PRAY–GOD IS LISTENING

Sometimes, when I am working hard at listening to someone, I hear a comment that could bother me a great deal.  The comment often comes after I have spend a considerable amount of time focusing on the person, giving all the necessary feedback to let them know I am listening.  I am not faking, I am actually listening and can, when necessary, give them a full replay of the whole session, including both the verbal and non-verbal content of their communication.

As the session progresses and they get more comfortable (a powerful consequence of being listened to), some will eventually utter a comment something like, “I just want someone to listen to me–but nobody listens.”  Early in my ministry, I would quickly respond with, “I am listening”. At other stages, I would think to myself, “What do you think I have been doing for the past half-hour?”.  These days, I privately enjoy the irony:  if I weren’t listening, they would not likely be comfortable enough to complain that nobody listens to them.

Unfortunately, their complaint is an all too accurate and too common one–listening is a skill we all want others to have but don’t always want to practise ourselves.  We want to be heard but don’t necessarily want to hear.  All of us need to know that there is someone to listen to us–and we all want the listener to be a real person, someone who cares and whose care shows and helps us feel important and valuable and significant.  Nothing can take the place of a real live human listener.

Along with that need for a human ear to hear us, we also need a sense that something beyond us is listening.  As a Christian, I need to know that God is listening.  But because I so used to not being listened to, I sometimes make the assumption that God listens like many of the humans I associate with.  Like many people, I have experienced prayer times when I have felt that no one is listening–it feels like God is on vacation or at least on a coffee break.

That can be a devastating and frustrating experience, especially when the prayer is coming from deep inside and dealing with some significant issue.  Feeling that God isn’t listening can make someone feel really isolated and insignificant and worthless.

And since God is Spirit and therefore doesn’t give the usual signs of listening:  nodding, non-word verbal prompts, appropriate reflection and helpful questions, it is harder to know that God is listening.  I am pretty good at telling is someone is actually listening to me or not–but since I can’t see God, I have none of the usual clues that show someone is listening.

The difference I need to remember is that when I deal with God, I am dealing with a qualitatively different situation.  I am moving into the faith realm.  I can see whether another person is listening to me.  I have to believe that God is listening to me.  With many people, I can feel whether they are there listening or not–but with God, I need to believe that he hears and is listening.

There are lots of Scripture verses that I could quote and thus prove that God is always listening to me, but the bottom line is that I have to depend on my faith here, not my feelings or my observations.  I pray because I believe God is listening.  When I feel God isn’t listening, I pray because I believe he is listening.  When I don’t observe anything to show he is listening, I pray because I believe he is listening.  When I pray and am sure that the prayers bump up against an unlistening and uncaring universe, I continue praying because I believe God is listening.  When I pray and pray and get no answer, I still pray because I believe that God is listening.

Even more, I pray because I believe that God does more than listen.  I believe that he answers.  I might have trouble seeing the answer, but I still pray because God is both listening and answering.

May the peace of God be with you.

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12 thoughts on “PRAY–GOD IS LISTENING

  1. Yes God is listening.
    Are you listening to HIM about what is Most Important?
    No, it’s not “Love” without God – that was the Beatles, Paul and other men.

    Poem – What is love?

    Two men came to Jesus
    With different motivations.
    They asked Him the same question
    Relevant to all the nations:

    Which is the Most Important?
    The answer was the same.
    Jesus did not manipulate
    He was not there to play a game.

    “Love the Lord your God” said Jesus
    as He quoted from The Law –
    to fulfill and not abolish
    was His purpose, full of awe.

    Jesus did not make all Scripture
    Into one new great commandment.
    He summarized The Law and Prophets
    “First and Greatest” and “The Second.”

    The Love of God is higher
    Than the love of any man.
    Receive from God, give back to God-
    Then to others, that’s His plan.

    The Love of God involves much more
    Than simply “love your fellow man.”
    Worship, trust, and pray to God,
    and obey Him – that’s His plan

    To worship and pray to neighbors,
    Whoever they may be,
    Or trust and obey our enemies
    Would be idolatry.

    The love of God is first and greatest,
    And the love of man is second.
    “All we need is love” are words
    of dead Beetles on the pavement.

    “The entire law is summed up in a single command”
    are not the words of Jesus our Salvation.
    It’s false teaching of Paul the Pharisee
    an “accuser of our brethren.”

    “Love” without God is Satan’s word through Paul
    in his chapter to the Corinthians.
    “I will show you the most excellent way”
    is the road to eternal perdition.

