“Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: The word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. A third time the Lord called, ‘Samuel!’ And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, ‘Here I am; you called me.’ Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy. So Eli told Samuel, ‘Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”’ So Samuel went and lay down in his place. The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ Then Samuel said, ‘Speak, for your servant is listening.’ And the Lord said to Samuel: ‘See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears about it tingle.’
1 Samuel 3:7-11
This month we’ve focused on discipleship, and the many facets of growing and becoming the men and women that God has called us to be as His disciples. This week I’m delighted to talk to you about the prayer of a disciple.
I’ve mentioned before that when I first became a Christian I was desperate to hear the voice of God and learn how to pray. I’d journaled since I was a child, but mostly about the events of the day or things I was trying to process through. Journaling is an incredibly powerful tool. So when I began walking with the Lord I journaled my prayers. I had plenty to pray about and I figured this would be a great way to go back and see how the Lord answered the cries of my heart. Little did I know how He would begin meeting me there.
The Prayer of a Disciple is Not a One-Way Conversation
My conversations back then were usually one-sided. We’ve all had a friend or two that when meeting with them it’s hard to get a word in edgewise. We wait patiently for a break in the conversation so we can jump in and share our perspective. Sometimes we walk away from those encounters discouraged and disappointed. We all want to be appreciated and heard. Unfortunately, that’s precisely what I was doing with God; showing up in the throne room, going through my list of things I needed Him to do or to touch, and walking away. Healthy, thriving relationships have one thing in common: they’ve learned the art of listening to each other well.
After a few years of my one-sided conversations with the Lord, I began sensing these interruptions in my flow of thought. At first they were annoying to me, and I’d keep on writing, paying little attention to these “distractions.” I didn’t recognize at the time that the Father was trying to get my attention. It wasn’t until a friend of mine encouraged me during a ladies retreat to stop and listen for His voice that I began to listen to the flow of life within me, and capturing it on paper. It changed my entire perspective of God and our relationship with one another. I began dialoguing with the Father in prayer. First I’d write what was on my heart, then actively listen and write down what I believed the Lord was saying back to me. I’d never felt so close to the Father. That lasted all of two weeks. I became convinced I wasn’t hearing God at all and went back to my anemic, one-sided prayers.
One year later I was back at another ladies retreat. Obviously, I didn’t get what I needed to receive at the first retreat, so the same friend was teaching on the same topic again: dialogue prayer. This time I got it, and was incredibly angry I’d let the enemy steal an entire year of hearing God’s voice for myself. Never again.
The Prayer of a Disciple Trusts the Word
One of the biggest hurdles I had to overcome as I learned to hear God’s voice for myself was, “Am I being deceived?” It was a valid question. I was reminded of all the people in the Bible who had heard God’s voice for themselves, even children like Samuel. Even Jesus said that His sheep would know His voice and the voice of another they would not follow (John 10:27). That gave me confidence to keep pressing in and listening.
One day I discovered a safety net in His word. It has served me and others well as we’ve learned to listen to God’s voice.
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8
If what I am hearing is not true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy – I’m probably not hearing the heart of the Father. I can tell you from experience that He is the kindest, gentlest Person you will ever encounter. Even during seasons of discipline He lifts us up and doesn’t tear us down. As we study the life of Jesus and see how He engages with people around Him in scripture, it is apparent that His ways are very different from ours. Jesus said that if we’ve seen Him, we’ve seen the Father (John 14:9), so it’s safe to follow His example.
As you learn to dialogue with God, stay in the Word. Use it as your safety net. If you receive something during your times of prayer that would instruct you to make any significant life decisions, seek wise counsel. Share what you are hearing with those that you trust. Learning to hear God’s voice is a process, not an exact science, and absolutely worth the struggle.
The Prayer of a Disciple is Persistent
As I’ve engaged with the voice of the Father I’ve received significant promises for me and my family over the years. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that God’s timing is not at all in line with my wants and desires! He knows the end from the beginning of things, and knows the perfect timing to release the fulfillment of His promises. Our position as disciples has to be one of audacious persistence.
“Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: ‘In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, “Grant me justice against my adversary.” For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, “Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!” And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?’” Luke 18:1-8
Hear the heart of the Father in this story. Jesus promised that those of us who cry out to him would be heard, receive justice, and as a result our faith will grow. Persistent prayer leads to answered prayers which grows our faith like nothing else.
The Prayer of a Disciple Brings Heaven to Earth
When the Lord told His friends to go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19), He was using the word “disciple” very deliberately. He wanted men and women, boys and girls to be with Him, know Him, enjoy Him, become like Him and follow Him. Being a disciple means having a willing, listening, and obedient heart. He has called us to bring the Kingdom of Heaven down to earth. We do this through grace, humility, and ongoing persistent prayer, knowing that He is the one who ultimately builds His church (Matthew 16:18). As we partner with Him in prayer, we will see the realities of the Kingdom become manifested here on earth.
In closing, I want to encourage you today to begin dialoguing with God if you haven’t started already. A simple way to begin is to simply ask the Father, “What do you think about me?” Listen with your heart, and write down anything that may come to mind. Don’t judge it yet, simply write everything you’re hearing. After you’ve finished writing, then weigh what you received against the written word of God. Write down any scriptures you were reminded of. Meditate on what He has said to you and let it sink deep into your spirit.
All prayer is a process. My prayer for you today is that you’d be overwhelmed with the goodness and love of God even now and that He would open the eyes of your heart to receive a deeper revelation of who you are in Him. Run to the heart of the Father like a well-loved child. He has so much to share with you!
Lori Anderson-Bowen is the co-director for the Christian Chamber of Commerce in Charleston and a publisher with Best Version Media. Her passion is to see the Church of Christ grow and connect with the heart of God through prayer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 843-513-5392.
To get more information and join the South Carolina Christian Chamber of Commerce (SC-C3) movement, go to www.sc-c3.org and become a member today!