, then sit quietly before the Lord asking Him to reveal His personal Word through that same passage.
Wait, listen, and delight when the kiss comes. There is no grander blessing than to daily receive a kiss from the Almighty Lover of your Soul.
As I promised you some weeks ago, I would not write unless I truly felt I had something to share from the Spirit’s promptings. I don’t wish to waste your time nor do I want to dishonor my Lord with ramblings from my own feeble brain.
These past two days as I have sought to write a blog about hearing God through His Word, I keep getting nothing even though this is one of my favorite topics to teach. I have heard Him more clearly from His Word than any other mode of communication. I have been blessed with amazing testimonies covering 20+ years of sitting at the feet of the Author.
So here is what I have decided to do. Today I am sharing with you a handout I have used in many classes and as an appendix in my book. It will give you a simple outline of how God uses His Word to communicate to our hearts. Then in the coming weeks, I will share some personal testimonies from my own journey with Him along with some practical tips.
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16
- Asking God to remove all hindrances to His speaking. (Hindrances include: doubt—James 4:8; sin—Psalm 66:18; indifference—Matthew 5:6)
- Ask God to remove all preconceived ideas about the Scripture passage and
- Show you what He wants you to know
READ SCRIPTURE UNTIL HE STOPS YOU!
- Sometimes He will give us a new thought from an old, familiar verse or passage;
- Other times a single word or several words will seem to be in bold print,
- Other words on the page are blurred, or our eyes continue to repeat a passage;
- Or we feel a gentle nudge from God.
- Sometimes He thunders a reproof, and
- Sometimes He whispers assurance.
STOP READING AND MEDITATE ON WHAT GOD IS SAYING!
- Underline and date what God is saying.
- Write the first words that come to you in the margin.
- Meditate on the passage or word. (Repeat it over and over highlighting each word until you fully understand what He is saying.)
PRAY ASKING GOD TO SHOW YOU WHAT HE WANTS YOU TO DO NOW!
- Ask God to tell you personally what He wants from this verse in your life.
- Ask how this verse can change your life. Pray, “Lord, Change me.”
- Sit still and listen. Don’t rush God.
WRITE DOWN IN YOUR SPIRITUAL JOURNAL WHAT GOD HAS SAID!
- Record in a journal everything you are feeling and hearing in your heart.
- Write your prayer to God. (This keeps you focused and gives a record for His answers to come.)
MAKE A COMMITMENT!
- Pray and/or write your commitment to be obedient to His voice.
- Just do it!
“Do not merely listen to the Word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what is says. Anyone who listens to the Word but does not do what it says is like the man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.” James 1:22-25
I pray this outline will be helpful to you in the coming weeks, months, and years. It has served me well in my personal walk. Remember to have the heart of John the Baptist as you read.
To this John replied, “A man can receive only what is given him from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said ‘I am not he Christ but am sent ahead of him’. The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less. John 3:27-30
May the Lord Almighty, our Precious Bridegroom, speak to you and make your joy complete.
A personal note: We are trying once again to get a little vacation time. So next week I won’t be posting on Monday or Wednesday. Also, this week I will post on Saturday and not Friday because I want to share with you our Circle City St. Patrick’s Day parade highlights. I promise you it is small town America at its best. 😉
Have you ever wondered why God created the church to have pastors and teachers? If all believers have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, then why do we need teachers? I think it would be better for each of us to hear the Word of the Lord directly from the Spirit rather than diluted and filtered through the mind, heart and mouth of a human.
I can’t help but question Him on this. I know me. I know how my preconceived ideas and prejudices effect the way I speak and relate to others. It is with fear and trembling that I stand before a group of God’s people and attempt to teach.
God in His sovereign authority has established the position of teacher in the church. Therefore we can assume that when gathered together in a corporate meeting that we can hear His voice through the teaching of these gifted ones. I can certainly testify to having been convicted and edified from the teaching of my pastors and other teachers.
I am always amazed when I hear from my own students how God had used me to speak to them. There have been times when they have repeated what was so meaningful to them and I can’t remember saying anything remotely like it. At those times I am certain God did a supernatural miracle of ventriloquism.
I am too feeble minded to argue with God, the establishment of teachers is His plan and therefore I will adhere. I am one of God’s teachers therefore I have the responsibility to become invisible. (Admit it. You thought I was going to say something like trained and educated.)
God is determined I never forget this truth by reminding me over and over it is Him and not me. The following is a personal account from a woman in a prayer group I recently lead. I share this to bless His name and to encourage other teachers to disappear in His presence.