    Where is God in Paul’s chapter on love?
    Nowhere in view of the eye.
    Paul sings about himself like a Mexican Mariachi
    “I, I, I, I.”

    Jesus is The Most Excellent Way
    Not the words of a Pharisee.
    The words of Jesus are very clear.
    Jesus said, “You must follow ME.”

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  2. There is no question that loving God and following Jesus is our priority. But at the same time, Jesus makes it clear that loving God following Jesus will involve our relationships with others. John 13.34-35 tell us that we need to love each other the same way Jesus loved us. Matthew 25.31-45 tells us that what we do or don’t do to others is done to Jesus. While the command to love God completely and fully is the first command, the second command to love others as we love is not a distant after thought but a closely related consequence of following the first. Thanks for commenting. Randy

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  3. I’m glad we both agree with Jesus that “the command to love God completely and fully is the first command….”

    So Paul was wrong, in Galatians 5:14 and Romans 13:8-10.
    (Please read the text for yourself in your Bible before you start saying “But Paul……”)

    Parable of the House Painters

    A homeowner called his friend, who was a painting contractor. “Friend, I want to hire you and your team to paint my house and my garage. Paint the house first, and I’ll stay in the garage until you’re done. Then when the paint is dry, I’ll move back into the house, and you can paint the garage.”

    The painting contractor hired a new foreman named Paul, and gave him the homeowner’s instructions. (Paul insisted that all the workers show respect for him by addressing him as “Boss Paul.”) Paul called the team of painters together and told them:
    “Boys, we need to paint this garage and house. The quicker we do it, the more profitable it is for us. So get to work! Since the garage is smaller, we can finish that quicker. Then those who finished the garage can go help the others finish the house.”

    One worker objected: “But Boss Paul, those were not the owner’s instructions! We are supposed to paint the house first. Only after the house is finished and the paint is dry can we go and paint the garage.”

    Paul replied: “I’m Boss, you work for me, and you do as I say. We are painters, and we paint. We don’t have time for debates about ‘which one is first’. We need to get to work applying that paint to the garage and house as quick as we can. Which owner would be upset if we finished early? The job is to paint the garage and house – what difference does it make ‘which one is first’”?

    “It makes a big difference to the owner,” the worker objected. To which Paul replied, “you’re fired.” Paul then took his team of painters, and started painting the garage and the house.

    When the homeowner returned in the evening, he was furious. He had nowhere to sleep, and had to go stay in a hotel for several days. The homeowner’s friend, the painting contractor, apologized, and explained:

    “I hired a new foreman named Paul, but that was a huge mistake. He ignored your instructions that I passed on to him. You don’t know him, and I’ve just barely met him.
    To be extremely polite, I could say that Paul ‘says some things which are difficult to understand.’ To be more direct, I could say Paul talks like an arrogant megalomaniac with a messiah complex, proclaiming; ‘I am not under the law’ but yet making up his own laws as he goes along, that everyone else has to obey. Paul said: ‘I became your father…. therefore I urge you to imitate me,’ and ‘I have become all things to all men.’ Paul thinks he’s Boss, and doesn’t need to listen to your instructions that I gave him.”

    In Matthew 22 and Mark 12, Jesus identified two commandments, saying one of them is the first and greatest most important one. Which one is it? The one in Deuteronomy 6:4-5, or the one in Leviticus 19:18 ?

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  4. It appears to me that we have at least two very different presuppositions that mean we are not really connecting in this discussion–I sort of feel like I did in Kenya when everyone was speaking Kikamba and I was speaking English. One presupposition I have is that the commands to love God and love others are not sequential–while loving God completely is first, it doesn’t mean that we can put all our effort into that and ignore others–we need to love God and others at the same time. In fact, I John 4.20-21 make a clear link between the two.

    The second presupposition concerns Paul and his writings. I agree that Paul is arrogant, at least in his early writings; he is hard to understand at times; he acts like a boss, although his long struggle with the Corinthians suggests he didn’t have as much power as some seem to think. But no matter what I think of Paul, I have to deal with the fact that God has seen fit to include his writings in the New Testament and so the question I have to ask is not “Is Paul right?” but rather, “What is God seeking to say to me (us) by including this passage.

    What our differing presuppositions mean is that we are probably coming from very different places, seeing very different perspecitves and going in very different directions. In Kenya, I solved the problem by learning Kiswahili, which all of us could speak well enough to communicate. I am not sure what our common language would be or even if we can discover it given the limitations of a blog comment section.
    Randy

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  5. Randy, you said:
    .1) “One presupposition I have is that the commands to love God and love others are not sequential…”
    Well, Jesus identified one commandment from the Law as “First and Greatest” “Most Important”,
    and
    He identified one other commandment as “The Second.”

