Recently I was at my home church and a lady came up to me with a question that basically said, “What do you do when God doesn’t seem to be talking to you in your prayer life?” After more conversation I asked if I could get back to her with a more detailed answer. Since I figured this is a question that more than just she has I thought that I would pass it along to all of you.
This was a lady who loves and serves God so I will start there. With the encouragement that follows I am speaking to those who are followers of Jesus. Sometimes people called on to speak to this kind of question give a lot of words that don’t really help (see Job’s friends). I will give you some mental anchor holds to help you during this season and then some practical actions that you can take.
Anchor 1: The silence may not be about you.
Speaking of Job and his friends, I find it helpful to realize that when God seems silent you are in good company. We learn what Job does not see: there is more going on in the spiritual realm than he is aware. This can give us a peace when we are sitting in the silence.
Anchor 2: God is more concerned about the relationship than you.
Often when God seems silence I began to panic. Is my relationship with God in trouble? Is my inability to hear in this moment going to be permanent? After dealing with any known sin, we rest in the fact that God went to great lengths to have a relationship with us. He is invested in us. This helps me to relax in those challenging moments of silence.
Anchor 3: God is with you even in the silence.
Being with God doesn’t require speaking. I have talked about Hagar and how she was blown away that God was with her. It is important during these times to remember that even if you don’t hear Him that does not mean He has left you. This is not just “church talk”. A powerful exercise is simply to sit in silence across from a chair and imagine Jesus in the chair across from you.
This helps us transition to the practical steps you can take during these seasons of silence. Sharing this lady’s question with my wife she reminded me of important advice for any struggle in prayer: When you are struggling try something new. Pete Grieg shares the idea that prayer is like a buffet, but if you only eat one thing on the buffet you will get sick. Here are some practical ideas during these times of silence:
Action 1: Ask God specific questions.
If you read the story of David you will see him again and again asking God some very specific questions for direction. Some of them were even yes or no questions. When we are struggling with hearing from God this can be a simple step to tune our ear to heaven.
Action 2: Write out your prayer.
Sometimes the reason that we are having a hard time hearing God is because our mind is moving in a million directions. Bill Hybels, pastor and author, has spoken about this habit for years. In our rapid and on the move world this idea can slow us down enough for us to hear God.
Action 3: Try instrumental music.
When Elisha (2 Kings 3) needed to hear from God in a stress filled environment he asked for some instrumental music. This was music that calmed his spirit but didn’t have words to fill the void. God was able to fill the void.
Action 4: Pray the Scripture
We know that the Bible is God’s word. Praying the Bible can help us interact with God in a new way. This simple action can give us a foundation to stand on in the silence.
Action 5: Do experiments in obedience.
When God begins to speak to us in the silence we may still struggle with our confidence at the start. Take action on simple things that you feel God saying. No one is going to be hurt if you send cookies to your neighbor or author of your favorite blog. Starting simply will propel you into new levels of confidence.
So grab the anchor that most speaks to you and try one of the actions and I will be excited to see where God will take you.