To open the first meeting with this group, I took a few minutes to introduce what I have shared with you in these past few weeks of blogging. I knew they wanted to unite their hearts and hear from God. The church was in a time of seeking His direction in some major areas of ministry.
One of the ladies was instantly in a struggle. She wanted to run from the room. The spiritual struggle caused her to be physically ill. But she stayed still because the hand of God holding her in place was stronger than the pull of the enemy.
I closed the meeting by having the members pray the Colossians 1 prayer of Paul. While they stood holding hands and praying for each other, God moved in powerful ways. This woman felt His touch and He released her from months of bondage. She shared briefly with me before we left. We agreed to meet again in a couple of days. But before departing, I prayed specifically that God would reveal Himself to her in such power that she would know the root of the struggles.
Two days later, she visited and shared how God had indeed revealed Himself. She sat alone that night after the prayer meeting in her dark living room. As she sat there with warm tears streaming down her face, He spoke. His words were, “I AM the One.” With those few words came a flash of memories of all the times she had thanked Him for her pastor, teachers, and friends who had helped her. But He was showing her that He was the One.
He was the Only One who deserved the praise. He was the One who had spoken to her each time. He was jealous for her acknowledgment of all the tender mercies He had so passionately given her through the years. Thanking Him for the vessel implied they had something to do with it.
As she told me this story, I was overwhelmed with worship. Yes He truly is the One.
This reminded me yet again why He has always called me to pray these words before I teach, “Father, may they never remember my name or the sound of my voice. May they look back on this time and say, “Right there I encountered God and I have never been the same.”
Teachers, pastors, and worship leaders, we need to become invisible. If we are truly His mouthpiece then the people in our audience should see and hear only Him. Pray that you can disappear and He will speak boldly through you. You are only an empty vessel without Him.
Believers have the responsibility to confirm the anointing of their teacher. Never listen to a teaching that does not measure up against the Word of God. Discern their focus. Are they pointing their students to God Almighty or are their messages laced with self-centeredness? Tori and I once listened to a pastor use ‘I’ 267 times in one message. Needless to say, we never returned to that church.
Believers need to have a heart open and eager to hear from the Lord. Pray before class that God would speak to you. Pray that your heart with be open to hear and respond the second He speaks. Pray that you will not focus on the human vessel. Pray for the teacher to become invisible.
Pray for a personal encounter with God. A classroom full of seekers can become a classroom full of His Presence. All are then blessed with the sound of His voice.
I expected to hear from someone on my statement, “It is not about what we say, but what God says.” A strong argument can be made against me. Since no one made it, I will make it myself. God really does want to hear what we say. He loves to hear our voices. He delights to hear our desires. As a father enjoys his children asking for help, direction, and blessings; so does God.
I am not being contradictory with you or myself. I am actually referring to two different types of prayer. One is what I call soapbox prayer meetings. These are the times when we dictate to God what we want, when we want it, how He should do it and when He should answer. Matthew 6:7 describes these prayers as ‘babbling like pagans who think they can be heard because of their many words.” It is in these prayer times that it would be wise for us to be still and not speak at all.
But if we truly understand prayer and come into His Presence to hear from Him then it is possible, even probable, that we not only hear His voice but we will become His voice. These are the prayers that delight His heart and move His hand.
Here is an example of babbling prayers verses praying His will. A beloved pastor suddenly takes ill and is in the hospital enduring countless tests that are inconclusive. I gathered a few friends and we met in the sanctuary for prayer. We waited upon the Lord seeking His voice as to what the cause and cure was to be. I must admit we were astounded at what God revealed. We prayed as He directed and when we left hours later we knew our pastor was healed and would be released from the hospital the next day with no diagnosis ever being made by a doctor.
The next morning at the women’s Bible study, the leader called for special prayer. Around the circle, the ladies prayed. One was into natural remedies so therefore she prayed for him to find alternative doctors. Another was sure he wasn’t eating properly and prayed for him a wife. Some prayed for the doctors to have wisdom, others prayed for the pastor to have faith enough for healing. Each woman prayed their own words, their own agenda, and each was assured she was right. I will never forget when a new believer whispered to me, “How do we know which one is right? Do we just wait to see what happens next?” Even she knew there was no unity. To God’s glory, our pastor was released that afternoon. The doctors were puzzled but the pastor was in perfect health.
I do not believe Romans 8:26-27 is only for those times when we are confused and overwhelmed with the events around us. This verse says:
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.
I am weak and dumb enough to admit that I never know what I ought to pray. There is never a time I see clearly the will of God on my own. In my past and on my own, I have prayed the most foolish of prayers. Some prayers were so ridiculous I now praise Him for not answering them. Others I begged and pleaded long enough that He consented and instantly I knew I didn’t want it after all.
