Why pray? If God already knows what he is going to do and he is in total control, what is the point of praying?
Prayer is not so much about moving God as it is about Him moving us. You cannot be in the presence of God and come away from that experienced unchanged. This is how faith grows.
First let's get a better understanding of what prayer is. Prayer is more than just phrases where say a "blessing" on a meal, or we ask God to help people, or ask God give us things, prayer is two-way communication. My mentor, Gary Rohrmayer explains:
In every relationship there is talking and listening. The depth of that relationship depends on the quality and consistency of those two basic elements. When applied to our relationship with God, talking is prayer, listening is hearing God’s voice, and doing it repeatedly is our devotional life. One of the most important disciplines I have come to appreciate and value deeply is the discipline of spiritual listening.
Communication specialists say there are four levels of listening:
1) The first level is ignoring.
2) Second is pretending.
3) Third is selective listening.
4) The fourth level is what Steven Covey labels as empathic listening. He writes, "Empathic listening gets inside another person’s frame of reference. You look out through it, you see the world the way they see the world, you understand their paradigm, and you understand how they feel."
I believe this is the level of listening that God desires for his children. He wants us to get into his frame of reference, to see the world the way He sees the world and to understand how He feels.
We are usually living life at 20,000 RPMs, always on the run, running to the next appointment, running to beat a deadline, running to intervene in a crisis, running … running … running. The problem is that God only speaks to us at 500 RPMs.
This is your greatest challenge: How does one slow down enough to hear God’s voice, hear His heart and His affirming word of guidance and wisdom.
One thing I have learned over the years is that when I practice other spiritual disciplines they force me to slow down the RPMs in my spirit and get me into a better position to listen.
When I practice the discipline of studying God’s word (Ezra 7:10, Acts 17:11), it forces me to stop, focus and think.
When I practice the discipline of meditating on God’s word (Psalm 1:1-3), it forces me to go to another level of quietness.
As I ponder God’s truth and as I delight in all He says, I experience stability, comfort and refreshment in my inner being. When I practice the discipline of prayer (Philippians 4:4-7), it helps me change gears and moves me to a level of serenity that only God can produce.
It is a supernatural level that Paul describes as “… the peace of God, which transcends all understanding…” (Phil. 4:7 NIV)
When I practice the discipline of fasting (Psalm 35:13), it reduces my RPMs to another level because it has a humbling effect on my life. I look at fasting as breaking a normal routine to focus my attention on God and His desires, thus expressing my dependence on God.
When I practice the discipline of solitude (Luke 5:16) it slows me down even more because it frees me from the endless number of distractions that keep my RPMs elevated.
All these disciplines lead me to the discipline of stillness or silence (Psalm 131:1-2), which leads me to a place of safety, rest and comfort. “Like a weaned child with its mother…” (Ps 131:2 NIV). Weaned children come to their mothers not to eat but to rest. Solitude leads us to outward silence but stillness leads us to an inward silence so that we might hear God’s voice more clearly.
One spiritual discipline that helps wrap all these other disciplines together is the discipline of journaling. Journaling is a place where you write down and record the works and ways of God in your life.
Yet, journaling is also a way to reduce the RPMs to an appropriate level to hear God speak.
Bill Hybels made this confession, “I decided to try it. My first journal entry says this: Yesterday I said I hated the concept of journals and I still do. But if this is what it takes to rid myself of inauthentic spirituality, I’ll do it. If this is what it takes to reduce my RPMs enough to talk and walk with Christ, I’ll do it. I’ll journal.”
I love the story about Elijah, a frustrated leader struggling deeply with insecurity, who finds himself alone with God. When God says to him, “‘Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by’. Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind, there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then the voice said to him, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’” (I Kings 19:11-13 NIV). For this tired and frustrated leader, God did not speak in the wind, earthquake or fire but he spoke to him in a gentle whisper.
How many gentle whispers do I miss because I am traveling too fast to hear them?
On the journey with you,