There’s a growing focus on contemplative prayer: listening to God in stillness (puts me to sleep, frankly). Someone I know takes dictation from God in her journals. A friend of mine told me that folks in her church receive frequent “downloads” from God. We used to talk about that “gentle and quiet” voice.
This is a pretty big issue for me right now, because back in May I think I heard from God about something that would be absolutely life-changing for me and my family. And I have to wait to learn if it really WAS God!
Frankly, no matter how we “hear” from God, I personally think it extremely presumptuous for most of us common mortals to pronounce “thus saith the Lord.”
Not only presumptuous, but arrogant. Such pronouncements have the emotional impact of trumping those to whom you speak, rendering them unable to respond… and usually very frustrated. After all, who can question God?
I remember baiting one of those who frequently heard God speak, asking her if I would become pregnant. I devlishly wanted to let her know that she was wrong when her “prophecy” failed to materialize. But suppose I had been counting on her “word from God?” What a disappointment I would have faced!
Secretly, most of us who hear “God told me” statements from others inwardly think, “Sure He did. And I’m Moses.”
To tell you the truth, I’ve been listening to God for 30 years. I’m familiar with His quiet voice within (that voice was there even during my “dusky hour,” albeit a bare whisper). And I’ve occasionally had extremely strong impulses, very clear leading, heart-piercing conviction of sin, and sometimes the “prophetic word.”
Here’s what I think about the whole thing:
I think the humble thing to do is what Paul did in Acts 27. When I think I’ve heard God’s voice, first check it with Scripture, and if it doesn’t violate Scripture, follow or speak – but always with humility, aware (and communicating) that I could be wrong. On the ship to Rome, Paul warned the crew:
“Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own lives also.” But the centurion, instead of listening to what Paul said, followed the advice of the pilot and of the owner of the ship. Acts 27: 11-12 NIV
An arrogant Paul would have argued with the centurion – sure of God’s voice – but he doesn’t. He waits to see what happens. Sure enough, the ship runs into trouble. Now sure that he was correct, Paul says:
Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete; then you would have spared yourselves this damage and loss. But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.
Ok, so Paul was pretty sure he heard from God. But an angel visited and spoke to him. And he was PAUL! Still he didn’t say, “I am absolutely positively sure this is what God will do,” but “I have faith that it will happen just as he told me.” That leaves a bit of wiggle room.
If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously, so do not be alarmed. Deuteronomy 18:22 NIV
It’s making me crazy to wait! But wait I must to learn if what I heard was really from the Lord.
Today’s Readings: Nehemiah 6:1-7:72a, Psalm 89:5-10, Proverbs 21:28, Acts 27:1-26. See About for what I’m up to with these daily posts. Your daily blogger, Holiday Longing (Reproduce with permission only).