Monday, February 17, 2014

Hearing God speak through prayer

People pray. It doesn't seem to matter too much what you believe. Muslim or Hindu, Christian or Atheist cry out to someone or something. Who hasn't found themselves in a hard place and cried out "O, God..." or in better times and cried "Thank God..."

Download MP3: Hearing God speak through prayer (30mins).

We pray. Yet, it's hard. You lie on your bed to pray and it feels like the words bounce back off the ceiling as you address your petitions to the light fittings. You find a quiet place to pray and suddenly everything you've procrastinated about for days seems urgent. You pray and you pray and you pray and nothing happens and so you give up. Or, you think my life is already too full and too busy, I have no time to pray. And the biographies of the greats who rise before dawn to pray make it worse.

When I'm weak I think I can't pray until I'm stronger. When I'm strong I don't feel the need to pray so much. I'm caught between a rock and a hard place. I wont when I'm weak. I wont when I'm strong. Yet my gut instinct is still to cry out....  perhaps Ole Hallesby is right: our best prayer is our helplessness.

Jesus' friends observed him praying (Luke 11:1, 10:21). He prayed! And they approached him, "teach us." A humility I struggle to find. Too easy to observe greatness and run. To see another and disqualify myself. Yet they ask. And how does he respond? Does he swat them away? Surely the eternal Son of God has better things to do! No, he says... "When you pray, say..." He smiles and welcomes their learning.

What will he say? They've seen him praying "Father". And he says, "pray, Father." Pray like I pray. My second son started to call me Dave. I want to take him aside gently and say, "You're one of three people on the planet who doesn't need to call me that. Call me Daddy." We learn. It's messy. Jesus invites us to step inside his own relationship with the Father. He prays as the eternal Son, we can pray as adopted sons. Not to Jesus' father but to He who now is also our Father.

Fatherhood is complex and broken in our world but there is hope if we let Jesus introduce his Father. There is no Father behind Jesus who is unlike Jesus.  And this Father loves those who have the impudence (ESV) to ask. He invites cheeky, shameless audacity (NIV). Knock on the door at midnight for three loaves to feed a friend. Not one, nor two, but three. Come, as Paul Miller says, to the Three-Loaves-God!

And what will he give? Stuff? Yes but he's more interested in something more. The best fallen fathers give good gifts much more does the Father in Heaven... much more... much more... much more does he give not good gifts but the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Father may change our circumstance but he's more interested in moving into our lives in the middle of our story.

Jesus invites us into his relationship with his Father, by the Holy Spirit - caught up in these eternal loving relationships. Feeling like we can't get through? The way is open - you can't break in or buy in but he opens the way through his body, his death. Feeling distracted? He comes to us in the middle of it all. Feeling cynical? He welcomes our questions and our struggles. Feeling busy? This is no extra thing to add into life, it's a new life.

We might exclude ourselves, I can't call you Father! But he wont have us as slaves - only as adopted sons. Seek and find. We might think ourselves above asking, but he invites us to come into his party. Knock and he will open the door. Ask and much more than you could imagine is yours, freely.

Do you want him? Do you want to be in this family?

And, hearing God speak through prayer is not just for private personal prayer (which Jesus does speak about elsewhere) but for us together to come, to ask for our daily bread and our forgiveness together. To develop the habits of community who learn together from the Son to speak to the Father and receive the Spirit. Going through the motions is part of the messy business of learning, exploring, and growing. We hear as we live in communion with the Triune God, on the basis of the death of the Son who was cut off from the divine family to bring all kinds of people, even me, into that life with him, his Father and the Spirit.

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