Emptying Yourself of Self & Hearing The Voice of God
I've been trying to figure out how prayer works for most of my life.
There are times when I feel like I might be on to something--that I might have come up with a working theory. I'll have seasons where it feels like I'm in direct connection to God, and all of the things I'm praying about seem to be finding answers that couldn't be just happenstance.
And then all of my theories get tossed out the window in other seasons in my life when there seems to be nothing but silence--a Divine and deafening silence that leaves me feeling as though all of my prayers are simply wasted breath, wasted energy.
The truth of the matter is that all theories about the power of prayer are simply theories. I don't know of anyone who has a corner on the market when it comes to concrete, explanations of prayer.
But what I have come to understand is that I need it. If I don't pray, I feel the absence of it. When I am struggling through the challenges of life as I pray, I feel (no matter how faint it might feel at times) the presence of God. When I spend time every day contending with God, petitioning God, pleading, sharing, rejoicing with God, it makes everything different somehow.
It leaves me with the feeling that in a way that is hard to describe, and impossible to quantify... I am not alone. And if I am willing to shut out the noise, the voices in my head, the distractions of life, the worry, anxiety, regret, anger and fear--I have learned I might actually hear something.
Author, pastor and evangelist E. Stanley Jones described this process as "relaxed receptivity." The late Henri Nouwen referred to it as "listening to the blessing." My wife Merideth used to begin her prayers with the words, "God, I am 'aggressively listening' to you."
However we choose describe prayer, the one thing that we all can agree on is that when we empty ourselves in humility and become open to what the God of the Universe has to pour into that void, it transforms us, renews us, and can overwhelm us with peace and hope.
May you find ways today to empty yourself of yourself, and simply listen for the voice of the Divine. May you struggle through our doubts about whether your prayers are getting answered, and simply open your heart to the whispers of the Spirit. And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.