I recently heard an army veteran say, “There’s no atheists on the front line”. This veteran, still a young man, had seen first-hand the power of God in the face of man’s fear, and could now say how important one’s prayer life was in the face of adversity.
In January, the Guardian newspaper had an article entitled ‘Non-believers turn to prayer in a crisis, poll finds,’ which said that for the non-religious, personal crisis or tragedy is the most common reason for praying; with one in four saying they pray to gain comfort or feel less lonely. For those that struggle to pray, and I include self-professed committed Christians in that category, it is often to do with either not having the words to say or not hearing anything back.
Firstly, God doesn’t need to hear your words spoken allowed. Prayer is something that is done from the heart and gut, not just from the vocal chords. Holding a time of silence with a candle lit, or taking a walk and listening for God, are both legitimate ways to pray. But then so is screaming at the top of your voice in lament, anger or frustration too. The point here is that God doesn’t set conditions for effective prayer he welcomes any time spent with him.
Secondly, prayer is a two-way thing. That’s why it’s so frustrating when you feel your prayers are falling on deaf ears. Listening for God is crucial to a healthy prayer life. Yes, you can give over all your concerns, requests, petitions and intercessions but like any correspondence it will always feel incomplete unless you get a reply. So how do we listen for God's reply? Maybe this will help…
A wise lady and her friend were walking near Times Square in New York. The streets were filled with people, cars were honking their horns, taxicabs were squealing around corners, and sirens were wailing. Suddenly, the wise lady stops and says, 'I hear a cricket.'
Her friend is astounded. 'What? You must be crazy. You couldn't possibly hear a cricket in all of this noise!'
'No, I'm sure of it,' the wise lady said. 'I heard a cricket.'
'That's crazy,' said her friend.
The wise lady listened carefully for a moment, and then walked across the street to where some shrubs were growing. She looked into the bushes and sure enough, she located a small cricket. Her friend was utterly amazed.
'That's incredible,' said her friend. 'You must have super-human ears!'
'No,' said the wise lady. 'My ears are no different from yours.'
'But that can't be!' said the friend. 'I could never hear a cricket in this noise.'
'Yes, you could,' came the reply. 'Here, let me show you.'
She reached into her pocket, pulled out a few coins, and dropped them on the pavement. And then, with the noise of the crowded street still blaring in their ears, they noticed every head within 5 metres turn and look to see if the money that tinkled on the pavement was theirs.
'See what I mean?' asked the wise lady. 'It all depends on what's important to you, on what you're listening for.'
So, what is important to you? If God isn’t, then you're probably not going to hear what he’s saying to you. If he is, then listening for him in the busyness of our lives is the most important thing we can do.
Luke 11:1 reads, "One day, Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, 'Lord, teach us to pray…"
What we forget to mention in this passage is that Jesus went and found a place to pray first before he gave us the Lord’s Prayer. He met with his father every day and modeled a pattern of prayer that sustained his human nature. Listening for God is made easier by committing time, energy and intent. Like the cricket in the story, God’s voice can be heard, it just all depends on what’s important to you.
May you hear the voice of God speak peace and comfort to you. Rev Jeremy Putnam.
A collection of thoughts and reflections from the people of All Saints.