“Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting of shadow. In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures. This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” James 1: 16-20
One of the joys of aging has been my loss of hearing. For me this arrived, in the form of selective listening, a great deal earlier than I have been willing to admit. Long before age could be blamed for it, one of the more consistent questions my wife, Dana, has asked me over the years has been, “Did you hear what I just said?” This is always a trick question, and there is never a good answer. “Yes” will be followed by a pop quiz. “No” invites “The Look.” This never ends well.
This is the paradox of prayer. Praying improves your hearing, not your speaking. Unfortunately, when you are prayerless you assume that praying begins with talking. It is never wise to race into The Presence of The Father to share your unbridled opinions about His will for your life.
Racing into The Father’s Presence, without listening to His voice is like returning a friend’s call, without listening to your voice mail. You already have an explanation available to you, but your quick reaction only expresses your ignorance of the intent of their call.
Listening, before praying involves your loss of control of the conversation. Talking without listening is your attempt to stay in control of it. Word to the wise, God is in control. Pray accordingly.
Prayer actually begins by listening to the voice of The Father of lights, and the quicker, the better. George Mueller, one of the great prayer warriors of 19th Century England, began his daily prayers by reading the Word of God. He believed hearing from The Father was more important than speaking to Him.
Mueller was not shy about sharing his requests with The Father, but He was quick to listen, before he made them. Listening to The Father, he primed the pump of his heart with The Word of God before he voiced his requests to Him.
“The vigor of our spiritual life will be in exact proportion to the place held by the Bible in our life and thoughts.” George Mueller
Praying to “The Father of lights” begins with listening to His Word. To do less will leave you open to selfish suggestions from your flesh, the politically correct opinions of others, and the reactionary anger in your own heart. None of these voices will lead you into the light. They will take you to the dark side…EVERY TIME.
“But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” – James – Pastor of the First Church of Jerusalem
Righteous indignation and moral outrage are exhausting exercises, and I for one am guilty of suffering from my over-exertion of both. Hardly a day goes by without another political scandal or theological debate hitting me in the face, and turning off the lights. Praying my way through the Word of God has become my set of night vision goggles to see what God is up to in the world. Looks can be deceiving. I have not been abandoned. I have been challenged. Prayer leads me to The Champion, not to despair. I have read the last chapter. We win.
Note to Self: Don’t race into God’s Presence with a laundry list of woes, demanding He clean up the mess you have created by your prayerlessness, and your carelessness. You have failed to come to Him earlier for His direction, protection and correction.
Now, stop talking. Don’t panic. Check your voice mail. He has left a message for you. His Word is filled with wise counsel, and clear course corrections. Read His Word, and allow Him to speak to you before you breathlessly give Him your advice. Jesus is ready when you are. Stand next to Him. TALK LESS! PRAY MORE!