Discernment & Prayer

MIRROR, MIRROR –  DISCERNMENT & PRAYER – SERMON RESOURCES

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ENGAGING THE PRACTICAL TIP

While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus. (Matthew 17:4-8)

God speaks to us too, and more importantly, He hears us. Unfortunately for many of us, we won’t ever hear God’s audible voice the way Peter did. We won’t have the same intimate, yet jarring, experience that Peter had. Yet, as we seek Him, we learn to discern God’s voice.

One of the gifts we receive in a loving, nurturing environment is the ability to be confident and to make bonds with others. What would it look like to be able to settle like this in God’s presence? I think we all long to hear God’s voice because we imagine the comfort and peace it will bring. As we take steps of trust, placing ourselves in an open posture, we want an immediate response. We have to join Jesus in a posture of sitting, listening, asking. All too often, we struggle here. We struggle to hear God speaking in any way, shape, or form, so we just give up. We often pray and ask for God’s intervention and when God doesn’t show up the way we expect, we just assume that he’s disinterested, busy, aloof. But what if we learned the skills of letting our lives speak and develop tools of discernment?

God isn’t the only one speaking, so it’s important for us to recognize the role of discernment in our discovery. The key to hearing God is discerning between His voice and our own, and this familiarity largely comes through practice. God speaks to all of us differently. Throughout Scripture, God paints a picture of His relationship with us as one in which He speaks to us as His beloved children and acts on our behalf. Biblical characters didn’t call to God and then walk away despondent because they assumed He wasn’t going to answer. On the contrary, they waited expectantly and eagerly for God’s reply. God is still speaking today, and we can still hear Him. If we believe that God designed us, then he has designed us for relationship with Him, and any good relationship requires two-way communication. God wants you to hear Him more than you do.

This starts with our expected and confident approach. God isn’t idle or insensitive to our requests, and I believe He will respond. Sometimes God doesn’t answer us right away — He invites us to come as we are….questioning, complaining, and confused. Sometimes he doesn’t answer us in the way we expect. If we value hearing from God, and if we are equally as certain that we will hear His voice, we will be determined to wait patiently for God to speak.

PROCESS YOUR PAIN WITH GOD

Get a pen and a piece of paper and a Bible. Start with writing down two or three main issues or problems that you have been struggling with, that constantly come to mind, that you wish would just get resolved or go away. This might include issues that you have been struggling with on your own (in a way without God) or with God. Is there one issue that bothers you the most? Note that issue and put the paper aside for a moment.

Take your Bible and open it to Matthew chapter 16. With your main issue in mind, read verses 21-23

“From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” (English Standard Version)

Now read verses 1-8 of Chapter 17:

And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. (English Standard Version)

Sit quietly for a minute or two, pondering Peter’s experiences of Jesus, especially his disagreement with Jesus over Jesus’ future and his amazement of Jesus’ relationship with God. Allow your main issue to come to mind and reread the above Scripture passages, more slowly this time. Do you relate to Peter’s experiences in any way? Do you sense Jesus’ presence with you? If so, what is his demeanor? Is he smiling, frowning, beckoning? If you can, share your situation or issue with him. How is he now? How do you feel about your approach to this issue; the actions you have taken or not taken? Do you sense Jesus encouraging you in any way? If so, you might write this down and ask Jesus to help you follow through. If you have time, you might read the passages a third time, again with the issue in mind. Simply try to be aware of God’s presence as you read. Write down any senses that you might have. You might close this time with God with a simple prayer of gratitude.

Feel free to share your experience with others who have also tried this prayer exercise by commenting below or emailing: spiritual.practices@annarborvineyard.org.

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