My first grade daughter taught me to pray, about six and a half years ago. I came home from the hospital with a tiny precious little girl. I was armed with all the knowledge I had gleaned from the parenting books and all the anxiety and alarm those same books typically bring. In case you haven’t read one, all of the parenting books out there have the same premise. It goes something like this “If you love your child, you will do x, y and z”. The only variable in each book is how they define x, y and z. The problem is, sometimes x from book 1 completely contradicts y from book 2. It’s really maddening for a healthy person. Then you add in more than a healthy dose of hormones and top that off with sleep deprivation and you have a recipe for complete breakdown. This is not a pretty scene. Baby melting down in the crib, mom melting down on the couch. Each surrounded by books, tears and tissues. It was in this exact scene that I learned to pray.
I was completely fed up with the books, so those were (maybe literally) tossed (chunked) out the window. I sat down and spoke to God (with my screaming baby in the background) and informed Him that it was time I gained the spiritual gift of interpretation. My baby was clearly speaking in tongues, and I needed to understand what she was saying. It seemed to be something urgent. In my hyper rational brain I realized that God knew exactly what she was crying about. I didn’t. He could tell me. And that is where it began.
It was a slow process. The Bible says that the sheep know the shepherd’s voice. There’s a reason the sheep need to know His voice. There are a lot of voices out there. I kept hearing the voices of the authors I was reading. It took some time to discern God’s voice, but through trial and error (good old fashioned scientific method here) I began to trust my knowledge of my Shepherd’s voice. I remember one time putting her down for nap, she began to cry – not too unusual. I sat outside her door and prayed. Lord, what do I do? Let her cry? Hold her? I distinctly heard Him say “Change her diaper”. I argued. I had just changed her diaper. That couldn’t be it. God calmly responded “change her diaper”. I relented and went in and checked her diaper. Sure enough, she was dirty. I knew then, I could trust this voice.
If you are not a mother, you may have checked out a few paragraphs ago. If not, hang on, you don’t need a baby to learn to hear God’s voice! I actually began a few months before my little one was born. I started with another piece of my life which is ultimately stressful to me: gift-giving. I can’t explain it, but I cannot go shopping for someone else without panicking. So, I began to pray for God to tell me what to purchase when gift shopping. It was an amazing blessing. I could recount several stories from this experiment as well. It was a rich learning experience.
So, if you are longing for your prayer life to move beyond tossing words up to the ceiling and hoping for the best, join me in a return to middle school science (Wow! It really did come in handy!). Choose and area of your life to use as a test (probably not wanting to test out your new skills on major life changes, just sayin’). Ask God to speak to you, test the voices you hear. You will know from the fruit of your experiment which voice is the Lord’s. Need to know how to spend your time? Ask God! Need to know how to spend your money? Ask! Need to know why that baby is screaming? Ask!
What area will you be testing? I want to hear your stories! I’d love for you to share them on the blog!