Every time we come into His presence, we need to admit that we do not know how we ought to pray. We need to keep our mouths still until we hear His will on each and every subject. Solomon gives this warning in Ecclesiastes 5:1:
Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong.
But with this warning comes an amazing invitation. We can approach His Throne and He will pray through us. We can know what is on His heart. We can hear His voice as we listen to our own words coming out of our mouths. In a corporate setting we can hear the unity of God’s will as every yielded prayer is speaking the very heart of God aloud. True prayer is about what is on God’s heart. What He says to us and then through us. True prayer is when our words become His words. When this is happening, there is never a sense of self and never a sense of time.
I encourage you to write out your prayer concerns. But before you utter a word about what you want God to do, ask Him to pray through you. Ask Him what is His will. Ask Him for a verse in His Word that relates to what He is about to do. Sit quietly before Him and wait for Him to change your heart to unite with His will.
When you are praying in a group, listen to the promptings of the Spirit. You will know when your prayer is His will. The unity of your group, the power of the words, the confirmation from the Word of God, the changed lives before you are all evidence of a prayer meeting where God’s voice is heard.
Father we are here to meet with You. To worship You the way you deserve to be worshiped. To hear what is on Your heart. To offer ourselves to You. To share our hearts with You. This is Your time. Open our hearts and minds to know You.
This is the heart of one entering a prayer meeting. The focus is entirely upon being with God to hear what is on His heart. Members can voice their own prayers of sacrifice, read the words of the Psalmists aloud, or sing praise choruses. The Word tells us that God inhabits the praises of His people therefore it is vital for us to exalt His name when meeting corporately in prayer.
But this time is not about inviting God into our presence. He is God. This time is for us to focus our limited, often times, selfish minds onto Him. The praises should continue until it becomes worship. Worship by Dr. Blackaby’s definition is a RESPONSE to an encounter with God. Once the group has united their hearts into focusing upon the greatness of God, then their individuality has dimmed in comparison to His glory.
Holy God, forgive me. Forgive us. We have sinned against Your Word. We have despised You with our disobedience. I have wasted so much of my time and the blessings You have given. Our church has become focused on programs more than on being with You. Search our hearts and minds and show us the vileness that blasphemes Your Holiness.
Normally, it is not necessary to say, “Now it is time to begin repentance.” ‘Woe to me’ is a natural response to anyone who is in His Presence. The prayers are uttered from hearts broken by His Holiness. Allow time of silence as people sit or kneel before Him. The leader can begin a prayer focused on repentance or read passages that focus our hearts to yield to His refining touch. Don’t rush. Some confessions will be made publically others silently.
Oh Precious Lamb of God who takes our sin away, we thank You. We thank You for Your blood that gives us assess to the Throne of Grace and Mercy. We praise You for dying for us so that we can have this privilege of prayer. We thank You that we are Your children and You will hear and answer our prayers.
A natural flow from a heart that has been cleansed by the blood is thanksgiving. This can be done by spoken prayers or singing. Normally believers are so overwhelmed with gratitude that they will burst into songs of thanksgiving. By this time everyone will know they are in His presence and He is in control. The faith level of the group is rising. Hearts are humbled. An eagerness for more has invaded the room and caused a yearning to serve Him.
Almighty God, we are Your children ready to do Your will. What is on Your heart? What do You want for us, for our church, for our families, for our nation? We are here to serve You. We will sit quietly before You until You reveal Yourself to us.
Here is where the leader is vital. God established spiritual gifts for His purposes. If He has anointed a prayer leader then He will use that person to guide the direction of the meeting. This ordained order should be understood and accepted by all. Here are some examples of how this time can go:
1. If a hurting individual has come in for specific prayer, the leader can request all members to gather around them and pray as the Spirit directs.
2. The leader may hear clearly that the focus of all the prayers should be for one specific topic. (Example: the church) Every prayer uttered is then for the church and as the Spirit leads.
3. Small groups can be formed and each group can be given a topic. People divide up according to how the Spirit is leading them to pray.
As I said last week, these prayers are to stay focused and Spirit-filled. During the time of silence, the Spirit often guides believers to scripture passages. These should be voiced aloud in prayer. The more vocal people should not monopolize the time. It is important to be considerate of all members. Order and respect are key words for any service in God’s house.
It is possible that after this focused time, there is still a need to pray for individual’s specific needs that have not yet been voiced. The leader can ask people to pair up and pray for each other. Or possibly, a list of requests can be distributed and people can intercede for them as the leader directs.
