When I was in junior high, my mom encouraged me to have a daily quiet time with the Father through Scripture reading and prayer. After practicing this habit (more or less!) for several years through high school, college, and my early married years, I came to a point where I really wanted to hear the still, small voice of God. I knew that I heard from the Father through the Scriptures, everyday events, and conversations with other people, but I really wanted to hear the voice of God audibly in some way. I believed that I just hadn’t allowed enough time and space to hear Him, so I started getting up really early in the morning, so I could just sit in complete silence and listen for a long time…but nothing. I experienced a deafening silence that profoundly discouraged me. On a subconscious level, I resigned myself to a distant relationship with God at best and felt a deep sense of rejection. I still believed in the Father, Son, and Spirit, and that they were good, but my lack of belief in the nature of His love was a barrier (and perhaps I hadn’t experienced His love in all the ways I needed for healing).
The practical effect was that my prayer life grew stagnant for several years. Sure, I still prayed daily, but it was more of me just talking at God than a conversational relationship. Deep down, I didn’t believe that was really possible. Also, because of the sense of rejection, and my belief that the cause of that was simply my sinfulness, my prayers tended to be “groveling” more than one speaking with a friend. It was a contrast to the relationship that Enoch, Moses, Jesus, or Adam and Eve had with the Father. My prayers were more like what Jesus described, “When you pray, don’t babble like the pagans, since they imagine they will be heard for their many words.”
But over time, the Father continued His gracious, loving work. Part of that work was when the Holy Spirit prompted me to read a book called “Hearing God” by Dallas Willard. Here are twelve of the many things He taught me.
1. Do I really believe a conversational relationship with God is possible for anyone? Or do I just pray at God?
2. Am I primarily seeking to love God? Or am I primarily seeking a particular kind of experience?
3. Am I being manipulative in any way when I pray? Am I using religious gimmicks or formulas to try and get a certain thing or experience?
4. Am I being manipulative when I seek guidance from God? Am I trying to avoid my responsibility of using the mind He gave me by seeking specific answers in specific ways?
5. Am I seeking guidance or “God’s will” as a way of trying to control my life?
6. When I am seeking first to love God and love others, He does give whatever guidance is appropriate in whatever way is appropriate.
7. He does speak to us in whatever ways are appropriate to who we are and what our circumstances are in a given moment. (The Bible, Godly counsel from others, circumstances of life, stories we encounter, promptings of the Holy Spirit, the still, small voice, and thousands of other ways!)
8. Often, we have to go through desert seasons in order for Him to shape us into the kind of people who can have a healthy conversational relationship with Him. He wants us to talk to Him for more than just requests or guidance.
9. Becoming the kind of person who can have a conversational relationship doesn’t happen through “rule-keeping” or focus or following religious formulas.
10. He wants to shape us into strong, mature people who can communicate with Him in ways similar to the highest and best type of human interaction.
11. Communication between people is both verbal and non-verbal. When you get to know someone well, sometimes they don’t have to say it.
12. We should never give up praying—even when we are in the desert!
The Father promised us this through the prophet Jeremiah in Jeremiah 29:13, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” He wants a conversational relationship with us, so keep seeking Him!