    Do you think this presupposition is in harmony with the clear words of Jesus, speaking twice in complete consecutive sentences? (Not part of one sentence, or one sentence isolated out of context.)

    .2) You said: “….the question I have to ask is not “Is Paul right?” but rather, “What is God seeking to say to me (us) by including this passage. ”

    You have hit the nail on the head, in identifying the problem. In the Evangelical Tradition, we have been trained never to even think of questioning Paul. In most churches, it’s not the voice of Jesus in the Gospels, or God speaking through the Prophets that we hear. No, we hear the voice of Paul instead. Your lens for determining what is “truth” is Paul – but it should be Jesus. Not Paul. You are playing the wrong game in the wrong ballpark using the wrong rules – Paul’s rules, Paul’s game, Paul’s ballpark.

    The Orthodox view of “Scripture” has a “Book of the 4 Gospels” which they literally hold up above the rest of the texts. This has been the “Eastern Orthodox” practice for almost 2000 years – it’s not my new idea. True, they have many other traditions that are not of God, but this basic viewpoint on the text, buried in all that tradition, is a gem.

    Rather than “begging the question” and assuming that Paul couldn’t be wrong, why not look at the texts or yourself, through the lens of Jesus, recorded by His appointed Apostles, Matthew, John, and Mark acting as scribe or Peter and other Apostles ? No one in the text of the Bible ever said that all Scripture was equal – not even Paul said that. Jesus is more important, so His words and teachings are more important- this makes sense, wouldn’t you agree?

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  6. Randy, you wrote QUOTE: ….”no matter what I think of Paul, I have to deal with the fact that God has seen fit to include his writings in the New Testament…..”

    GOD included Paul’s writings in the “New Testament” ?????

    Well, I admit that for many years, this statement would have been an accurate refection of what I really believed, practically speaking, even though I never thought about it or expressed it that way….. But I propose to you that it’s time to start thinking.

    Do you know where the term “New Testament” originated?
    In the mind of the Second Century heretic Marcion. He created a “new book” giving it that name, since he said the Hebrew Scriptures were the “Old Testament” which was outdated, and superseded by the “God of Love” revealed by Paul.
    Do you know which “books” Marcion’s original “New Testament” contained?
    Nothing but an abbreviated, edited Gospel of Luke (I think the first 3 chapters were missing, but I’m not sure exactly) and 10 of Paul’s letters. (1 & 2 Timothy and Titus were missing.)
    That’s it! Nothing else ! And Marcion threw out the “Old Testament”….

    Most Evangelical churches today are really teaching revived Marcionism, practically speaking.

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  7. Randy,

    Many self-professed “Bible-believing Evangelicals” won’t listen to the words of Jesus, because they are brainwashed through reciting their “mantra” – “all scripture is God-breathed.”

    This “Evangelical Mantra” has been accepted by the collective subconscious mind of “The Evangelical Church” without thought, question, reflection, or even 2 witnesses from the Scripture itself. It’s based on a misinterpretation, out of context, of one verse in one letter written by one man, Paul the Pharisee, who was unfamiliar with the personal ministry and teaching of Jesus.

    But, “Once an idea has been accepted by your subconscious, it remains there and it governs your behavior until it is replaced or changed.” [ as a pastor named Bishop Dale C. Bronner observed in one of his sermons]

    (Definition from the American Heritage Dictionary.) Mantra (noun) (Hinduism.) A sacred formula believed to embody the divinity invoked and to possess magical power, used in prayer and incantation.

    When cult members repeat their mantra, it makes them deaf to the voice of God, unable to hear God. Instead, it puts their focus on their one “special man” above all others – his personality, words and teachings, character, life example, feelings, experience, intentions, mind, will, emotions, etc. Their cult leader is their hero – he is always right, could never be wrong about anything specific, and he must be obeyed in all things and never questioned. He will give himself a special title, write at least one special book, and claim special authority, with no need for a second witness to back him up.
    Here are 3 examples.

    .1) Fuhrer. The title of Adolf Hitler as the leader of the German Nazis, author of “Mein Kamph”. Mantra: “Heil Hitler.”

    .2) The self-appointed Prophet Muhammad, author of The Koran. Mantra: …..”and Muhammad is his prophet.”

