Caution in God’s Presence
Open Your Bible
Ecclesiastes 5:1-20, 1 Samuel 15:22, Luke 12:22-34
What does your prayer life look like in this season of life? How, specifically, do you pray each day?
As a mom with small kids and a church to help lead, I will confess that my prayer life is often rushed. I pray throughout the day, squeezing it in when I can. I pray when I wake up, I pray when I am driving, I pray at meals, I pray when someone comes to mind, and I pray as I fall asleep. Because of this rhythm, my prayer life is often hurried. And when I do pray, I am doing the majority of the talking.
This is how many of us pray, especially in hectic seasons of life. God functions as a touchstone throughout our schedule, and there is some good in this practice. It reminds us of the ever-present help we have in Him. However, I have recently become convicted that this practice lacks something important: listening.
I recently heard a podcast describe the strange training regimen of NASA astronauts preparing for space. Because outer space is absolutely silent to a degree that we never experience on earth, astronauts must learn to adjust to it. They do this by spending time in a noiseless chamber where the silence is profound. In fact, the absence of noise is so absolute that you can hear the sound of your own body and its most basic, typically imperceivable, inner workings: the sound of your own breathing, or your heart beating and pumping blood to the rest of your body, the sound of skin sliding over sinew, of bones rubbing against one another—which is about when astronauts start hearing things that aren’t actually there.
This description is almost unsettling to read, but it helps us to grasp the loud volume of our everyday lives. We live in a world where silence, true silence, is difficult to come by. But as these astronauts have discovered, it is only through silence that we can hear things we’ve never heard before.
For many of us, silence is the missing ingredient from our prayer lives. We are unable to hear from God because we haven’t created the environment for it. This is what the author of Ecclesiastes is saying: He counsels, “Do not be hasty to speak, and do not be impulsive to make a speech before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few” (Ecclesiastes 5:2). This is an invitation to turn our prayer life on its head by listening more to what God has to say, rather than solely bringing petitions and requests before Him.
This can be a challenge, but it is also a word of grace and good news to any of us who do not know what to pray, or those of us who feel pressure to pray in a certain manner. Instead, it reminds us that prayer is not simply about us speaking to God, but God speaking to us. If we will only make the space to listen.