The value of the art of listening prayer is seen most clearly in this clarification of what is true of every child of God: “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” Romans 8:14.
To be led by the Spirit requires that we listen, watch, sense, wait, trust, and remain open to His presence and activity within our heart moment by moment.
Take this moment to let that truth impact your understanding. Normal Christians are open to the indwelling Holy Spirit, who sheds light on God’s will for us right here and right now. We may have a longing to get the big picture, the whole plan of God right up front. But it is the way of God that we hear and obey one little step at a time. He guides us each step into His perfect will. He guides us into God’s unfolding plan in an on-going journey of faith.
Let’s go to a familiar passage, Proverbs 3:5-6, to deepen our understanding of this guidance principle. I am citing the King James Version which many of us have memorized: Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths. Wise old Solomon gives us four directives for listening and obeying God’s guidance:
1. Let’s trust in the Lord with all our heart. Wisdom calls us to a walk of faith with God. And I see “trust” as a step beyond “faith” in this way. Faith takes God at His word; trust takes God as to His character. We can have faith in God’s promises; and we can have confidence in God goodness and faithfulness. Where He leads us, we can follow in confidence of the right outcome.
2. And let’s lean not on our own understanding. Yes, let’s tell Him all that is in our hearts, then release our urgent, but incomplete thoughts. We can’t “lean on” our incomplete, limited understanding of what is best. Let’s exchange the partially understood and wait on God for what He wisely knows and discloses.
3. In all our ways, let’s acknowledge Him. This is a great expression of “practicing the presence of God” in all situations and at all times. “Acknowledge” is the Hebrew word yada. It means to know, to ascertain by seeing, observing, recognizing. Let’s let God come into our conscious awareness each moment of our day. For example, as I mentor a person, I find delight in referring to “the three of us at this table.” We included Jesus as the invisible third party.
4. And we can count on it — He will direct our path. We are trapped in the present. All the days of our lives spread before us unknown, un-lived, un-experienced. We need to be led by the Spirit each day. The Hebrew word for “direct” is yasar, meaning literally “to go straight or direct in the way” and more frequently “to make (a way) straight,” i.e. direct and level and free from obstacles. This is God’s work. He leads us in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake – step by step, day by day, as we are attentive to His voice.
May I add a personal touch here? When my mother died in 1974 at the age of 59, it seemed to be an untimely home-going. Marge Niquette had only been saved at age 38 and divorced soon afterward. She was a single mom who learned to look totally to her Lord each day to order her steps. A remarkable woman, she led literally hundreds of people to receive Christ in her short but timely walk with the Lord.
Now it fell to me to pick appropriate words for her grave marker. What came to me from the Lord, which characterized her life, which was her legacy to me, were the words of an old hymn:
“I will tell the saints in Glory as I lay my burdens down, ‘Jesus led me all the way!’” Be encouraged.