"If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you" (John 15:7, NKJV).
How often is prayer a monologue? We come to God with our laundry list of things that need His attention, throw out a few "Praise the Lords" and "Hallelujahs," and feel like we've done our part. But as much as we need to make our requests known before the Lord (Phil. 4:6), do you suppose that God may want just a little more from us than that? That perhaps He wants us to listen just as much as we speak?
Think about human relationships for a moment. If I talked with my wife just enough to tell her what I needed her to do on a daily basis, I can assure you, I'd be sleeping in the sofa. No, not on it. In it. Our relationship includes mutual responsibilities, to be sure, and there are times when we need to address the things that need to be done, but those things are not what nurture or define our relationship. Our love for one another, expressed by being fully present to one another, are key ingredients in our intimacy. Listening, for no other reason than to know one another's heart, is vital.
I can't help but think that Jesus had this in mind when he told His disciples that they must abide in Him, and allow His words to abide in them. Prevailing prayer begins by simply being present to our Savior. The Bible tells us that Jesus praised Mary for choosing the "better part," while she both sat at His feet and listened to His words (Luke 10:39, NLT). The Scriptures never record any of her prayers, but I am confident that she had her Savior's ear!
Do you? Are you more ready to hear than to be heard as you pray? Have you learned the secret of abiding? These are penetrating questions, but please know that they are not meant to cast criticism, but to extend an invitation. As you pray today. take time to listen for His still small voice. Cherish your time with God, and don't approach Him in a hurry to move on to other things. If you abide in Him, and allow His words to abide in you, you can be confident that your prayers and petitions will reflect the heart and mind of God. He loves to answer such prayers.
Scripture for prayer and reflection:
"Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live" (Isa. 55:3, NIV).
"Therefore the people contended with Moses, and said, 'Give us water, that we may drink'" (Exodus 17:1, NKJV).
It seemed like a reasonable request. Moses had led the people out of their captivity, and now they were far away from even the meager provisions they had while in Egypt. They were both tired and hungry, and now they faced certain death without a supply of vital water.
But there was more to it than a simple request for water. In fact, it wasn't a request at all, but an accusation. They went on to say, "Why have you brought us up out of Egypt? Not only are we going to die, but so will our children, and so will all of our livestock!" (see verse 3). Instead of trusting that God would provide once more in the clutch, as He had done time and time again, they went from one crisis to the next, always wagging their finger toward heaven, and doubting the goodness of their God. Somehow they doubted that the same God who brought them out had the power to take them in. They gave Him credit for saving them, but doubted now that He could sustain them.
We can be just like that if we are not careful.
When things do not go our way, when the doctor calls with bad news, or the promotion you wanted is given to someone else, or the children stray and disobey, it is easy to fall into the trap of blaming God. Of second-guessing our faith. Of re-evaluating the trustworthiness of our God.
But regardless of our circumstances, two things remain true, giving us all the ability to worship God, even in the deserts and valleys of life. The first truth is that He is God. The second truth is that He is good. When we believe the first but not the second, we believe that God is punishing us, making us to suffer either sadistically, or apathetically, or both. When we believe the second truth but not the first, we may acknowledge His love and care, but we end up doubting His strength and resources. We must affirm both truths.
When we do, we can worship God in every circumstance, because we esteem Him trustworthy, faithful, and true. When you face difficult times, God certainly invites you to cast all your care on Him (1 Peter 5:7), but do so with faith and confidence, knowing that He is able to meet all your need according to His riches in glory (Phil. 4:19), and knowing that regardless of the outcome, He is still God, and He is still good. Worship Him in the desert, and streams of living water will flow (Isa. 35:6).
Scripture for reflection and prayer:
"Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:6, NKJV).