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John David Hicks, Evangelist / Bible Teacher • Winter 2014 • Volume 17 Number 1 

Listening Prayer

By John David Hicks

Many times I have come to the Lord in prayer wanting provision or guidance, not for the relationship itself. But it’s the relationship we have with the Lord that is the key to the abundant life He has promised. A good relationship is the ability to relate to others, to give and take with listening and sharing things in common. Relationships take time, patience, and the desire to be together.

How do we learn to listen to the Lord’s voice? Hearing the Lord’s voice is a skill you already have. That ability was given to you when you were “born again.” But like any child, you must develop in your understanding. As the Good Shepherd, Jesus says that “his sheep follow him because they know his voice” (John 10:4). Your spirit can respond to the inner guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Have you ever needed an answer and at the right moment the right answer pops into your mind? Have you found yourself in just the right place at the right time for a divine encounter? Have you felt the need to pray for someone only to find out later that the person needed help at that moment? Have you received a specific word of truth from the Bible just when you needed it? We all have. Learning to dialogue with the Lord is learning to treat these random events not as random, but as conversation with God. Paul reminds us, “We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us” (1 Corinthians 2:12).

Yet, through neglect the gift of hearing God’s voice may be undeveloped or dominated by other spiritual senses. Paul says to Timothy, “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you” (2 Timothy 1:6).

The Bible is your authority for truth. The Lord speaks through His Word and reveals His will. Through hearing and obeying, you learn, grow, and walk in the truth of your relationship. A deeper bonding and intimacy takes place. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path” (Psalm 119:105). The Lord doesn't reveal the whole journey to you, but He reveals enough for you to take the next step. Here again the relationship of trust and faith is crucial while you travel the journey together with Him. “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going” (Hebrews 11:8). Every day the Lord will give you godly practice in walking by faith. He will speak to you not only through His Word, but also through circumstances, people, and signposts. These things can give you guidance and counsel as well.

Inquiring of a prophet or asking for a prophecy is illegal behavior in the New Testament. The indwelling Holy Spirit is responsible for your guidance. Others may confirm what God has been saying. But the will of God flows out of love into an abiding relationship.

Since the Holy Spirit is resident in you, He desires to be consulted. If you will let Him, He will teach you, guide you, and bear witness to your spirit. He will give you the insight, power, and ability to do the Lord’s will. The Bible exhorts, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6). The promise is that the Lord will make the way straight or direct, not crooked, deceitful, or evasive to you.

A promise is relational. God loves to promise. It’s the language of love. So promises depend upon how you see the character of the promise-maker. Thus, your faith depends upon your understanding of the nature of God. If Abraham looked at his flesh and age, he could never have had faith in God’s promise. But knowing the character of God brought him the assurance of faith.

Many Christians are seeking the Lord’s abiding presence when He is already there. He continually dwells with us and illuminates the Word. If you need direction, the Holy Spirit will guide you into all truth (John 16:13). The Lord has promised, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5); it is pointless to seek the Lord’s abiding presence when He is there. But at times we must have His manifest presence; that is when He shows up in power. When I am praying for the sick, I have often said to the person, “Boy, the Lord is really on you!” And they can sense the heat—the flow, the peace, cleansing, or tingling. There is a difference between the indwelling presence and “coming upon” manifest presence of the Holy Spirit. The Lord communicates differently through those two types of presence.

Hence, if you find yourself with no passion for prayer, know that the Holy Spirit is full of passion and desires intimacy with you. He will teach you (Galatians 5:16-17). He desires that your prayer life be one of relationship and dialogue—a conversation between friends. Jesus makes that clear: “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15). You are not the Lord’s servant or employee, but a son and heir. That is why the Lord speaks words of endearment, endowment, and approval to you.

We all do what we want to do and like. You do the things you delight in. David understood this when he said, “Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). “You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand” (Psalm 16:11). When you delight in the relationship, you will be filled with joy in His presence.

That is why “your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). The Lord has given you permission to rule and reign in Christ. “How much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:17).

Listening prayer becomes the vehicle of your intimacy with the Lord. The Lord’s affection will force you to deal with yourself as you are, not as you pretend to be.

Listening prayer is like a conversation between lovers—there is a trust and openness with a desire to bond. In this communication there will be laughter, crying, joy, and seriousness. You may feel self-conscious, awkward, tongue-tied, and shy, but press on. What matters is what comes from your heart. The starting point comes from knowing that you are loved and accepted with the Lord, with nothing to prove. The Lord has given you the gift of righteousness and your acceptance has been guaranteed. Second, the Lord will start the conversation with any subject, if you will let Him. Wait for the Lord to begin. He will give you the freedom to bring up any concerns that are on your heart. Finally, in listening prayer you will do much less talking than in other forms of prayer. So it is helpful to keep a prayer journal to record your questions and the Lord’s response. This will help you later. Remember, this is a dialogue. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears and listens to and heeds My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will eat with him, and he [will eat] with Me” (Revelation 3:20 AB).

