Theology

Self Talk: How to Not Pray to Yourself

These past couple years I have found the question “What is God saying to you?” a profound question in my life, one that has provided me with a great deal of orientation and direction. It gets me to see things in a way that opens up my life as an arena where God is working. It always leads to the next questions: “How will you respond? Will you obey?”

Learning to hear His voice

This question always has the backdrop issue of whether we are even listening to God. When we arrive at this moment of asking ourselves this question “Am I even listening for God?” we have arrived at a profound moment of discipleship. This is the time when we are driven into our community, to seek out truth, to learn how to recognize and discern His voice.

We are driven to know how to recognize and discern His voice. Click To Tweet

I meet so many people who are in seasons of immense conflict, people who are torn up inside, wrapped up and twisted like a pretzel, locked inside their own prisons, and of course I’m not immune from those experiences either. Many times, these conflicts are complex, and it seems like we can’t break free. I’ve seen it in relationships I know well, in the random relationships I see at McDonald’s, in church conflict, in homeless shelters—I’ve seen it everywhere.

What this meant for me was a long season of trying to find God’s will, asking Him, “What are you trying to say through it?” What I’m trying to do is listen for the voice of God.

But often—and this happens alot in church conflict—people aren’t even listening. I wonder how much we could gain if we spent time in contemplative meditation of the scriptures, sitting silently for the Lord to speak, and then responded to Him in prayer.

What I'm trying to do is listen for the voice of God. Click To Tweet

Accidentally praying to yourself

I think for a lot of people, their prayer has become telling God what they want, and if they listen, it’s usually afterward, and it’s usually like they’re waiting to get a stamp of approval on what they want. We should be doing it the other way around. For many of us, that’s going to involve unlearning some wrong habits.

That's going to involve unlearning some wrong habits. Click To Tweet

This is why I consider what my community has taught me to be so important—people like Dallas Willard, MaryKate Morse and Ruth Haley Barton—that we need to have the posture of listening prayer within a community. And I do say, within a community. Otherwise, we end up praying like we deserve what we want. We end up praying to soothe ourselves. We end up praying to and for ourselves.

We become convinced that we are right, not having opened ourselves up to hear God through the Holy Spirit cleanse and speak and guide our minds and hearts.

I’m wary when I hear someone say we ought to pray about something, not because I think we shouldn’t pray, but because I wonder what they mean by the word. I’m suspicious that prayer might be used for reinforcing our own, uninformed prejudices.

Please, let’s spend time in prayer listening for God, not praying to ourselves.

We become convinced that we are right. Click To Tweet

“Prayer is not getting man’s will done in heaven, but getting God’s will done on earth. It is not overcoming God’s reluctance but laying hold of God’s willingness.”
-Richard C. Trench

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