The biggest disconnect in our prayer and the most common reason we don’t experience change through prayer is because we talk more than we listen.
Lloyd Ogilvie, Presbyterian minister who served as chaplain to the U.S. Senate in the 90’s, learned something transformational about his prayer life. He realized that he spent 90% of his prayer time talking to God and 10% listening. He decided to reverse it by listening 90% and talking 10%.
Do you know what happened? He found more specific answers to his prayers.
Could it be that if we would listen more to God through prayer, we would also find more direction and help that God couldn’t give because we don’t stop talking long enough to hear Him speak?
Listening helps you discern God’s voice in your life. So how do you recognize God’s communication? How do you make sure it isn’t just your own voice?
Here are some principles I use to confirm God’s voice:
1. God always connects what He says to His Word.
If you don’t start here, everything else crumbles. God has spoken His will through His Word. Unchanging God that He is, His principles stand the test of time and culture. Deuteronomy warns us: Don’t add to or subtract from what God has already said. (Deuteronomy 4:2)
2. God has a quiet, affirming, inviting voice that is more like a whisper than a shout.
I often tell groups that God doesn’t use a pointy-finger voice. He knows shaming doesn’t help. He cajoles, woos, pulls you close. Elijah discovered this when he needed to hear from God. God’s message didn’t come in the wind, earthquake, or fire. It came in a gentle whisper. (I Kings 19:12) My go-to verse has always been, “Be still and know.” (Psalm 46:10) I can recognize God’s voice best in my stillness.
3. God will tell you more than you knew about yourself.
I can’t tell you how many times I have been holding on to some attitude that I thought I was entitled to because of circumstances. Then, God named my attitude as self-serving or insensitive or incomplete. I knew it was God because I never would have come to that understanding on my own. God exposes my motives and shares His Truth about them with me. (I Corinthians 4:5). Transformation comes as I accept His judgment about what I think or feel.
4. God speaks more love than reprimand or at least as a loving reprimand.
“The Lord disciplines those he loves.” (Hebrews 12:6) However, He does it from All Love. This is the most important way I can tell whether I’m beating myself down about something or hearing a loving caution. I don’t usually, lovingly, tell myself I did something the wrong way. See the difference? The more I hear the voice of love, the more I listen and adjust accordingly. Something changes because I do.
5. God uses His words to invite me to participate in His will.
His will is the greatest opportunity you and I have. It’s the nudge to pray for someone. It’s a shoulder tap or a finger point that helps me see a person who’s struggling. It’s the idea to pray God’s will over my will for someone or about something. God’s will raises the bar I have set for myself. Something deep and settling happens that I know I can’t take credit for. It’s transforming. (Romans 12:2)
Discerning God’s voice this way requires listening. While it may become easier, we never “graduate” from the need for listening time with God.
If you want more transformation in your prayer life, listen more; talk less. You can still pour out your heart to God about anything, just give Him equal time to respond. Sometimes it takes listening all the way through your day. It’s not what you say or think that brings about the most change in your life. It’s what God says that you accept, surrender, and obey.
If you have a listening habit that helps, leave a message below for other readers. We’re stronger when we learn together.
Sharing the journey!