Intro: Come home to wife who talks constantly, telling you all the things that need doing – you'd soon get sick of it. You want to tell her how work's gone, plans for home, or holiday you'd like to share and discuss but you never get the chance to speak. That is not relationship, that is not communication. But I think that sometimes our prayer can be like that. The only time we speak to God is when we want something and all we ever do is ask. We do all the talking, seldom do we take the time to listen. Hearing is a key aspect of praying. God delights for us to ask and to give what we ask for but the way to destroy prayer is for it to be an endless list of things we are asking, or even telling, God to do. Telling Him! But don't we? Prayer is talking to God, it is communication and it is two way. Prayer involves spending time with יְהוָה, getting to know Him, know His heart, then your can ask in accord with His will because your heart will be one with His. The way to invigorate your prayer life is to develop a listening ear. I want to talk about a real key to prayer: listening to God [OHP]. Those in relationship with יְהוָה hear from Him. David was a man who was in relationship with God, a man after His own heart.
David: David wanted to build a temple for יְהוָה but the prophet came to him in (2 Samuel 7:4,5 But in the same night the word of יְהוָה came to Nathan, saying, "Go and say to My servant David, ‘Thus says יְהוָה, “Are you the one who should build Me a house to dwell in?'') יְהוָה went on to promise to keep David safe from his enemies, give him descendants one of his sons would build a temple and He would be father to him and not withdraw his love from him (2 Samuel 7:16,17 Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever. In accordance with all these words and all this vision, so Nathan spoke to David.) David then prayed (2 Samuel 7:18-20 Then David the king went in and sat before יְהוָה, and he said, “Who am I, O Lord יְהוָה , and what is my house, that You have brought me this far? And yet this was insignificant in Your eyes, O Lord יְהוָה, for You have spoken also of the house of Your servant concerning the distant future. Again what more can David say to You?) David thanked and praised יְהוָה then finished his prayer (2 Samuel 7:25-29 Now therefore, O יְהוָה God, the word that You have spoken concerning Your servant and his house, confirm it forever, and do as You have spoken, that Your name may be magnified forever, by saying, ‘ יְהוָה of armies is God over Israel’; and may the house of Your servant David be established before You. For You, O יְהוָה of armies, the God of Israel, have made a revelation to Your servant, saying, ‘I will build you a house’; therefore Your servant has found courage to pray this prayer to You. Now, O Lord יְהוָה, You are God, and Your words are truth, and You have promised this good thing to Your servant. Now therefore, may it please You to bless the house of Your servant, that it may continue forever before You. For You, O Lord יְהוָה, have spoken; and with Your blessing may the house of Your servant be blessed forever.”) Do you see what David did – יְהוָה spoke to him brought revelation about what He was going to do and David prayed exactly what יְהוָה had said. David didn't pray his own idea, he dared not even conceive what יְהוָה had promised, as he heard so he prayed. He heard then he could pray with complete assurance and true faith. [rebuke at praying "God be with ..." at Richmond]. You pray what you hear. Another who heard from God was Elisha
Elisha: It was during the reign of king Jehoram of Israel, Jehoshaphat was king of Judah [2 Kings 3:6-25King Jehoram mustered all Israel. Then he went and sent word to Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, saying, “The king of Moab has rebelled against me. Will you go with me to fight against Moab?” And he said, “I will go up; I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses.” He said, “Which way shall we go up?” And he answered, “The way of the wilderness of Edom.” So the king of Israel went with the king of Judah and the king of Edom; and they made a circuit of seven days’ journey, and there was no water for the army or for the cattle that followed them. Then the king of Israel said, “Alas! For יְהוָה has called these three kings to give them into the hand of Moab.” But Jehoshaphat said, “Is there not a prophet of יְהוָה here, that we may inquire of יְהוָה by him?” And one of the king of Israel’s servants answered and said, “Elisha the son of Shaphat is here.” Jehoshaphat said, “The word of יְהוָה is with him.” So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat and the king of Edom went down to him. Now Elisha said , “Bring me a minstrel.” And it came about, when the minstrel played, that the hand of יְהוָה came upon him. He said, “Thus says יְהוָה ‘Make this valley full of trenches.’ For thus says יְהוָה, ‘You shall not see wind nor shall you see rain; yet that valley shall be filled with water, so that you shall drink, both you and your cattle and your beasts. This is but a slight thing in the sight of יְהוָה; He will also give the Moabites into your hand. Then you shall strike every fortified city and every choice city, and fell every good tree and stop all springs of water, and mar every good piece of land with stones.’ ” It happened in the morning about the time of offering the sacrifice, that behold, water came by the way of Edom, and the country was filled with water. Now all the Moabites heard that the kings had come up to fight against them. And all who were able to put on armor and older were summoned and stood on the border. They rose early in the morning, and the sun shone on the water, and the Moabites saw the water opposite them as red as blood. Then they said, “This is blood; the kings have surely fought together, and they have slain one another. Now therefore, Moab, to the spoil!” But when they came to the camp of Israel, the Israelites arose and struck the Moabites, so that they fled before them; and they went forward into the land, slaughtering the Moabites. Thus they destroyed the cities; and each one threw a stone on every piece of good land and filled it. So they stopped all the springs of water and felled all the good trees.] What יְהוָה said came to pass. The prophet did not pray or pronounce until he had heard from God – he called for a minstrel who brought inspiration, the Spirit of the LORD came upon him. He didn't pronounce what he thought, in fact he had no time for the operation. He heard from God before he spoke. How often I launch into what I think is a good idea and tell God what He should be doing. When we see a problem we pray – often our prayers are simplistic, we want things to be alright – but how often does God do His work through difficult circumstances? My mum knew how to pray, I recall her saying I'm going to stop praying for Christina because every time I do things get worse! Prayer is not the Pollyanna magiking better. It is praying God's will, not our own ideas. We need to hear before we speak – find out from Him what His will is and what He is going to do – that prayer is always answered.
