Prayer, It's Time: The Freedom to Know God

Psalm 5:1-3
To the leader: for the flutes. A Psalm of David.
1 Give ear to my words, O Lord;
  give heed to my sighing.
2 Listen to the sound of my cry,
  my King and my God,
  for to you I pray.
3 O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice;
  in the morning I plead my case to you, and watch.

He has been known as “The Father of the American Revolution.”  While far from being a role model, Samuel Adams was one of the most outspoken leaders and critics of Great Britain in the years leading up to the Revolution.  He founded the Sons of Liberty and was behind the original Tea Party held in Boston Harbor.  He was no diplomat, politician or general, but he was a driving force in the movement that would sweep the colonies.

And he maybe an odd choice to start talking about prayer, but Donald Phillips offers an interesting quote in his book, “The Founding Fathers on Leadership,” where Adams observes, “We are not what we should be. We should labor for the future [rather] than for the present moment (18).”  What Samuel Adams was saying about his vision for our nation, can aptly be applied to our own lives, especially as we think about prayer: we are not what we should be.

It is time for us to deal with prayer, past-time for some of us and right on time for a lot of us.  Just like there was nothing easy about the American Revolution, dealing with prayer, practicing prayer is a revolution in our own lives.  We may think of it as something of weight, a feeling of guilt for not doing it more when in fact prayer expresses the freedom to know God.

You may feel ill equipped to pray: “What do I say to GOD!?  Surely God has better things to do than listen to me talk, right?!  Does God even listen?  Prayer seems to be something boring.  I don’t have time to PRAY!”  I suspect at least one of those resonated with you.

Prayer is CONVERSATION with God.  I have been a certified marriage counselor for almost 20 years now.  The main thing I work with couples on is conversation skills.  There are two parts to how it works: Assertive speaking and Active listening.  This is the heart of ALL successful relationships.  Remember the old saying, “You have two ears and one mouth, act accordingly.”  It applies here so let’s think about today as a time for some prayer therapy.

It has been a long journey to get where I am spiritually speaking.  I know it is hard for people to think a pastor would have a hard time praying but it is true.  For many years I struggled with what prayer ought to be for me.  I would fall asleep in long prayer meetings.  Getting up early was tough or I’d fall asleep at night.  I had a tough time trying to keep prayer lists straight.  Do you know when prayer started to make sense?  It was when I started to listen.

When we look at these three short verses from Psalms we find these two conversation skills I mentioned.  I’d like to start with the skill of active listening as this is what I have found most people struggle with. One translation regarding verse 3 says, “I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation,” and another, “I will order my prayer to Thee and eagerly watch.”  

My understanding of prayer changed when I learned the importance of listening to God, which takes the form of both 1) Observing life and 2) Listening for God’s voice.  Consider 1 Kings 19, we find Elijah, the prophet, heard a gentle whisper and that was the voice of God.  Jesus reminds us as well the sheep “listen to his voice; I know them, and they follow me.” John 10:27.  The two main ways God may speak are in circumstances and through the reading of the Bible.  This is ACTIVE LISTENING in relating to God.

And the Psalm writer says we are to talk with God as well, in counseling this is about being ASSERTIVE.  The writer of Psalm 3 doesn’t tread lightly as he prays: “Give ear to my words… Listen to my cry…”  I shared rather personally last week about how I have been dealing with our family’s struggles around my wife’s cancer.  Let me be clear and concise: I DON’T LIKE IT and I DON’T HAVE ANYONE TO TAKE IT UP WITH!  Ah!!! But I do - GOD.

Philippians 4:6 reminds us “ everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”  Peter wrote in his first letter, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you (1 Peter 5:7).”  Even so, in my studies and experiences, I think we lack ASSERTIVENESS in our praying.  We kinda “wish” on God.  But consider this story,  I got Logan an awesome laptop for Christmas.  But a hinge busted - faulty - and a certain company refused to pay for it.  I got on the phone and e-mail and let them know I wasn’t happy.  If I can be assertive about a computer, surely I can and should be assertive with God; God asks us to be!

Remember, this is conversation - you have to be willing to listen.  God was an active listener throughout the Book of Job till chapter 38 when he says, “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Now gird up your loins like a man, and I will ask you, and you instruct Me!(38:2-3)”  Prayer is not for the faint of heart - if you’re going to talk with God, then be ready for when God talks back.

We have been given an incredible freedom to know God.  More and more people are skeptical or feel they need to go off seeking some mountain top experience.  But more and more, I have come to learn: God is not silent. We are not listening.  You are not who you should be - Jesus gave his life to give us the freedom to boldly approach the Throne of Grace and be changed by that grace. Prayer is central to this change.  It is time - start a conversation with God.

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