The verse that always comes to mind when thinking about prayer is Philippians 4:6, ‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus’.
For the last couple of days we have been looking at prayer not just as ‘asking’ God to do something for us, or to give us something, but as a dialogue, wherein we can ask Him questions and seek His wisdom in our circumstances and situations. We have considered the best kind of questions and suggested that if we begin our dialogue with God with thanksgiving, it will help us to ask with faith in our hearts, which of course pleases God. Hebrews 11:6.
The next important thing to ponder is ‘How I am expecting to receive God’s response to me?’ and we use the word ‘response’ because of course, as we said yesterday, we don’t always get the kind of direct reply from God that we would like. In our asking questions of Him, we need to remember that He is not on the stand in a court of law, rather He is the potter and we are the clay – so let’s stay humble.
Sometimes the Lord answers us immediately, bringing to mind a scripture or a sermon that we heard, reminding us of a truth we have been taught, or a testimony we have heard. At other times there is a delay, and at these times especially, thanksgiving keeps us in faith and expectant that the Lord has heard our prayer/questions, and that the Holy Spirit is seeking to show us the answer, or the way ahead, in His own time and way.
To ask and then expect an immediate answer can be faith destroying, but to ask and then trust is far better. I believe that often an immediate answer is not possible because we don’t have the right understanding or maturity within ourselves to actually discern what He is saying. We often therefore hear the Lord’s response to us in teaching or prophesy, also through talking and fellowship with other Christians, which is why we need to regularly gather with others who believe. It is often as we are together that we can find the mind of Christ. 1 Corinthians 2:15,16.
Not only does the Lord not always answer us immediately, it is rare for us to hear an audible voice, though clearly some have. The Lord can speak to us through dreams and prophesies, but I think that more often He wants us to hear His voice in a simpler more straight forward way. Thanking the Lord for His love and presence with us, keeps us open to receive what he has to say, because sometimes answers come in unexpected ways.
We do however have the indwelling Spirit of God living with us and so, often, the answers to our questions come as we worship and praise the Lord. Praying in tongues too, enables the Spirit of God to ‘lead us into all truth’, and this may often be through the thoughts coming into our own minds. There can often be that ‘aha’ moment, that inner witness and recognition as our spirit agrees with the Holy Spirit. (We may also recognize sometimes that we would never have thought that ourselves, left to our own devices.) Jesus Himself said that He was the Good Shepherd and that His sheep would ‘follow Him because they know His voice’ John 10:3,4.
I am sharing here from personal experience, which you may find helpful, or you may find that for you this whole thing works very differently. This, I think, is because as we are with our children, our Heavenly Father knows how each of us ticks and He knows how to best communicate with us. There are no right or wrong ways to hear from God but there are a few clear guidelines that will keep us from error.
- God the Holy Spirit will always speak to us truths that will accord with scripture, this does not mean that every prompting of the Spirit will come with a biblical verse or precedent, but He will never lead us in a way that violates all that He has revealed of Himself in His word.
- The Lord’s ‘voice’ may be correctional but it will not be shaming and condemning. If He is speaking to us about something that is wrong, He will always point us to the cross, where we can find grace and forgiveness,
- If this whole process of communicating with the Lord is soaked in thanksgiving, it will increase my faith, enable me to hear Him more clearly and it will also help me not to fall into error, because as I ‘test out’ what I believe I am hearing, continuing in thanksgiving will bring a sense of harmony and peace to my mind and heart. Philippians 4:6.