Daniel: prayed 3 times a day, got thrown into the lion's den for it – what did he pray, what he had heard from the LORD in Scripture [Daniel 9:1,2,17In the first year of Darius, I, Daniel, observed in the books the number of the years which was revealed as the word of יְהוָה to Jeremiah the prophet for the completion of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years ..... So now, our God, listen to the prayer of Your servant and to his supplications, and for Your sake, O יְהוָה, let Your face shine on Your desolate sanctuary.] What Daniel heard from יְהוָה in His Word, the Scripture, he prayed. He heard, was listening by studying Scripture. Daniel heard from God through His study of Scriptures, He receive revelation from God's word and he prayed in accordance with that revelation. He wasn't praying his desire for his homeland to be restored but found out what God was going to do. He didn't sit back and wait for what יְהוָה promised to happen but prayed to God for Him to do what He said. Prayer is not so much us asking what we want and getting God in line with what we want to happen, rather, it is a process whereby we come to align our will with His will – we get on side with God. We get to know Him what He is doing, and come to set that as our desire. Through prayer we come one with God and seek His will. His will of course prevails so that our prayers are answered (1 John 5:14,15This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.). Daniel sought the LORD in prayer and, in the next chapter, had to wait three weeks before he heard in response to his prayer – Jeremiah also had to wait.
Jeremiah Judah had been taken into exile, Jerusalem destroyed, there were left a small remnant, they came to Jeremiah to ask what they should do: [Jeremiah 42:1-4, Jer 42:7-10; Then all the commanders of the forces, Johanan the son of Kareah, Jezaniah the son of Hoshaiah, and all the people both small and great approached and said to Jeremiah the prophet, “Please let our petition come before you, and pray for us to יְהוָה your God, that is for all this remnant; because we are left but a few out of many, as your own eyes now see us, that יְהוָה your God may tell us the way in which we should walk and the thing that we should do.” Then Jeremiah the prophet said to them, “I have heard you. Behold, I am going to pray to יְהוָה your God in accordance with your words; and I will tell you the whole message which יְהוָה will answer you. I will not keep back a word from you.” Now at the end of ten days the word of יְהוָה came to Jeremiah. Then he called for Johanan the son of Kareah and all the commanders of the forces that were with him, and for all the people both small and great, and said to them, “Thus says יְהוָה the God of Israel, to whom you sent me to present your petition before Him: If you will indeed stay in this land, then I will build you up and not tear you down, and I will plant you and not uproot you; for I will relent concerning the calamity that I have inflicted on you.] - Not only do you need to hear from God before you pray, you need to hear from God after you have prayed. We pray but don't wait around for a reply. Our prayer, too often, is one way communication. Jeremiah prayed but had to wait 10 days before he heard. An essential part of praying is waiting, you wait to hear. It takes time, you don't barrel in say what you want and leave. We spend too much time talking and not enough time waiting, listening to what יְהוָה has to say in reply. Our conversations are one-sided, there is no dialogue, no relationship. That is why we get bored with prayer and give up. It is pretty boring company when only one person speaks, even if that person is you.
