Christians are not ordinary people. As the apostle Peter puts it, we are partakers of the divine nature equipped with everything we need for life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3-4). We are sons of God, led by the Spirit of the one true God, who created everything, controls the weather, and raises the dead. We are “his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which he has prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph. 2:10).
As such, every day we should arise asking ourselves, “What should I do today? Where will I be releasing the immense power stored up in this ‘earthen vessel’?”
We don’t always remember to ask such questions. Too often, we just set about our day as though we were ordinary, or something other than demigods. (I don’t generally use that word, and I don’t recommend it, but I’m trying to put a picture in your head of who you are as someone possessed by the Holy Spirit of the Creator of the universe.)
God always remembers, however. It’s important to him that we make good use of the treasure deposited within us (remember the parable of the talents). As a good Father, he is committed to making his will known to us. I’m a father, and I have certain expectations from my children. Although it’s their duty to try to live up to those expectations, it is my duty to let them know what those expectations are.
One of the ways God lets us know his expectations is by speaking to us as we pray. In prayer, we are focused on our Father, so it is one of the best times to get us to hear what he is saying.
The problem is, many of us do not recognize his voice when it comes. We think prayer is just praise, thanksgiving, and making requests. We don’t think of prayer as conversation. We certainly don’t remember that in a conversation with someone like God, it’s better for him to do most of the talking, rather than us.
God remembers, though, and he talks.
Because we don’t remember, we often mistake the voice of God for a distraction.
“I was trying to pray this morning, but I kept being distracted by thoughts about work.”
Now it’s true that the devil would love to distract us in prayer, and humans have minds that are prone to wandering. Perhaps your thoughts about work really were a distraction, produced by worry or by your own ambition.
But if we’re in prayer, knowing that God is speaking, it makes sense that we should at least examine those thoughts and determine whether God is giving us instructions for our workplace … or maybe he’s giving us something specific to pray for.
Is the Christian life really like that? We can really be guided by God on an ongoing basis?
I’ve read whole books teaching that God doesn’t speak to Christians except through the Scriptures, or perhaps through circumstances. I cannot conceive how anyone can read the Bible that way.
When the Holy Spirit first came to the church, Peter announced, by quoting Joel, that the Spirit would make old men dream dreams, young men see visions, and our sons and daughters would prophesy (Acts 2). Paul tells us that the children of God are those who are led by the Spirit of God (Rom. 8:14). Matthew tells us that we live by every word that “proceeds,” present tense, from the mouth of God, not just by words that proceeded from his mouth two or three thousand years ago (4:4). Paul tells us again that in our gatherings, every one of us can prophesy (1 Cor. 14:31).
I don’t know how those Scriptures can be interpreted by those who believe in a silent God.
One of the most outstanding verses in the apostles’ writings is 1 John 2:26-27. It reads:
I have written these things because of those who are trying to seduce you. The anointing that you have received from him abides in you, and you don’t need any man to teach you. That anointing teaches you everything, and it is true and not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in him.
All the “yous” in those verses are plural. This is not a promise for rogue individuals. It’s a promise to the church, gathered together and exhorting each other. (In fact, Eph. 4:13-16 says the same thing with some details thrown in about the need to be speaking to one another.)
Notice what John is telling us. It’s not only important, it’s amazing! He’s telling the church, “You don’t need me to answer all your questions. The anointing of God will answer them for you. Not only that, but the answers you get will be true and trustworthy.”
And this is concerning false teachers (“those who are trying to seduce you”). The answer is not in depth Bible study, though that’s a good thing. The answer is the children of God speaking the truth to one another in love until they know by the anointing of God what is true (Cf. Eph. 4:13-16).
That is an amazing promise, and it requires us to be able to hear God and then let him speak through us.
Maybe you see something different in the Scriptures, but I cannot. It seems obvious to me that prophets, which we all can be according to 1 Cor. 14:31, have to hear God. Agabus, for example, who is twice mentioned in Acts, gave prophecies that he could not have read about anywhere. He predicted a famine and the arrest of Paul. That required hearing God.
On the trip to Rome after he was arrested, the ship that was transporting Paul was involved in a shipwreck. God told Paul that he would spare the ship and all the passengers. That can only happen if God actually spoke to Paul.
Are we to live differently than Paul, or should we follow him as an example?
I believe we should follow him as an example, especially since the Scripture commands us to do so: “Imitate me, as I imitate Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1).