By Ben Simpson
I call on you, my God, for you will answer me;
turn your ear to me and hear my prayer.
The most classic definition of prayer is communication with God. Communication involves both speaking and listening, sending and receiving. Communication has occurred when one person issues a message and another comprehends the message as intended. Communication involves both verbal and nonverbal signals. Sometimes messages can be sent and received without a word being spoken, or amplified or amended by body language. Sender and receiver must be present and in tune with one another for communication to occur.
Prayer is a conversation between persons, you and God. With the psalmist, our communication with God should be offered with confidence that God hears when we call and will answer our prayers. Prayer is a communicative exchange.
God knows us intimately, having awareness of what we need before we ask (Matthew 6:8). God not only hears our words but discerns our hearts. But we are still coming to know God. Knowledge is available to us through the testimony of the Bible, the fellowship of the church, and the inner witness of the Holy Spirit. Yet at present God knows us better than we know God. Our relationship has room to grow. We grow through communication, for through communication we obtain knowledge. Through prayer, we learn who God is and what God is like.
In Philippians 1:9-11, Paul writes, “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.”
Paul knows that his friends at Philippi have room to grow and to glorify God. Paul prays that their love would abound “in knowledge and depth of insight” through an increase in intimacy with God. As we learn to communicate with God, closeness develops, as does the desire to please God. God teaches us how to trust him. We offer to God our questions, concerns, struggles, and doubts alongside our praises, joys, petitions, and discoveries. We talk to God; God talks to us. Both parties attend to one another and listen.
God most commonly speaks to us through the Scriptures. At other times God deeply impresses something upon our hearts. God may guide us through the words and actions of other people or reveal our next step through circumstances and experiences. God does not always speak to us with words, though God is able.
Christian missionary and author Rosalind Rinker writes, “Prayer is the expression of the human heart in conversation with God. The more natural the prayer, the more real He becomes. It has all been simplified for me to this extent: prayer is a dialogue between two persons who love each other.”
God undeniably loves us, a love that is declared and demonstrated in Christ (1 John 4:9-12). But we have room to grow in love for God, a love which abounds more and more as we discover God’s goodness and grace through the act of prayer.
Prayer is a dialogue. Let it be one of love.
What role does listening have in your practice of prayer?
Lord, help me to abound in love for you through knowledge of you. You have revealed yourself through your saving actions, powerful word, and in the person of Jesus Christ. Teach me to trust you and talk with you, always giving thanks and always being open to your leading. Please be attentive to my prayer, and attune my ears and soften my heart that I may receive your word. Amen.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ® NIV ®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2014 by Biblica, Inc.®. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.