“The Lord is close to all who call on him, yes, to all who call on him in truth. He grants the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cries for help and rescues them.” – Psalm 145:18-19.
Conversations are a catalyst to deeper connections, fresh ideas, and a better understanding of ourselves and our world. When we have the courage to move beyond small talk and explore people and issues at deeper levels, we grow from the experience. Conversations also help us get on the same page. When we converse, we become aware: aware of the other person, his rights, his privileges, his feeling, and if we converse long enough, his total personality. Relational conversation implies that we must take turns about and do it gracefully. When one person does all the talking it is called a monologue. A monologue is what we are trying to avoid in building a conversational relationship with God.
Most of us picture prayer as sort of like a monologue: We talk to God, sharing our heartfelt thanks and offering up our petitions and requests. But prayer is really more like a dialogue, where we speak with God and the Lord speaks to us.
A listening prayer centers around a clear request for God’s guidance. In making our request, we give God’s guidance authority over the other voices we hear throughout our daily lives. Then we hit the pause button. We wait on God in a time of silence, giving the Lord the opportunity to speak to us. We focus our time of prayer on intentional, purposeful listening and let God do the talking.
This is really important because as followers of Jesus, we all desire to do the right thing and make the wisest choices. Yet we are constantly being bombarded with the noise of the world all around us. There are lots of voices telling us very different messages, and too often we find ourselves challenged and confused about what we should do in a given situation or what is really the best way ahead. These are times when we can seek God’s guidance through conversational prayer.
Jesus said we are His sheep, the flock of his pasture (Psalm 100:3) John 10 expands on this theme. As Jesus’s sheep, we should be able to listen to his voice and follow him because we clearly recognize his voice. Jesus is able to lead us precisely because we hear his voice and follow after him. “The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice. They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice” (John 10:3-4).
Being close to God means communicating with Him—telling Him what is on our hearts in prayer and hearing and understanding what he is saying to us. We need to learn to pray in His presence and to let Him speak with us, to be in tune with Him until we are willing to hear what He has to say to us. In Jeremiah 33:3, God says to the people of Israel, “Ask me and I will tell you remarkable secrets you do not know about things to come.”
- How does reframing prayer as an ongoing conversation with God help you rethink what prayer looks like in your own life? How can we determine if our prayer life is a real two-way conversation?