How are you? It is so easy to ask someone how they are as you pass them or while your brain is full of other thoughts and other plans. Sometimes, we actually want to know how they are feeling or coping with life. Sometimes, we just want them to know we care even though we might not have time to listen. Is our prayer life like that? Do we go to God on our knees with our list of needs and wants, then when we’re finished just get up and check it off our list? Jesus gave us the example of prayer in Matthew 6:9-13, but God gave us examples in the Old Testament as well. Adam and Eve’s talking and walking with Him, God making a covenant with Abram and changing his name to Abraham, Moses spending so much time talking to Him that his face started glowing, Samuel hearing Him speak so loudly he thought it was a person near him, and the list goes on. God spoke, His people listened. Sometimes they argued with Him. Sometimes they even wrestled with Him.
God has invited us, through Jesus, to speak to Him directly. But talking to someone also means you need to listen. The God of the universe, the One Who created you and loves you more than you can possibly imagine, wants to talk to you. He wants to hear your voice but also wants you to listen. He delights in us when we follow Him (Ps. 149:4) To follow Him means we have to listen to His voice. The Shepherd leads the sheep, and they know the sound of His voice. We cannot be swayed by other voices if we are focused on One.
There are always things that come into our lives that distract us from following God’s path for us. Satan is a master of lies, and those lies can be so close to the truth that we end up listening. If you have read C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, you know what I’m talking about. The letters in the book have been written from Screwtape, who is a senior demon, to his nephew Wormwood, who is new at all this tempting business. Screwtape advises Wormwood to keep the human distracted, focusing on nitpicky things and nothing of true importance. (I would highly recommend reading it if you have not read it or reading it again if you have. Even though it was written during World War II, it is incredibly relevant today with our uncertainty of what happens next.) Don’t let yourself be distracted by anxiety or other people’s opinions or bad behavior. What does God want you to do? I will refer back to my “Awe and Wonder” blog and recommend that you find something that fills you with wonder each day. Focus on God, not the world.
Who you are listening to can greatly affect your behavior. Pastor Chad asked the question, “Are you rationalizing the things you have done?” Do we repeat bad behavior and blame it on our parents or because someone else started it? One of my favorite movie quotes is from Kingdom of Heaven. King Baldwin IV tells Balian, “A king may move a man. A father may claim a son. But remember that, even when those who move you be kings or men of power, your soul is in your keeping alone. When you stand before God you cannot say that I was told by others to do thus or that virtue was not convenient at the time. This will not suffice. Remember that.” We cannot blame our actions on other people. I am responsible for how I act and react. You are responsible for how you act and react. If we are listening to God in our prayer time, we will begin to react like He would, with His love, His patience, His understanding. Who are you listening to?