    .3) Paul the Pharisee, the self-appointed Apostle to the Gentiles, whose 13 letters comprise one third of what, today, we call the “New Testament.” (The first, original “New Testament” was composed by the second century heretic Marcion, and he coined the term “New Testament.” His new “book” contained nothing except 10 of Paul’s letters and an abbreviated Gospel of Luke. There were no other “New Testament” books, and the Hebrew Scriptures were the “Old Testament” which was irrelevant, according to the heretic Marcion.) Mantra: “All Scripture is God-breathed….”

    I got my Masters Degree at Dallas Theological Seminary. I was attracted to the school because they put Paul’s mantra of “All Scripture is God-breathed” above everything else, and I wanted to heed Paul’s command and “Preach the Word” like Paul….

    This mantra is a misinterpretation out of context of 2 Timothy 3:16. It ignores the previous verse, 2 Timothy 3:15, which clearly indicates that Paul was NOT referring to his own letters when he wrote the words “All Scripture.”

    Paul was probably making reference to some of the Hebrew Scriptures, quite likely including the Law and the Prophets. We cannot be completely certain exactly which “Scriptures” Paul meant in “All Scripture”, and what Paul meant by “God-breathed.” Why can’t we be certain?

    Because we must establish a matter by the testimony of two or three witnesses, especially something as important as “What is the Word of God.” No one else in the pages of the Bible besides Paul ever said anything like “All Scripture is God-breathed”. And Paul only said it here, one time, in the middle of a personal letter.

    The Apostle Peter made reference to “Prophecy of Scripture,” not “All Scripture,” and no it’s not the same thing at all. Jesus never said anything like that. And no one, not even Paul, ever said that all Scripture was equal.

    I remember the general approach to the Bible at Dallas being that “every word in the 66 Books is the Word of God”….. and we should interpret it based on “the intended meaning of the author in the historical grammatical context.”

    That is the basic idea of the heavy-duty seminary language we were being trained in. It sounds so right, so intelligent, so professional, so “godly”….. but it is fundamentally flawed.

    When we look at Paul’s teachings and testimony about himself, (in his letters that make up 1/3 of the New Testament,) we should NOT immediately ask ourselves; “what did Paul say, what did Paul mean, and how does this apply to my life?” The fundamental question is NOT “what was in the mind of Paul?”

    Before any of that, the FIRST question to ask is; “does Paul agree with Jesus, who came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets?”

    Paul contradicted himself, and his teachings and testimony about himself don’t harmonize with the teachings of Jesus (or with Luke’s record of his life.) Let’s not waste our time with endless debates about “what Paul really meant” with his wacky teachings about “baptizing the dead” or “there is neither male nor female.” Paul was wrong. Jesus reminds us from The Law “at the beginning, the Creator made them male and female.” [Matthew 19:4, Genesis 1:27]

    As to the question of “whether the Bible is ALL truly Gods WORDS”…

    The underlying unspoken assumption is that “The Bible” (66 Books) was given to us by God as “one book” and it’s all “equal” in level of authority, priority, and importance. This comes from unconsciously believing Paul’s mantra, the “Evangelical Mantra”, that “All Scripture is God-breathed”, and falsely assuming Paul was referring to every word in the 66 Books of the Bible. Yet even here, not even Paul, not even once, ever said that “All Scripture is EQUAL” in authority, priority, and importance.

    No one in the pages of the Bible ever said or wrote that “all Scripture,” or “the Bible,” is “all truly God’s words”. Jesus never said anything like that, and Jesus did not see it that way. Jesus did not see even the Hebrew Scriptures, what we call the “Old Testament”, as a whole unit or book that was all equal or “all truly God’s words.” Jesus spoke of The Law, or The Law and the Prophets, holding these 2 sections of the Old Testament above the third, least important sections the “Writings.” And Jesus held the Psalms, the first book of the “Writings” section, above the other books in the “Writings” section in importance, since some parts of some Psalms are prophetic.

    Obviously, the New Testament Scriptures were not written when Jesus was walking the earth. But if we want to get closest to The Source, Jesus himself, it makes sense that we should look first to the eyewitness testimony of two of His appointed Apostles who walked with Him faithfully for over 3 years, Matthew & John. (Also to other eyewitness testimony, recorded by Mark and Luke.) This is more accurate, important, and authoritative than personal letters written by Paul the Pharisee, who never knew Jesus personally, had no part in His ministry, and had no eyewitness testimony.

    We should follow the Jesus of the Gospel writers. We should not follow the “jesus” of Paul the Pharisee or Muhammad or any other man, who had their own ideas of who “jesus” was and what He did.

