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He Hears Before You Think to Pray
Not only does the Bible teach that God listens when we pray, it's also clear that he listens BEFORE we pray. Psalm 139 is eloquent in saying that before we can even form a word on our lips, God already knows what we're going to say. He knows the words before we do. He's listening before it even occurs to us to speak.
There is never a moment when God is not there with you. If you accidentally find yourself in a situation where you're in trouble and feel far from God, he's there! If you have actively tried to run from him, doing your best to get yourself in the darkest possible situation, he's there too!
On the very top of the list of things you're completely incapable of doing is getting to a place where God won't hear you.
David even says that if you could count the grains of sand on the shore, you still wouldn't be approaching the number of times God thinks about you. He's more attentive than the most attentive friend or spouse. He's always there—not as a policeman, but as a friend, ultra-concerned to hear what is on your mind.
Psalms 139:1-24 NKJV O Lord , You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, And are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, But behold, O Lord , You know it altogether. You have hedged me behind and before, And laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is high, I cannot attain it. Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, Even there Your hand shall lead me, And Your right hand shall hold me. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall on me,” Even the night shall be light about me; Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You, But the night shines as the day; The darkness and the light are both alike to You. For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them. How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand; When I awake, I am still with You. Oh, that You would slay the wicked, O God! Depart from me, therefore, you bloodthirsty men. For they speak against You wickedly; Your enemies take Your name in vain. Do I not hate them, O Lord , who hate You? And do I not loathe those who rise up against You? I hate them with perfect hatred; I count them my enemies. Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.
This is the confidence we must carry into prayer, God will already have been listening to you. Waiting for you to speak. He cares. More than you could even begin to fathom.
He knows your situation better than you do. Lay it all out there for him, including your own emotional and spiritual response. He cares. He's listening. He's longing to spend this time with you right now.
God is talkative and wants to engage us in two-way communication.
In order for people to develop and maintain a relationship that develops into a relationship between good or best friends there must be two-way communication.
If everything was a one way communication, or no communication at all, how do you think that relationship would be affected?
Like any other relationship, friendship with God requires good two-way communication. We know that He listens when we talk to Him. We’ve talked, the last two weeks about the fact that we need to stop faking it and tell God just how we feel. When we become convinced that God is really our friend we really know how He feels about us and the we can talk to Him about anything.
Hebrews 4:16 (NKJV) Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
We shouldn’t try to hide our emotions because if we do our prayers become formal following a pattern and are not really us.
Last week we talked about “head” and “heart” beliefs. Head beliefs are what we say we believe, and heart beliefs are the perceptions that actually shape our feelings and reactions to circumstances and our relationship with God.
For example you may believe in your head that God will protect you and provide for you and not let any real harm come to you. But when the doctor says,”we need to do a second test just to rule out cancer”, or when you lose a job, or face foreclosure, that belief of protection may not be the one you operate on. A misperception about God may take over and shake you whether you say it or not. You may operate on the belief that God is really allowing you to suffer to develop something in your character, or He’s disciplining you for something.
These heart beliefs may come from anywhere like a negative experience with a boss, a parent, or even a church leader. Those heart beliefs are usually not entirely wrong but twisted just enough to create a barrier to approaching God as He really is.
These past four weeks have been discussions about the fact that prayer is a dynamic relationship. Now I want us to talk about prayer that is conversational. What we want to learn and understand is that God does talk to us and wants our relationship to involve two-way communication.
How does God communicate with us outside scripture?
Most of us haven’t experienced two-way conversation with Him. If we can receive direct communication from God then the relationship with Him becomes most real and tangible.
When you think of God communicating with you, what do you feel comfortable with? Uncomfortable?
We are going to look at some scripture and I want us to identify what is communication from God to His people or from His people to God
Psalm 27:8 (NLT) My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.” And my heart responds, “LORD, I am coming.” From God
Psalm 85:8 (NLT) I listen carefully to what God the LORD is saying, for he speaks peace to his faithful people. But let them not return to their foolish ways. From God
Isaiah 55:1-3 (NLT)1 “Is anyone thirsty? Come and drink— even if you have no money! Come, take your choice of wine or milk— it’s all free!2 Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength? Why pay for food that does you no good? Listen to me, and you will eat what is good. You will enjoy the finest food.3 “Come to me with your ears wide open. Listen, and you will find life. I will make an everlasting covenant with you. I will give you all the unfailing love I promised to David. From God
Jeremiah 33:3 (NLT) Ask me and I will tell you remarkable secrets you do not know about things to come. From the People and From God
Habakkuk 2:1 (NLT) I will climb up to my watchtower and stand at my guardpost. There I will wait to see what the LORD says and how he will answer my complaint. From the people
John 10:27 (NLT) My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. Other
Romans 8:16 (NLT) For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. From Both
James 1:5-6 (NLT)5 If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.6 But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. From Both
What are some of the benefits of hearing from God?
God speaks peace to you - Even in times of trouble - Psalm 85:8 (HCSB)8 I will listen to what God will say; surely the LORD will declare peace to His people, His godly ones, and not let them go back to foolish ways.
