I’ve been around long enough and participated in enough prayer meetings to know that we do a much better job of talking than we do listening when we pray. In fact Pentecostal/charismatics Christians (and I believe I can speak to that issue because I am one of them) find silence during prayer very difficult to handle. We want to talk, talk, talk, in prayer. One worship phrase after another… One “thank you Lord” after another… One utterance of the Lord’s various names after another… and then repeat them over and over again… and again… and again. Sometimes our mind wanders and we can’t even recall what we just said in prayer… kind of praying on “autopilot,”… know what I mean? If we’re tired (or bored) we yawn, we look at our watch, we put in the required time and then we go home… we spent an hour in prayer and we’re relieved!
Don’t get me wrong, I believe quality time spent with the Lord is valuable, important and effective… Notice, however, I said “quality time”… not simply “putting in time!” Jesus warned about it… He said, “When you pray do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles (or unconverted) do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.” (Matthew 6:7) My Bible reading this morning put it this way… “Guard your steps when you go to the house of God! To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil. Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your hear be hasty to utter a word before God… When you vow a vow to God, do not delay paying it, for He has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you vow! It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay. Let not your mouth lead you into sin, and do not say before the messenger, ‘it was a mistake.’” (from Ecclesiastes 5:1-6 ESV)
Prayer is a conversation with God… speaking and listening! I know it’s difficult to break old habits but let me suggest the following: 1) Become aware of God’s presence on the front end of prayer. 2) Welcome His presence with thanksgiving and worship. 3) Engage your mind and heart as you begin to pray. 4) Quiet your heart in His presence and listen for the whisper of His voice (let Him speak first) 5) Speak honestly and in a heartfelt way what is on your heart. And 6) Listen for the Lord’s voice again…
Hey, I’m working on it too! I’m trying to do more listening in prayer… I’ve discovered that when the Lord speaks it’s a lot better than anything I’ve got to say… He’s interested in conversation with me… He doesn’t want me to do all the talking.