Yesterday, I was sat having dinner with my eldest daughter, Sarah, when, quite out of the blue, she asked me, “Daddy, how do we hear Jesus talk to us?”
How would you answer that question? Because, let’s be honest, it isn’t always easy, is it? I’d love it if God spoke to me in a clear, deep, booming voice from the sky. Nice and simple. But, of course, you have to be one of those lucky ones, like Moses up the mountain or in front of the burning bush, to hear God like that. Most of us simply don’t have those kind of encounters. I’ve been a Christian for 18 years now, and in all that time I’ve only heard God as an audible voice once, and the message wasn’t even for me! Most of the time it’s a lot harder and involves a lot of prayer.
Prayer isn’t natural, is it?
From the moment we are born we begin the struggle to be self-reliant, we strain and yearn for self-sufficiency. Yet prayer flies in the face of all of this. For our culture of people in the fast lane, determined to make it on our own, prayer is an embarrassing admission we need help. Prayer is alien to our culture, to our proud individualistic way of life. And yet somehow, somewhere, probably every single one of us has been driven to our knees, bowed our head and fixed our attention on God and praying. Some, I’m sure, quickly check both ways to make sure no-one is watching, some may blush and yet, despite of it’s foreignness, we pray. Why?
But … before we answer that, let me ask you another question. Why did my daughter ask me her question? She’s been brought up in a Christian family. She reads (or more precisely we read to her) her Bible every night. Prayer is something that has been part of her life from the very earliest stages. So why did she ask?
I don’t know how you would have answered her question, but I told her that God speaks to me in lots of ways. I told her that God speaks to us when we read the Bible. I told her that God can speak to us through other people. And I told her that when we pray about something we find that new ways of thinking about things come into our heads and that can often be God telling us something. I told her that God is not predictable, and the only way to really hear God tell us things is to carry on praying that he will speak to us and then, in some way it’s hard to describe, he normally does.
Then I asked her why she asked. And she said … “I just want to hear him and be his friend!”
Why do we pray? We pray because something inside of us understands that the most intimate friendship and closeness to God can only come through prayer. Go and speak to someone who’s faced real tragedy, or heartbreak, or grief, failure, defeat or loneliness. Go and ask them what happened when they finally got down on their knees and poured out their hearts to God. Ask them and they’ll tell you what I can tell you from my own experience.
“I can’t really explain, but I just knew God understood.”
“I felt a comfort and peace I’d never felt before.”
“I felt surrounded by his presence with me.”
As Paul told the little church in Philippi: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7).
I remember a couple of years ago my wife and I went to the hospital to have our scan and see our next child for the first time. We entered the room, eager and excited to see this unique new life growing and maturing inside her. Less than a year before we’d had the heartbreaking experience of a miscarriage, but now we’d got to the scan and we were ready to meet our youngest child (well, via a T.V. screen, anyway). They put the gel on the bump, got out the scanner and then … silence.
“I’m sorry, the baby’s heart has stopped beating.”
Everything froze. And then … pain … anger … hurt. Why? Why us?
The next couple of minutes were a blur, but I do remember we were led into a room and that was when we had no choice but to cry out to God. Sat in that room, holding hands, with tears in our eyes, my wife and I cried out in pain to our God.
And God was there.
I’m not saying my grief disappeared, or even that I stopped being angry. But God was there.
Why do we pray? Because when we do, when we really open up our hearts, God is there.
“I just want to hear him and be his friend!” Don’t we all? I guess we better get to our knees.
God bless you,