In one of my older journals I wrote: The inner voice is a conversation in your mind. These thoughts will be spontaneous and bubble up from within, like flashes of insight. When you ask questions of the Lord, you will find you will get a response. The Holy Spirit injects His wisdom into your conscious mind through a conviction, check, or witness. The same voice that says “I love you” and comforts you also says “Do this” and dialogues with you. It is heard by the ear of your spirit, but not by the outer ear of your flesh. It is a quiet voice, so you will come aside and listen and be quiet. Jesus said in this world you would be like sheep among wolves, but God would speak to you. Matthew 10:20, "for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”

When the Lord speaks to you, you will find that His voice is accompanied by a strong conviction that this is right and by the Lord’s peace that comes from resting in Him (James 1:6; Philippians 4:6).

If you don’t have this conviction and peace, back away, for it is not the Lord’s voice. Ask the Lord to confirm the word and deepen it or lift it from you. This sense of knowing is a premonition, intuition, or a growing compulsion. Your spirit bears witness with the Lord’s Spirit and you know it came from the Lord. You have the assurance. It is clear what you are to say or do. It is a flash of knowledge, understanding, the faith or the insight into a problem or situation. The persuasion in your spirit is so strong that it seems the desired result has already taken place. Jesus put it like this: “believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” (Mark 11:24). This is the sense of knowing that the Lord has put into your spirit (Hebrews 11:1).

The Lord does not yell out His orders to anybody nor does He reveal His will to the casual inquirer. As the temple of the Holy Spirit, God's dwelling place, you will hear His voice. This voice is confirmed by His character. When He speaks it will be clear, important, and to the point. He has specific things to say. He will share truths about Himself, about the Scriptures, and about yourself and others. Your part is to ask the Lord to do what He has promised, to speak to you, and expect Him to.

Be aware that the Lord speaks from impressions and thoughts from your spirit in your mind. They come as a sense of intuition or a sense of knowing. When the Lord wants to accomplish something through you, He will usually give you a promise from the Bible to go with it. Never will He speak in clear violation of His principles in the Bible. You can ask the Lord to confirm what He has said with a second witness.

The big danger in listening prayer is presumption. This happens when there are problems you want to avoid or things you strongly desire. You read into the Lord what you want, not what He wants (Ezekiel 14:1-5). The Lord told Ezekiel that He will answer them according to the idols in their hearts. Because of human frailty, you can misunderstand Scripture and misread the voice of the Lord. But listening prayer is about a relationship, so you might not get everything right. The Lord knows you will make mistakes. But to have the joy of hearing the Lord’s voice you must take the risk of faith. The Lord’s promise is, “If we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself” (2 Timothy 2:13). “God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful” (1 Corinthians 1:9). Even if you miss it, the Lord is there to help you (Isaiah 40:30-31).

The Bible is about encounters with God, who wants you to see, hear, and experience the physical manifestation of His presence. His written Word has a physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual impact (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24). “He sent forth his word and healed them” (Psalm 107:20). “For the word of God is living and active” (Hebrews 4:12). “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14). “Christ in you [is] the hope (the realization) of glory” (Colossians 1:27). “As He is, so are we in this world” (1 John 4:17). Anything less is not full salvation.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:17-18). God abides in you! You can know Him personally and move in His power (1 John 4:4). You have direct access to the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16). You are blessed with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3). You are a new creation; your old life is dead. “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” (Galatians 2:20-21).

You choose to walk in faith by believing God’s Word and claiming His promises. “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see…because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:1, 6). Your focus is on the reality or God. “‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty’” (Revelation 1:8). That takes care of your past; He is with you in the present and He has the last word about the future (Romans 11:36).

In the risk of faith, Hannah gave up her son Samuel to the Lord’s service (1 Samuel 2:21; 3:19-21). Noah resisted the values and morals of those around him (Genesis 6:1-9). Daniel refused to compromise his faith for man’s approval (Daniel 3:1-30). Paul gave up his comfort (Philippians 4:12-13). God still “rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Bible faith has two operating principles: the conviction that God will keep His Word, and the demonstration of this belief in word or deed by a corresponding action.

There are no formulas or discipline that will keep you from the risk of faith. But here are three principles that will keep you on the right track:

First, have a familiarity with the Bible and the character of God. “Lord, You are a God of love and faithfulness. You have given Your life to redeem me, made me Your child, and given me an everlasting inheritance of Yourself. I thank You that I am deeply loved, highly favored, and greatly blessed by You (Numbers 6:24-26). Your love for me has been unchangeable, unshakable, and unfailing (Jeremiah 31:3). I can say with David, ‘Those who know your name (your character) will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you’ (Psalm 9:10). Amen.”

Second, have a relationship with the Body of Christ, the church, and an accountability group. “Lord, thank You for Your church. Help me to be a part of the community of believers that builds up one another in love. You have gifted and called the church to be Your body, Your hands and feet to minister to this world. The church is important to You; You gave Your life for it. Help me to love it, protect it, pray for it, and be a part of it. Amen.”

