I was brought up in a religious community which, for the most part, believed God did not communicate directly with people today. I understand the theological arguments for this position and the consequences of their rejection. However, I came to the personal conclusion a long time ago that this is in fact the greatest of errors and even extreme arrogance. God is God – and he is never restricted by our theological concepts of what he can or cannot do.
That having been said – and even if we believe that God, in a myriad of ways, communicates with his people today – it appears to me that we rarely hear his voice. I suspect that in most of my prayers I do not really expect to hear an answer. To be honest I have read many books on prayer over the years – but for the most part have put them down with a heavy heart. I felt like David when he wrote in Psalm 139 – “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is too high, I cannot attain to it!”
Perhaps you might be thinking – “Steve – you are not connecting with the right people” – and you may or may not be right.
But consider for a moment the great worship leader and songwriter Asaph. He rubbed shoulders with King David – a man after God’s own heart. Not only so but he also worked closely with Solomon – the wisest man who ever lived. And he prayed a lot as well – we can read some of his prayers in the book of Psalms. Like many of us thought I don’t know if Asaph ever expected God to speak to him. But one day he did – and Asaph did not recognise who it was, for he records – “I heard an unknown voice that said …” [Psalm 81:5]. I suspect is wasn’t too long before he realised it was God! But it is what God said to Asaph that is most important in our context. Three times in the short monologue God bemoans the fact that his people do not listen!
“Listen to me, O my people, while I give you stern warnings.
O Israel, if you would only listen to me!
“But no, my people wouldn’t listen.
Israel did not want me around.
So I let them follow their own stubborn desires,
living according to their own ideas.
Oh, that my people would listen to me!
[Psalm 81:11 – 13].
The real problem, I truly believe, is not that God does not speak – but that we are not listening! And the consequences of failing to listen can be extremely serious.
As in the experience of the young Samuel God may be speaking to us even today – but we are not perceiving. You may recall God spoke to him four times before he eventually replied – “Speak, your servant is listening.” [1 Samuel 3:10]. Perhaps this simple prayer should be ours – I know it needs to be mine.