Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Pages from a Preacher's Prayer Book (5)

Listening in stillness

Guard your steps when you go to the house of God; to draw near to listen is better than the sacrifice offered by fools…never be rash with your mouth, not let your heart be quick to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you upon earth; therefore let your words be few. (Eccles 5: 1,2).
Be still and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth. (Psalm 46: 10).

Prayer needs stillness. No relationship can develop on the run, least of all spiritual ones. That’s why the only practical instructions Jesus gave concerned going into a room and closing its door (Matthew 6:6). Of all people, preachers especially need to develop skills in being still and listening to God. We need to know that He is God.

Sometimes we have grown to occupy the center of our world. So preoccupied are we with our work for God that we fall in love with our activity at the expense of God’s glory. Busy preachers must live by the perspectives of a big God – his greatness and our littleness. “God is in heaven and you upon earth”, “Be still and know that I am God! “ He is exalted, not us.

Stillness leads to deeper places of reflection, wonder and fresh worship. It opens hearts to listen to what God is going to say by his Spirit through his word. Every moment in awed quietness deepens the messenger. Holy pauses in his presence discover who he is and who we are.

It’s too easy to be rash with your mouth. Nathan too readily agrees with David and then has to backtrack because God orders him to say “No” – that same night (2 Sam. 7: 1-17). Peter gabbles on the Mount of Transfiguration trying to find something to say. (Mark 9: 5,6). Listening to what God says should precede anything we say. Only then can we pray that a message may be given to me (Eph. 6:19).

Prayer. Dear Lord, forgive my presumption that races to speak for you. Help me to be still before you so that I may know your greatness and see my littleness. Help me mature into a deeper person with you, a person of open heart and fewer words. Through Jesus Christ. Amen

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