Third, have a good relationship with yourself by having a teachable spirit and know that you abide in Christ. “Lord, You have given me abundant grace and Your gift of righteousness. With no condemnation You said that I will reign in life (Romans 5:17). You have made me more than a conqueror through Jesus Christ who loves me (Romans 8:37). ‘But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (1 Corinthians 15:57). Amen.”

So ask, “Lord, what are You trying to say to me?” As you give the Lord your attention, He will give you more (Matthews 13:11-12). That is why He has said, “Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is” (Ephesians 5:17). The Lord’s desire is for you to know His will because it is best for you. “If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own” (John 7:17). The word “teaching” here means guidance, instruction, way of life. Because of your desire to do the Lord’s will, you will not miss it. “For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13).

Trust is the byproduct of rejoicing and giving thanks. When you see the Lord’s beauty, His integrity, and His very nature, the consequence is the confidence of faith. When you delight in His presence, joy and peace becomes your inheritance. Joy is the atmosphere of heaven. Joy is who God is, and rejoicing is your response to who God is! You can abide in joy simply because God does.

It’s easy to distinguish between your voice and Satan’s voice. Your voice will center on selfishness, and Satan’s voice will center on faultfinding and accusing. The character of both will be revealed.

The Lord’s voice is like the fruit of the Spirit: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23). If you “keep yourselves in God’s love” (Jude 21), you won’t miss the Lord’s voice.

When the Lord wants something done, He declares it (Genesis 1; Hebrews 1:2-3). The power and confidence to do the Lord’s will comes from hearing His voice (1 John 5:14-15). The angel said to Mary, “You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said” (Luke 1:45 NLT). “He who has ears, let him hear” (Matthew 13:9). “Hear” is one of the most important words in the Bible because it is the choice of your will. “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts” (Psalm 95:7-8).

Some time ago I read how a nurse used her hand to teach a very sick man the steps of prayer and changed his life. Once discouraged, disheartened, and miserable, the man became a person filled with joy and peace.

Our hands were created to hold things. They also touch, feel, help us communicate through gestures—and help us remember things, including the principles of prayer.

Each of the nurse’s fingers reminded her to pray for someone. Her thumb, nearest to her, reminded her to pray for those in her life who were nearest and dearest to her.

The second finger is used for pointing. Those who teach us often use this finger to point to us when they ask a question; therefore, the nurse’s second finger stood for all her teachers in school and in the hospital and for spiritual leaders.

The third finger, the longest, represented VIP’s (very important people), including the leaders in every sphere of life.

As every pianist knows, the fourth finger is the weakest. The nurse used this finger to remind the man to pray for those who were weak, for people in trouble or in pain.

Finally, the little finger is the smallest and the most unimportant. To the nurse this finger represented herself; her pinky finger helped her to keep her life in perspective.

Use the fingers of your hand to help remember the basics of prayer.

Summary: Nurture a time of praise, prayer, word, listening, talking, and thanksgiving. Be still in God’s presence and wait on the Lord (Isaiah 40:31; Psalm 37:7). Fix the eyes of your heart on the Lord (Hebrews 12:2; 2 Corinthians 4:6). Ask Him questions and wait for His response (Jeremiah 33:2-3; John 8:47; Philippians 4:6). When God speaks, the thoughts, visions, dreams, feelings, or impressions are confirmed with peace and conviction (Colossians 3:15; Romans 9:1; James 1:6; Philippians 4:6-7). They flow through spontaneous thoughts in your spirit (Philippians 2:13; John 18:37; 1 Corinthians 1:9). Journal—write out what you are hearing the Lord say (Jeremiah 30:2; Proverbs 3:3).

John 10:3-4, 27—“The sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.... My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”

John 7:17—“If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.”

Psalm 68:19—“Blessed be the Lord, who daily loads us with benefits, the God of our salvation!”

Revelation 2:7—“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says.”

Conclusion: Guidance and direction come through your ongoing relationship with the Lord. The Holy Spirit desires to teach you how to hear His voice. In your devotions when you “wait on the Lord,” He will teach you how to worship, how to be still, and how to meditate on the Word. These simple disciplines will make you sensitive to the Holy Spirit in listening prayer. His indwelling presence will guide you into all truth and disclose God’s will (John 16:13). Guidance and direction are the byproduct of a right relationship with God.

But if you are passive in your prayer life, lethargic in your worship, or apathetic in your morality, those issues must be addressed. If you are lazy or lukewarm in your relationship with God, you will struggle in asking, seeking, and knocking in prayer (Matthew 7:7-8).

The principle is this: If you take care of the relationship, God will take care of the guidance. Direction is God’s responsibility, not yours. As the “light of the world,” our Lord has promised you guidance. “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you” (Psalm 32:8).

TO MY PRAYER PARTNERS

May you have the joy of Christman and the blessing of trusting God for this New Year. Thank you for your prayers and support.

Your Brother in Christ,

John David Hicks

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