I got up late yesterday. Twenty minutes is a lot of time to lose when you have to get yourself, two dogs, and a disabled friend ready for the day. My wife got up five minutes after me. She had herself and two of our other friends to get ready. Then my daughters got up. They were trying to get ready so they could get out of the house. We were all whirling around each other opening cupboards and drawers, ducking in and out of bathrooms, making beds,dispensing pills and breakfasts. It was sort of like a combo fight scene from the matrix meets breakfast with Leave It To Beaver (only in this scenario Ward actually helps June).
Anyway by the time I finally got to my devotion, which I generally have in the upstairs bathroom (Oh come on you know that is where a lot of guys read their Bibles), I was kind of in a rush and I had forgotten my glasses. It wasn’t until I was half way through Chapter 5 of Isaiah that I realized I was actually reading Chapter 5 of Ecclesiastes.
With a loud harumph I began to thumb my way to the proper book when I felt a familiar check in my spirit. It was that little nudge that means “Wait! This is a set-up, a divine appointment, a ‘meant-to-be-moment’.”
“Start again.” Something inside said.
So I did.
Ecclesiastes Chapter 5: 1,2 “Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know they do wrong. Do not be quick with your mouth. Do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in Heaven and you are on Earth so let your words be few.”
Reinventing our prayer lives sometimes means we have to talk less and listen more. For some of us the idea of listening at all is a radical thought. After all we really don’t believe God would speak to us, do we? So we come with our prayer lists of needs and wants, we come with our diagrams of types of prayer. We do A.C.T.S. (adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication), or we P.U.S.H. (pray until something happens) and all of it is about us blathering on in God’s face as though somehow He will be impressed with our much speaking.
Yet so many of the truly powerful prayers in Scripture are not powerful because of their length or their eloquence. They had power because they were uttered by men who were being directed by God.
When Elijah called down fire to consume the sacrifice on the altar, he did not pray for hours on end, nor did he scream himself hoarse. Elijah prayed two sentences and fire fell from Heaven. (I Kings 18)
Jesus said “And when you pray do not keep babbling like the pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them for your Heavenly Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” (Ma 6:7)
The more I learn about prayer the more I come to the conclusion that a truly successful prayer life does not consist of what we ask, but of what we learn.
So many of us go through life having almost none of our prayers answered and it is because when we pray we do all the talking. What would happen I wonder if instead of talking we just shut our mouths and then listened until we heard something from God? What would happen if instead of telling God what we wanted all the time we Shut our mouths and said “Speak Lord for your servant is listening.”?