We don't know how or what to pray for: Are you beginning to see the pattern – these men of God heard, then they prayed and they heard in response to their prayer. It was dialogue! They spoke to God and God spoke to them. The hearing is essential because prayer is speaking to God! And what do you say to Him?! He knows all things and we don't know anything. I remember going into bat for one of my colleagues at work who I thought was being treated unfairly – I wrote a formal letter to the powers that be and got back a reply thanking me for my concern but saying that I did not know all the circumstances. There is no reply to that. I pray what I think is good, but there are other considerations that I am totally unaware of. God has His plans and purposes and is working them out and I can't comprehend their fulness. What do I say to Him?! He is God, I am dust. I don't know how to pray – and neither do you – the Scripture is quite clear on this [Romans 8:26-28 In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.] James and John requested a favour of Jesus [Matthew 20:22 But Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking.”] We pray what seems right to us but we just don't know what we are asking, don't realise the implications, don't understand how God is working. His ways are far different, higher, than ours. Paul had a problem and he asked the LORD to heal it [ 2 Corinthians 12:8 Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me.] but three times the LORD said, "No." Paul didn't know how to pray aright until he heard from the LORD who said, "My grace is sufficient for you. My power is perfected in weakness." God had a purpose higher than Paul's simplistic, make it better. Once Paul had heard it was alright, he could live with the thorn because he knew it was God's purpose. We do not know how to pray – this is why it is essential that we hear before we speak.
Jesus: If anyone knows how to pray, it is Jesus. We look to the example of Jesus, He also did not know how to pray – He had to set aside His own will in order to be able to pray aright. If He did, how much more us. On the way to Jerusalem Jesus prayed this: (John 12:27 Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say?) - Jesus asked the Father how he should pray! If He did, should not we?! This is a good prayer to pray: " I don't know how to pray, teach me, what should I say?" I have found this is a prayer that God always answers. Many a time I have not known how to pray, and God has given me the words, if only I realised that it is all the time that I don't know how to pray. This is what Watchman Nee said about that verse: "The prayers of our Lord were always perfect prayers. Entering Jerusalem and facing the cross. He stopped to ask Himself the question: "What shall I say?" Jesus had no fear of death; yet at the same time He had His own feelings. He turned the matter over carefully and thought: "Shall I say, 'Father save Me from this hour'? No! He could not pray that prayer for He knew for what purpose He had arrived at that hour. So He prayed: "Father, glorify thy name!" That prayer was answered immediately. If our Lord, as Man on the earth and possessing the key to prayer, had in this deliberate way to set aside His own will and seek the will of God, how dare we, on the impulse of the moment, open our lips to utter words at random in our prayers to God? Let us ask ourselves: "What shall I say?" and then let us answer that question in terms consistent with the answer, of Jesus. So shall we prove and experience the perfect will of God." Then Jesus prayed that most awesome prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane: [Matthew 26:36-44 Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and *said to His disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed. Then He *said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.” And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” And He *came to the disciples and *found them sleeping, and *said to Peter, “So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour? Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” He went away again a second time and prayed, saying, “My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done.” Again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. And He left them again, and went away and prayed a third time, saying the same thing once more.]Jesus who was perfect, prayed: "not my will." He deliberately set aside his own will. He did not pray what came to him naturally, he listened to His Father's will and that is what He prayed. But how much of our prayer is the expression of our own will, what we want to happen. We speak before we have found out what God's will is – we speak instead of listening. It took Jesus over an hour, possibly three, to pray "Not my will but yours be done." It is not the saying of the words but the aligning of wills – so that the words truly come from the heart. Coming to know God's will and getting in tune with it.
Wait on God – listen before speaking: The psalmist was a man who was in relationship with God. The psalms are the outpouring of a heart in prayer, communication with God, the most eloquent expression of communication we have of man with God. What did the psalmist say?: (Psalm 40:1, 8 I waited patiently for יְהוָה; and He inclined to me and heard my cry.) then he came to align his will with God's (Psalm 40:8 I delight to do Your will, O my God; Your Law is within my heart.). (Psalm 25:5 Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; for You I wait all the day) He went before יְהוָה to learn – to do that he had to wait – prayer is relationship and it doesn't happen just like that. Relationship takes time, it takes time to get to know someone, to know their heart. The key to knowing God, to prayer is waiting for Him: (Psalm 27:14 Wait for יְהוָה; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for יְהוָה. Psalm 37:7 Rest in יְהוָה and wait patiently for Him;). I remember a D.J. I greatly admired who made a rare slip and he quoted a radio announcers maxim :"engage your brain before you engage mouth" – if I could apply it spiritually "engage spirit before your mouth" or listen before you speak. We should be slow to speak and quick to listen (as James 1:19 says) or (Ecclesiastes 5:2 Do not be hasty in word or impulsive in thought to bring up a matter in the presence of God. For God is in heaven and you are on the earth; therefore let your words be few. Matthew 6:7,8 And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.). A vital key in prayer is LISTENING (Zechariah 7:13 And just as He called and they would not listen, so they called and I would not listen,” says יְהוָה of armies) – did you get what he said, if we don't listen to God then He will not listen to our prayers. Prayer is not so much talking as listening. We need to cultivate a listening heart in order for our prayers to be heard by God.