There are a couple of additional factors we should discuss when it comes to the question of timing – “Lord, when?” Both relate to our failure to ask this question, wait for the answer, and obeying in a timely way. These factors negatively illustrate the basic principle behind this fourth question of listening prayer:
Effective ministry is as much related
to timing as it is related to truth.
God is not obligated to answer our causal questions. Intellectual curiosity will never substitute for passionate seeking after His heart. Jeremiah 29:13. “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.”
So, if you are in that place where God has spoken and confirmed an action that requires obedience, let’s treat this privilege as a responsibility. Let’s be ready to respond when the Lord opens the door and prompts us to act. It’s not Nike’s slogan, “Just do it!” Rather, it is “Just do it when the Lord prompts you.”
Now, picture a long narrow road. Let’s name it “Spirit Walk.” It is straight and narrow. We are led by the Holy Spirt in a life journey down this road to do His will, to serve Jesus. But can you imagine there are ditches on either side of “Spirit Walk?” To fall off the road into either side can happen to any of us. And this illustration can relate to the matter of God’s timing.
The Left Ditch: “Do not quench the Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:19a). We quench the Spirit by sins of omission. We squelch His prompting. We fail to act in the anointed moment. We held back.
The Right Ditch: “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God” (Ephesians 4:30a). We grieve the Spirit by sins of commission. We speak an unwholesome word. It is not the right truth in the right timing.
Let’s look at the whole context of how our words and attitudes can grieve the indwelling Holy Spirit:
Ephesians 4:29-32. 29 Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. 30 Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
The timing issue is seen in the words “according to the need of the moment.” By Listening Prayer, we engage with the Holy Spirit to hear, confirm, and offer that word of encouragement at the right time. To prepare for the right timing, Paul speaks to purifying our own hearts of fleshly attitudes, and to put on qualities of Christ-likeness in our attitude (fruit of the Spirit) before we speak.
If your heart is not reflecting the heart of Christ, it is not the right time to speak on His behalf. Start with your heart. Slowdown from trying to “fix” someone else until you have humbled yourself before God. Here is a prophetic word about Jesus that shows how we should desire to journey on the “Spirit Walk:”
Isaiah 50:4-5a. 4 The sovereign Lord has given me the capacity to be his spokesman, so that I know how to help the weary. He wakes me up every morning; he makes me alert so I can listen attentively as disciples do. 5a The sovereign Lord has spoken to me clearly . . .
Be encouraged. As you learn to walk in the Spirit, He will steady your steps down “Spirit Walk.”