Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Still Small Voice

I recently read a book on prayer that included this insight: many of us who complain God never says anything to us, can't hear Him because our minds are "cluttered with junk." We can't expect our computers to respond at top speed if we've filled their drives to capacity; we can't expect to hear the doorbell ring if we're using headphones on a radio turned to full volume; and we can't expect to hear God's "still, small voice" (1 Kings 19:12, NKJV) in our heads if we've given them too much else to think about.

I know some people are going to be indignant to hear the word "junk" applied to their distracting thoughts (which is one reason I included a link to the book where I read it: so the other author can take the blame!). "Am I wrong to wonder what my kids are up to?" someone is bound to say. "Is it a sin to try to remember everything my boss wants me to do? Am I obligated to confine my TV viewing to church broadcasts and my reading to the Bible?"

Not necessarily. It would hardly be possible, or even desirable, to spend every moment of life on our knees; after all, Jesus went to parties. And even when we're officially "at prayer," it doesn't
necessarily mean we're listening to God. I'm not referring to minds that wander away from prayer altogether, though if you're anything like me you have your share of problems there. I mean that many of us do so much talking that we don't give God a chance to answer. Especially if we suspect we may not like what He has to say! (We all tend to take over conversations--as loud and fast as we can get away with--when we sense someone is about to bring up something that will make us uncomfortable.) The larger problem, the one that turns even wholesome thoughts into "junk," comes when we semi-consciously decide that our worries and pleasures are more important than our God. It's when we forget to give Him first place--and full say in anything else we feed into our brains--that we stop listening to Him.

Some of us don't even want to bother trying; we figure that if God has anything to say to us, He's perfectly capable of speaking loudly enough that we can't miss it. If C. S. Lewis was right that "God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains," that could be a risky approach to adopt!

Like any good friend, God would much rather have us pay sufficient attention to Him that He
doesn't have to shout to get us to listen.

We fill up our lives with distraction's noise,
Then ask, "Why doesn't God speak out?
Why should we have to listen to hear His voice?
Surely He knows the way to shout!"
But the Master of Lightning, Lord of Storm,
Is a Gentleman at His core;
Though His arm is almighty, His heart is warm;
He will rarely kick down a door.

If you truly would hear God speak to you,
If you wish to discern His call,
You must tune your heart's ear to hear what is true;
You must crave God's will over all.
Then, in gentle whispers His voice will come,
As it comes to all those who seek;
No one who learns to banish distraction's hum
Need complain God neglects to speak!

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