Sunday, March 30, 2008

Prayer and Listening-Again!

Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one (Deut. 6:4). Meditate on this for awhile and let it sink in to your heart. It is the core of our faith.

The servant of the Lord in Isaiah 50:4, with whom Jesus is identified, proclaims the Lord morning by morning as the one who wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught.

The Greek word upakouo that we usually translate as obey possibly can be better said to mean hyper listen or listen intently.

Obey normally means that we have a moral or ethical responsibility to do what we are told. Morals are important of course. However, but they can lead to laws that kill the spirit and soul. On the other hand, if the focus is listening to God, we get a far different idea about how to relate with God. It is much closer to abiding in Christ and allowing the Holy Spirit rise up within us. That changes the emphasis from external rules to internal energy and communion with God.

The prologue of the Rule of St. Benedict begins this way. Listen carefully and incline the ear of your heart.

Since God is holy and awesome, don't talk too much about your external issues and concerns. Take time to be silent and humbly approach God. Seek His inner witness and the Holy Spirit’s energizing force. Find your rest in the Spirit's flow that produces guidance about what to say and how to say it.

ECC 5:3 As a dream comes when there are many cares, so the speech of a fool when there are many words.

We show a lack of peace, wisdom and maturity when we talk too much during prayer. It’s best to settle down, focus and receive His peace before we say anything. Our hyper-talking rather than hyper-listening indicates worrisome self-focus rather than peaceful godly focus.

By listening to the inner witness of the Holy Spirit we will be able to hear that small voice of direction and focus and speak out of hearing not hear out of speaking.

Barbara McClintock is working to develop new and better strains of corn. Highly regarded as a world expert in her field, Dr. McClintock was once asked to reveal the secret that made her so able in her research. She replied: "I lean into the kernel. I lean into the kernel."

This "listening to the kernel" allows her to understand how it lives and reproduces. We need to lean into God to let Him guide our prayers and guide our lives.

Words either kill or heal but caring ears always mend. Gary Sweeten

ECC 5:6 Do not let your mouth lead you into sin. And do not protest to the temple messenger, "My vow was a mistake." Why should God be angry with what you say and destroy the work of your hands?”

Our mouths get us into trouble by quickly vowing to God on a matter. It is foolish to promise to act and then fail to carry it out. Hasty words and thoughts are the marks of foolishness leading to the Lord’s discipline.

It also warns preachers not to ask for a hasty commitment from listeners. Some evangelists use psychological manipulation to get a desired response but that is dangerous. They start with simple questions, like “Do you think it is warm tonight” or “How many of you enjoyed that musical presentation?” in order get people in the habit of to raising their hands.

Before long the evangelist will ask if people want to make a vow to follow Christ or never marry and some may raise their hands without counting the cost. Some evangelists gave Bibles to Russian audiences so they would to get used to saying yes. Manipulation is wrong for many reasons. First, it leads people astray from God. Second, it mocks God and teaches listeners to trust manipulation not the Lord. Third, it is an extreme form of works righteousness.
Trust God and do what you want.

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