Gracious Heavenly Lord, we delight in You. We are thrilled to be with You. We offer ourselves as living sacrifices to go now and to be Your will. Use our hands to touch the hurting. Use our mouths to speak Your truth. Take our feet to those who need Your love. We leave this place changed for we have been with You. Use us now to change the world for Your glory. Amen
Our church prayer meetings always end in our anthem: Victory in Jesus. This song reminds us that we can now enter the world fully clothed in Jesus and victorious to His calling. When we have truly encountered God, it is sung with confidence and unexplainable joy.
Father, raise up prayer leaders in all Your churches. Put a hunger and thirst in each believer to want to be with You. Lord, teach us to be the House of Prayer you called us to be. Amen.
Since I am sharing my views on hearing God’s voice in the church, I thought today I would focus on my favorite topic: the prayer meeting. It is here where I have experienced the greatest closeness to God in a corporate setting. But unfortunately, some prayer meetings have also brought my greatest frustrations with the church.
Why? Some prayer times are truly a fulfillment of the passage, ‘where two or more are gathered in My name there I will be.’ As the people humble themselves and share from their hearts, His presence consumes the room and lives are changed. This is the kind of prayer meeting that is powerful and effective. People are eager to participate. There is never any need to beg church members to attend. His presence is so contagious, His people are drawn in.Excellent! Does this describe your church prayer meeting?
If not, maybe your meetings are more like this. Only a few show up, the faithful few who just know it is important to pray. Occasionally someone else comes when life has him or her so defeated they don’t know where else to turn. The meeting starts with a short Bible study that normally consumes at least half of the allotted hour. Next, prayer requests are discussed which consumes the other half of the hour. This is often where the prayer meeting begins to sound more like a medical convention or it can become dangerously close to being a gossip fest.
Suddenly the leader announces, “Time is up. Who would like to pray these requests back to God?” The closing prayer usually consists of a repeat of the list plus the prayer’s take on how best God should answer. Amen, whew, it’s over for another week and out everyone runs.
Maybe your meetings aren’t exactly as I just described. Maybe you do spend more time praying than you spend talking about the requests. Maybe the people are sincere in their concerns. But an evaluation of the meeting shows that it was a corporate meeting of individual prayers. A room of people taking turns and praying exactly as they would if they were home alone. In these meetings it is impossible to stay focused as a group when each person can take his or her own soapbox for a ride.
It is unfair to expect believers to know how to pray corporately if they have not been taught. Most new believers have only seen modeled the ‘zipper-prayer’: opening and closing a meeting in prayer format. These are short, one person uttering the ‘bless us Lord’ prayers. The average prayers in church are never long enough or sincere enough to ensure an encounter with God. People need to be taught how to pray individually. But people need to know that there is also a way to pray corporately.
The goal of a prayer meeting is to be with God. That’s it. It is not to speak our minds and then go home. The prayer meeting is more about what God says than what we say. Therefore it is imperative that believers know what is required of God in order for Him to be with us in the prayer meeting.
1. We need to come with hearts eager and hungry for Him. No other focus will draw His presence. Two ways this is taught. Everyone brings his or her Bible expecting God to speak through His word. Also, no one wears a watch. A heart that has come to meet with God does not confine The God of the Universe to man’s schedule.
2. Our hearts need to be humble and repentant before Him. Sin hinders our prayers. People need to come prepared and time must be given for the Spirit to search and cleanse hearts.
3. We need to be united in our focus. This is the most overlooked foundation to a powerful corporate prayer meeting. If everyone comes in with their own agenda, their own soapbox, then the meeting will have no unity. We need to come together, unified in His name. Praying in Jesus’ name means we are praying in His character. Jesus was focused solely on His Father’s business. So should we be.
4. There is a designated leader and the people know to follow his or her lead through each stage of the meeting. This person must be a mature leader who is yielded to the leading of the Spirit.
5. Believers are trained to be few in words and considerate to others. The more verbal people need to limit themselves to short sentences so that others are not intimidated to offer their prayers. Remember, we don’t pray to impress.
6. Expect variety. God does not do routine. Each meeting can take a different format as the Spirit leads. Sometimes the meeting never gets past praise and worship. Other times repentance is all that is done. There can be small groups, couples, round robin, quiet intercession kneeling at the altar, and yes, sometimes just one person prays and all agree with that prayer.
7. Do not fear silence. It is in the silent times that we hear His voice.
OOPs, I have just committed the very sin I am writing against. I have talked about prayer and not allowed time for prayer. I rode my soapbox around the block a few too many times. This blog will have to be continued next week where I will walk you through a focused, Spirit-lead corporate prayer meeting.
Until then, pray this prayer daily and for the rest of your life,
“Father, teach me to pray.”