You will receive your needs - Isaiah 55:1-2 (HCSB)1 “Come, everyone who is thirsty, come to the waters; and you without money, come, buy, and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost!2 Why do you spend money on what is not food, and your wages on what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and you will enjoy the choicest of foods.
That He will do what He promises - Isaiah 55:3 (HCSB) Pay attention and come to Me; listen, so that you will live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, the promises assured to David.
He will answer your questions - Jeremiah 33:3 (HCSB) Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and incomprehensible things you do not know.
You know that He hears you - John 10:27 (HCSB) My sheep hear My voice, I know them, and they follow Me.
We know that we are His children - Romans 8:16-17 (HCSB)16 The Spirit Himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children,17 and if children, also heirs—heirs of God and coheirs with Christ—seeing that we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.
He will give wisdom - James 1:5-6 (HCSB)5 Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him.6 But let him ask in faith without doubting. For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind.
What are some other benefits from hearing from God personally?
What do we have to do to invite God to talk personally to us according to those scriptures?
Come to Him - Psalm 27:8 (HCSB) My heart says ⌊this⌋ about You, “You are to seek My face.” LORD, I will seek Your face.; Isaiah 55:1 (HCSB) “Come, everyone who is thirsty, come to the waters; and you without money, come, buy, and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost!
Listen to Him - Isaiah 55:3 (HCSB) Pay attention and come to Me; listen, so that you will live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, the promises assured to David.; John 10:27 (HCSB) My sheep hear My voice, I know them, and they follow Me.
Ask Him to talk to you - Jeremiah 33:3 (HCSB) Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and incomprehensible things you do not know.; James 1:5-6 (HCSB)5 Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him.k6 But let him ask in faith without doubting. For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind.
Some questions that I want us to ask ourselves.
- Was the God of the universe really willing to speak personally into my life circumstances
- How would I know if it was really God speaking and not my wishful thinking?
- What if God asked me to do something I didn’t want to do?
- What if the enemy hijacked the conversation?
- Do I have time for a two-way conversation with God?
- Wouldn’t I experience God’s love and presence more if He were to talk to me?
If after asking yourself these questions it became obvious God really wanted and was willing to talk to you then you would find time, make the effort, take the risk, and invite Him to talk to your person-to-person.
The question then becomes how does God speak directly and personally to you?
It may not be as dramatic as when He talked to Moses from the burning bush, or when He spoke to me audibly. Those are rare and dramatic which are great and exciting but wouldn’t you want Him to speak to you everyday?
Here are some ways that God can talk to you.
1. Prayer. In order for God to speak to us, we need to be in his presence listening for his voice. As we spend time in prayer, we may sense God's leading in our lives.
2. His word. God speaks to us through his written word as we study and meditate upon his holy scripture.
3. Circumstances. Many times God will cause doors to open, or others to close. If we are walking in obedience to him, we have to assume that events in our life are ordered by God. They don't just happen by chance.
4. Our heart. Sometimes the Holy Spirit will minister to our spirit and reveal God's plan for us. We will have an assurance deep in our heart. We will feel God's voice guiding us.
5. Others. God can use other believers to bring us his direction. Sometimes we will be singing a song in church, or we will be reading a Christian book, or hear the Pastor's message, or one of our friends will say something that will show us God's will. God can reveal his direction to us through any of these five ways. But even when he does, it's sometimes difficult to discern that what we sense or feel is truly God's plan for our lives so we need Him to confirm His direction the same way He revealed it to us
In other words: one or two more things will confirm God's direction for you. When you see this confirmation, then you will know it's time to step out in faith.
Think about how wonderful it would be if instead of just sending up a one-way prayer you were able to engage God in a two-way conversation. Now it won't happen overnight because we may still have some “heart” beliefs about God really wanting to personally talk to us. But we need to continue to invite God to teach us to listen. Tell God that you want to hear from Him and Him alone and no one else - not even your own thoughts then trust that He will. It may be a good idea to record what He gives you. Is it a scripture, a picture, a thought, a memory, whatever.
Then if you sense that He did give you something, even if it’s vague respond to it by continuing to talk to Him about it. Remember what we said about Him confirming what He says you.
Here are some prayers that may help.
Remember what I said last week about practice, practice, practice.
- “God, I kind of doubt You would speak to me. But if I’m wrong, would You please show me? I don’t want to miss out if this is something You have for me.”
- “God, I thought You only spoke to people in Bible times. I really don't think You would speak personally now, but I’m willing to have You show me otherwise. If You really do speak today, would You help me to see it from Your Word as well as from any other source You use to reveal it to me?”
- “I’m ready, God. I want to hear from You personally. Please teach me how to hear and know Your voice. Speak, Lord, I am listening”
- Here’s my prayer “God, I heard you speak to me in an audible voice once will I ever hear it again? If not I want to be able to block out all the noise and be sure that I’m hearing directly from you. Show me how.