The Vitality of Praying—Part Two
Hearing God speak is vital to prayer
True communication requires speakers at both ends, responding to one another, having heard what was said. To ensure communication is taking place, a speaker will wait to receive feedback from the listener. Without feedback, we become lost and unable to communicate any further. We have all been there—you were not hearing the other person on the line, but they heard you! In such a situation, communication cannot take place.
Prayer is like that. We speak to God and expect Him to respond. When we pray, barring any noise, God hears us. Having listened to us, He responds to our prayer, and barring any noise in the feedback, we should hear what He is saying.
Unfortunately, many Christians rise from praying without hearing anything from God. That is not to say that the answer would come immediately all the time, but at the very least, we should know that God heard us. Speaking through Isaiah, God told Judah that if they fasted acceptably when they prayed, He would respond,
'Here I am.' (Isaiah 58:9, NKJV)
When we communicate with God, we not only want Him to hear us, but we also want to hear Him speak to us. If prayer is merely offloading our requests on God, we are soliloquising, monologuing, or even ranting or venting. If we do not hear from God after we have prayed, it can be either God did not hear us, or He heard us, but when He responded, we did not hear Him. We already addressed the former in Part One (see below), and now, we must address the latter.
Impediment to hearing God
If we must hear from God after He has heard us, we must ensure that impediments, or the noise preventing us from hearing God, are eliminated. A plethora of noise can impede our hearing from God when He responds, and we shall consider some of them here.
1. A noisy environment
In Matthew 6:6, Jesus advised that when we pray, we should go into our closets and pray to God. In Mark 1:35, Jesus Himself went to a solitary place to pray. Why the closet? Why the solitude? The reason is to avoid the noise of activities around. We can better hear God when we have shut out the noise of everyday living, including regular activities like watching television, social media trolling, making and receiving phone calls, etc. Praying when the environmental and emotional noise levels are at the barest minimum is wisdom—like when the children have all gone to school.
2. A busy spirit
In Luke 10:38-42, Jesus visited the home of Martha. While her sister, Mary, sat at Jesus' feet listening, Martha was busy putting things together to entertain Jesus. When she complained about Mary not helping out, Jesus told Martha that she was too busy and had left out what was most important—sitting down to listen to Him.
In today's world of television, social media, etc., we rarely have any quiet time to talk to God, let alone hear Him speak to us. Most times, we are in such a great hurry, we barely say "Good morning" to God, if at all we do, before we are out and about the whole day. Under such busy conditions, it is impossible to hear God.
3. Much speaking
Some people only want to be heard. They are not interested in listening to what others have to say. The Holy Spirit, through James and Solomon, advises us, respectively, thus:
let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, (James 1:19, NKJV)
Walk prudently when you go to the house of God; and draw near to hear rather than to give the sacrifice of fools, …. Do not be rash with your mouth, And let not your heart utter anything hastily before God. …. let your words be few. (Ecclesiastes 5:1-2, NKJV)
In both instances, we are advised to talk less and be more eager to hear God speak. When we spend our time speaking rather than listening, we miss out on many things God wants to tell us, which may include world events. When you find a person preoccupied with wanting to get their views out, you have most likely found someone who is not listening to God.
4. A cluttered conscience
A cluttered conscience is a mind with preconceived ideas. When such a person goes to God in prayer, they would not hear God correctly if they listened to Him. In Matthew 16:5-12, Jesus' disciples had not taken bread along with them, which bothered them. As they discussed the matter among themselves, Jesus said,
"Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees." (Matthew 16:6, NKJV)
On hearing this, the disciples thought that Jesus was warning them not to buy bread from the Pharisees or the Sadducees. But that was not what Jesus meant. He was, in fact, warning them against being deceived by the doctrine and hypocrisy of the religious leaders of their time. In Ezekiel 14:1-11, God told Ezekiel that the leaders sitting before him to inquire of the Lord had idols in their hearts, which made them unable to heed God's word. If a person is set on doing something and goes to God in prayer, they will not hear God because of the preconceived notion in their mind.