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  8. Sorry it has taken so long to respond–you would think that being a rural pastor with half my work load on hold because of a winter shut down, I would have lots and lots of time. Well–that hasn’t been the case and so I am slow getting back, not from lack of interest but lack of time.

    Since I am so far behind, I will just make a few of comments:

    1. The development of both Old and New Testament canons is a fascinating process, especially if you can see beyond the dry academic language often used to discuss the process. The process involves heretics, politics and some great spiritual leaders in both Jewish and Christian contexts. While Marcion does make an appearance is on only one minor player in a vast, Spirit orchestrated process of giving us what God knew we would need.

    2. My acceptance of the Biblical canon as it stands in the Western Protestant tradition is not the result of my “subconscious acceptance” nor a “brain-washing mantra”. Rather, I was part of a spiritual tradition where I was both encouraged and enabled to think and ask questions. And part of that process obviously involves a careful look at Scripture. I spent–and still spend–time researching, studying and meditating not just on Scripture but on the processes of Scripture as well. What I believe about the Bible is a result of what is for me a Spirit lead process.

    3. There is no question that all Scripture, both OT and NT, need to be seen through the lens of Jesus. And for me, there is no question that I can and should ask deep, probing and troubling questions like, “Was Paul right?”. But as a result of my study and the Spirit’s leading in my study, I believe that all questions, while legitimate, also need to be asked in the wider context of God’s provision of the 66 books we call the Bible–he provides it for a reason and that reason becomes the end goal of my study.

    4. Finally, since this discussion has gone beyond the admittedly vague and somewhat broad parameters of this blog, I am going to offer to transfer it to a more personal venue, which is why this comment is being posted here and sent to the email address that accompanies your posts. If you wish, we can continue the discussion that way.

    Randy

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    1. Randy,
      the following terms don’t appear in the text of “The Bible”…..
      Bible
      Canon
      Protestant
      New Testament
      Old Testament
      inerrancy

      Jesus established that there is an order of priority in the texts when asked which commandment is the most important one. He didn’t say “it’s all profitable” or “It’s all God’s word” or “all scripture is God-breathed.”

      Jesus identified two sections of the Hebrew Scriptures, The Law and the Prophets, as more important than The third section The Writings (Kethumim, including Proverbs Ecclesiastes, plus more…)
      and He identified two commandments out of the 613 commandments, saying that one of these two is first and greatest, and most important, while the other one is “Second.”

      These are observations of fact about what is in the Bible text, and what is not. Can we agree on these facts, before we get to how to interpret them correctly?

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  9. Randy,
    My original post pointed to the Most Important Commandment according to Jesus, in His own words.
    In Matthew 22 and Mark 12, Jesus identified two commandments, (The First and The Second), saying one of these two commandments is the first and greatest most important one. Which one is it? The one in Deuteronomy 6:4-5, or the one in Leviticus 19:18 ?

    You have spent some time thinking about this topic. But ultimately, either you have ears to hear the voice of Jesus speaking, or you don’t. If you think Jesus can’t speak for himself, but rather you have to go “check what Paul wrote” to make sure – and if Paul said something else, then you need twist or change or redefine or ignore the voice of Jesus and listen to Paul instead – then Paul is really your God, not Jesus.

    Which commandment is the Most Important One? The one in Deuteronomy 6:4-5, or the one in Leviticus 19:18 ?

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  10. In the end, I expect that this is a conversational thread that won’t really go anywhere because we have a significant distance between our understanding of what constitutes Scripture. As well, I suspect that long term, I will find your somewhat patronizing approach tiring. Perhaps if we were closer grographically and could talk together over coffee (decaf for me), I would be able to pick up on the all important non-verbals but given the realities of internet based communication, I think this thread is done. Thanks for your comments–I have given them some serious thought. Randy

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  11. God is still listening…

    The Star of The Show

    Jesus calls us to Himself
    When The Show begins
    We’re infants – so He humors us
    It’s “Rocky and His Friends”

    Like a little squirrel dressed up
    As a flying superhero
    We give ourselves The Title
    And zoom around the atmosphere Oh!

    I have come to save the day!
    We proclaim with a big smile
    And Jesus is my co-pilot
    So I’m always on top of the pile

    God our Father loves his children
    He is patient as we grow
    So we take another step
    It’s “The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show”

    As we journey with The Moose
    Faithfully by our side
    We get a revelation
    We have to swallow our pride

    “He must become greater”
    He really is The Star
    “I must become less,” but still
    With Him I’ll travel far

    “You must follow me,” says Jesus
    In His eyes I see a twinkle
    He is not MY friend I am HIS
    Jesus is The Star – like Bullwinkle

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