Prayer – having a conversation with God – is something the Bible says anyone is able to do.
Do you ever wonder if God speaks more clearly to other people than He does to you? Do you ever question your ability to discern God’s voice? I have. Typically, this happens when I’m overwhelmed. When my children were small, I wondered if some of the parents I saw in church had a more direct pipeline to the Lord’s instruction. I hadn’t slept well in years, while other parents looked unnaturally cheerful and well groomed. Did their kids have furious fights in the parking lot? Probably not. Had their cat thrown up on the clean laundry minutes before they were leaving for church? No way. In my worn out despair, I imagined that these couples had somehow worked, stumbled or prayed their way into the favor of God. So, they were able to get all the parenting moves right and had the good sense not to have a cat with gastric weaknesses.
Do you find yourself in situations that lead you to think that God is not speaking clearly to you? Has frustration with your shortcomings or circumstances in which you’ve found yourself, made you think you’ve misheard what God’s been saying to you?
If you can relate, the story of Elijah portrayed in I Kings 18-19 would be worth reading. Elijah is by far my favorite character in the Old Testament – he’s scrappy, has a great sense of humor, and operates completely without a filter. In just three chapters, he has quite the range of experiences – all of which I will not attempt to recount. His adventures are amazing. But if there’s one thing that characterizes Elijah, it’s that he is, without a doubt, a person who has many conversations with God.
In spite of all this, life for Elijah is not all smooth sailing. Actually, he gets so worn down by persecution from the king and queen of the day, that at one point, he’s had it:
“I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” I Kings 19:10 NIV
In response to his complaint, God puts on the most remarkable show:
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
I Kings 19:11-13 NIV
A few things stand out to me in these verses:
- Even though Elijah feels like God has let Him down, he doesn’t stop praying; and God doesn’t give him the silent treatment.
(”When you stop whining, we can talk!”)
- God doesn’t respond to Elijah’s complaint with a pat answer. His response – a most amazing range of nature’s special effects, from wind to earthquake to fire – it’s a reminder that the circumstances that most grab our attention may not be the ones God is speaking through.
- Most importantly, remember that our circumstances aren’t a reflection of the quality of our prayer life. Jesus, “the author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2), experienced circumstances far worse than any we can ever expect. If anyone had a direct pipeline to conversation with God it was Jesus.
If you’re feeling down, be reminded that conversation with God can continue at all times, when we’re at our best and even when we’re at our worst.
Do you have complaints and concerns? Try turning them into prayers. It’s easy to complain to others or to let thoughts keep rolling around in our minds.
Keep focusing on bringing everything to God instead. Then take time to ask God what He might have for you in your situation.
Preview “God Who Listens”