5. Spiritual immaturity
In 1 Samuel 3:1-8, Samuel thought Eli had called him each time God called him. Why was this so? Samuel was a boy—immature—even though he ministered before the Lord. Many people think that engaging in church activities is a sign of spiritual maturity. But nothing can be further from the truth!
The conditions under which Samuel grew up further revealed the seriousness of his situation: there were no widespread revelations, he was not taught the word of God, the leadership lacked vision—Eli was going blind—and was spiritually lethargic—Eli was lying down, not active. Besides, Eli's sons were described as sons of Belial. Thus, Samuel grew up in a 'slum' of moral and spiritual bankruptcy, all of which added to his immaturity of spiritual things.
The spiritually immature Christian cannot differentiate between the voice of God and any other voice. Hence, when God speaks, they run off to a human being. God could not have told Eli to tell Samuel what He told Samuel with the benefit of hindsight. Today, whenever God wants to speak directly to us, many run off to a 'man of God' because they are spiritually immature. Hence, they cannot hear God.
6. Tuned to a wrong frequency
Some of us are tuned to a different frequency from the frequency at which God is operating. You cannot expect to get authentic news from gossip or even social media. In the same way, we cannot expect to hear from God when we are tuned to the flesh. The Holy Spirit puts it thus:
Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:12-14, NKJV)
Anyone still operating in the flesh is a natural man and has the spirit of the world in them. Only when we are in the Spirit can we receive what God has for us. When we are not operating in the Spirit, we are likely to get caught up in conspiracy theories and be deceived. Anything God says to such a person will be considered foolish.
Whilst carnality closely resembles operating on a wrong frequency; it deserves a separate mention. Carnality is a state of mind that always rebels and resists God's word. Therefore, a carnal person cannot heed the word of God, even if they wanted to (Romans 8:5-8). Indeed, the Holy Spirit tells us that a carnal person is not a Christian! For a carnal person, everything is about the earth and this present age. Eternity does not appeal to them, neither does anything that does not provide immediate gratification. A carnal individual cannot accept the word of God no matter what!
8. Pride and arrogance
A proud person cannot hear God; for one, God is not anywhere near them! Also, pride makes a person feel more important than they are. As a result, they become full of themselves, and God cannot get to them. No wonder the Holy Spirit counsels through James:
lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. (James 1:21, NKJV)
Pride and arrogance are filthy! They overload people's hearts with a sense of false importance and knowledge, which prevents them from humbly receiving the word of God that can save them.
Dealing with noise that prevents us from hearing God
There are many other reasons why people who pray may not be hearing from God. These include ignorance of how God speaks, inability to hear God correctly, misinterpreting God's word, deception in our hearts, inordinate desires, etc.
A masterstroke that deals with noise concerning hearing God, is sanctification. If we allow the Holy Spirit to perform His work of sanctification in us, our old Adamic nature of sin and rebellion will be removed and replaced with God's nature, which delights to hear God's word and do His will.
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (Romans 12:2, KJV)
To be transformed, the Adamic nature, also called the flesh, must be crucified. Also, we must die to the world.
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20, KJV)
Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. (1 John 2:15-16, KJV)
Having been sanctified, we submit the Holy Spirit's teaching and training through the word of God and become familiar with how God speaks. Thus, we are never confused about who we are hearing.
Speaking about Himself as the good shepherd, and us, the sheep, Jesus said,
the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. …. the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers." (John 10:3-5, NKJV)
When we have learnt how to decipher God's voice, we will never follow anyone but God and would always delight to hear His voice. And since we know how to ensure that God hears us when we pray and can eliminate the noise that prevents us from hearing Him, our prayer life will be a joy!
In the next instalment, we shall elaborate on another aspect of praying we had mentioned in Part One—praying the will of God.