About 13 months ago, I was reading J. Oswald Sanders’ book Spiritual Leadership. And as I read the chapter on prayer, I had this intense, intimate moment with God, and out of that experience, I decided that if there was only one thing I could master I in my life, it would be prayer.
Yes, I’d love to mater leadership and preaching/communicating (those are the spiritual gifts with which I have to work), but I realize that without prayer, it really doesn’t matter how good of a leader or communicator I am!
Now I don’t know that I’ll ever really "master" prayer, but it’s something I want to work on my whole life!
Prayer is simply having a conversation with God. Conversations involve both talking and listening. Communication is two-way, it goes both ways! Today, I’m going to talk about some people in the Scriptures who had conversations with God, and hopefully, draw some lessons for our own lives.
My motivation in this message (in ministry, really) is that there are basically two groups in the world:
One wants to blend in and be normal (most people are in this group). Jesus talked about this group and sai they were headed toward the “wide gate.” The other group is radically different. They talk and listen to God and God leads them to do crazy things!
There seems to be a danger of becoming normal / civilized / conformed! As human beings, we want to blend in, be like everyone else; be normal! But, it seems to me, that it’s impossible to blend-in and be normal AND please God!
"You adulterers! Don’t you realize that friendship with this world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again, that if your aim is to enjoy this world, you can’t be a friend of God." (James 4.4)
This message is a call for us to be on the journey toward the narrow gate, to not try to be normal, not just to blend in and copy the behavior and customs of the world, but to be willing to be a fool for Christ!
"It is impossible to please God without faith." (Hebrews 11.6)
Having conversations with God will lead you to do crazy things for God!
“Do not follow where the path may lead. Follow God instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” (Unknown)
It takes courage, because people who have CWG (conversations with God) will have enemies!
"For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against those mighty powers of darkness who rule this world, and against wicked spirits in the heavenly realms." (Ephesians 6.12)
“Jesus promised those who would follow him only three things … that they would be absurdly happy, entirely fearless, and always in trouble.” (Greg Levoy)
But (huge disclaimer!) …
Not all craziness done in God’s name is of God! God does not lead people to bomb abortion clinics or fly airplanes into buildings!
Today, I want to ask you several questions …
Do you have ‘selective hearing’?
Conversations involve both speaking and listening! You may be good at speaking to God, but what about listening? Do you listen to God or do you tune him out?
Christ-followers “have to learn to see the invisible and hear the inaudible.” (Erwin McManus)
What do you do with the voices in your head?
There are many voices / influences:
- Demonic voices
- Other people
- Your own voice
How do you determine which ones to listen to?
I’m so glad that there was a guy in the city of Damascus who was having a conversation with God. In his conversation with God, Ananias heard God say: “Go … ask for Saul of Tarsus. He is praying to me right now” (Acts 9). Ananias didn’t like the idea, but finally went … and the rest is history!
“My sheep recognize my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” — Jesus (John 10.27)
Your ability to live a God-honoring life is directly connected to how much Scripture you have internalized! Read Deuteronomy 6.5-9
Are you willing to be abnormal for God?
Anyone can “copy the behavior and customs of the world,” but it takes a life of “conversations with God” to become a person that honors God! (See Romans 12.1-2)
"Because of Christ we are thought of as fools." (1 Corinthians 4.10)
It’s impossible to be Christ-follower and be "normal." Think about Moses. He had a conversation with a voice coming from a bush that looked like it was on fire (but it wasn’t being consumed). And out of that conversation, Moses agrees to confront the most powerful man in the world, to demand that he let God’s people go!
A while later, with Pharaoh’s army breathing down their backs and the Red Sea in front of them, what does Moses do? He has a conversation with God. Then he holds his staff out over the water! How crazy is that?
We could talk about all kinds of crazy things the prophets did; prophets like Samuel (whose whole journey started with a conversation!), Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Elijah.
Elijah also confronted the most powerful man and woman (Ahab and Jezebel), telling them, "It’s not going to rain, until I tell it to!" (see 1 Kings 17.1).
What about John the Baptist? He lived in the wilderness, wore clothing made out of camel hair (not the fashion of the day!), and he ate locusts and honey.
And, of course, Jesus. He kept ticking off the Pharisees! If only Jesus would have maintained the status quo … he could have had a great career as a rabbi! But no, he had to go and have CWG!
"But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer." (Luke 5.16)
“I say whatever the Father tells me to say!" (John 12.50)
“The Son … does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does.” (John 5.19)
Do you keep going and going and going?
If God goes wherever you go, why not talk to him throughout the day? Do life with God – keep a running conversation going!
“Never stop praying.” (1 Thessalonians 5.17)
God invite YOU to a conversation!
"Ask me, and I will tell you things that you don’t know and can’t find out." (Jeremiah 33.3)
"Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for the next three and a half years! Then he prayed for rain, and down it poured. The grass turned green, and the crops began to grow again." (James 5.17-18)
O God, thank you for inviting us to a conversation, a conversation with you. Help us to not only share our heart, our words, with you, but also to listen to your words and your heart. And give us courage, too, that when you lead us to do crazy things, we will do them to honor you and build your kingdom! Amen.