Last week, we observed that God will sometimes take the initiative in our conversations with Him. He can put a question in our mind that He intends to answer. He then waits on us, while we, in turn, must wait on God. All the while the question becomes refined in our minds and gathers intensity and urgency
An example in my own experience goes like this: In my last pastorate in Oregon, I was praying about the state of the church. My heart was breaking to see how distant Christians were from Christ – from a vibrant relationship with Him. I began to say in the pulpit what I was praying in private – “Jesus, You deserve a better return for all You suffered on the cross!”
Then, in my devotional reading from Revelation 3:15-20, I was gripped by the word picture of Jesus standing outside the Laodicean Church. Yes, and outside every lukewarm heart today. He knocks and calls to everyone, to anyone who would listen. He graciously waits for somebody to respond by opening the door – a heart door or a church door – to allow the Lord of the Church to enter His rightful place.
A question began to form in my heart that flowed out of the awakening passion in my soul: “What will it take for Jesus to get His church back?” Time and again I was drawn back to this question in my mind. That wording seemed a little strange. But it haunted me for more nights than I could count. I now believe that God placed that question in my heart. It took four years for me to discover the answer. At a retreat in Georgia, the Lord spoke some things to me that strengthened my passion. A resolve began to replace the question. I had become desperate to see Jesus re-enthroned in His church.
Returning to the pulpit, I remember myself changing my question into a statement. It came out with resolve: “Jesus, this is Your church. I want You to take back Your church, whatever it takes!”
Right after the service, a godly woman, a former missionary, pulled me aside and whispered, “David, I shuttered for you when you said that. Have you any idea what it will cost you for this to be realized?”
Yes, there was a price to pay for this commitment – a very high price. The pursuit of that ambition would be the end of my ministry in that church. I was broken, burned out. I resigned, taking a sabbatical year to rest and to re-calibrate my own heart. And the Lord graciously showed me through listening prayer that before the church could change, the pastor needed to change. That meant me!
It was during this year-long sabbatical that I learned how to quiet myself and listen, really listen, to the Lord. I encounter the Lord in an old familiar passage as if I were seeing it for the first time. “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11: 28-30
I finally “got it.” And I took Him up on this gracious offer. I decided to submit and share His yoke with Him. In the closeness of the yoke with Him I can “learn” from Him. That the heart of “Listening Prayer.” And I have found rest in my soul.
Now comes the answer I waited four years to hear. I had been asking, “Lord, what will it take for You to get Your church back?” The answer is profoundly simple . . . “We must listen!”
Be encouraged. Anticipate God’s initiatives. Welcome the questions He places in your heart. Know that He fully intends to answer such questions. The answer will come in His time, and for our blessing. Let’s listen.