Three keys are needed to establish a lifestyle of listening to God. Seeking a deeper desire for God is the first.
I wrote last time about why it’s important to establish a lifestyle of listening to God. But how exactly do we do that? I believe that we need just three keys to set us in the right direction. The first is a deeper desire for God.
I don’t know how it happened, but fairly early on in my Christian life, I learned to be brutally honest with God.
I think it may have been due to the realisation that he was brutally honest with me. My conversion experience brought me to my knees in prayer, with the understanding that I was a dirty rotten sinner. Listening to God would be difficult in that state.
It wasn’t that I was a terrible person (at least, not by the world’s standards), but the Lord made it abundantly clear that his standards were so much higher than I could ever imagine.
Regardless, that experience somehow gave me the grace to be completely honest with him. I understood for example, that it’s ok to be angry at God, as long as I talk to him about it.
Even before I encountered Jesus, I had learned that bottling up my fears and failures would only lead to unforgiveness and bitterness. But I soon discovered that sharing those same feelings with the Lord could lead to unexpected breakthroughs.
Some of my healthiest prayers have included shouting my frustrations directly at God, usually in the safety of my car! …But that’s a story for another day.
Moving swiftly on, the point I want to make is this:
I believe that the Lord loves us to be transparent with him. And that includes being completely honest about our hopes, dreams and desires, as well as our current thoughts and feelings.
I’ll be open with you. There have been many times in my life where I have had no desire whatsoever for any of the following:
Perhaps you feel like that too, sometimes?
There’s an unspoken (and false) expectation in many of us that “because I’m a Christian, I should be completely at peace, totally happy or [insert name of desired state here]”.
There seems to be something within us that expects to be bigger, bolder, greater in our faith/love/hope – all the time and in ever increasing measure.
The positive side of this perception may just be the exercise of a healthy faith, but if we’re not in that place of growth, then there’s a tendency to think we’ve failed somehow. All of these issues can create a barrier between us and listening to God.
However, Christ died for you and me, not so much that we could be perfect Christians all the time, but so that we always have the opportunity to get back into his presence, right here, right now.
To be sure, Jesus left us the Holy Spirit so we can be transformed “from one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor 3:18). His intention is that we spend more and more of our lives experiencing our true status as sons and daughters of the King, just as he called us.
This means if we don’t feel full of desire for God, we don’t have to feel guilty about it. More importantly, we don’t have to hype ourselves up in order to change.
All we have to do is ask.
For that reason, I am not embarrassed to pray like this:
“Father I don’t really feel like it right now, but Lord give me a desire for you, a hunger and a thirst for you, deep in my heart”.
It’s such a simple prayer, but it’s one that our heavenly father loves to answer.
And the best thing is this: once that desire flickers to life and we have tasted of his Holy Spirit working within us, we won’t want to go back. God is the most pleasant person in the world to be with and a deep desire for him will bring us back into relationship, again and again.
Praying and talking with the Lord (and hence, listening to God) is meant to be our natural state. Then we’ll be receptive to hearing his voice and we’ll easily create new habits that will lead us even closer to him.
Trust me, the more you get of God’s presence, the more you want. Spending time in his presence can be addictive in the best possible way!
Lest you feel I’m being irreverent here, let me share one more thing with you. When I was baptised, twelve of us were immersed. Amongst our number was a newly reformed alcoholic.
Indicating some of the others in the line who were awaiting their turn, his testimony was this:
“When I saw what was happening to these people, I thought I’ve got to have some of that!”
He continued by saying he wanted to know what drug they were on and found out it was the Holy Spirit.
That story expresses what Jesus foreshadowed when he said “Ask and it will be given to you …how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:9-13, NIV)
It’s God’s Spirit operating within us that opens up the way for us to operate in the Spirit. More than anything else, his Spirit, his living presence, enables and empowers us to hear his voice.
“It’s God’s Spirit operating within us that opens up the way for us to operate in the Spirit.”
So the first key to listening to God is simply to ask that he gives you the desire and opens up your spiritual ears.
At this point, you may be asking how this works out practically.
Next time, I’ll talk about the other keys to this lifestyle of listening to God, starting with creating good habits. Stay tuned!
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