God told you what?!

Dana LoewenFamily, Featured5 Comments

A few weeks ago my son ordered something online. In his enthusiasm for it to arrive he decided to do listening prayer to ask Jesus when it would come in the mail. He proudly announced to me that God told him that his parcel would arrive on Thursday, January 15. So, how does a parent respond to that? Gulp! “OK, Lord, you better answer or we will have a crisis of faith on our hands!” I gently whispered to Jesus.

You can guess the excitement that built up each day as the parcel day approached. Deep inside, I was hoping that he would just forget about this promise from God, but sure enough, he didn’t. When Thursday, January 15 did arrive, immediately after school he rushed to the mail box to pick up his parcel. You can imagine how devastated he was when the parcel was not there. Dejected, he came back into the house and said, “But God told me it would be here today.” “Thanks God,” I thought, “now I have a sad, discouraged and spiritually disillusioned child on my hands”. What’s a parent to do?

On the surface, it may seem that listening prayer really complicated this parcel situation. Maybe I should have just told him not to pray about such silly things. Avoiding prayer may be much easier than telling him that he was hearing God wrong. But I couldn’t send that message to him. I really felt backed into a corner on this one.

But things like this don’t just happen to our kids, they happen to us as parents too. Maybe you’ve been praying for a physical ailment that just won’t seem to go away, or maybe you’ve been asking Jesus to work in your marriage, or to change one of your children’s attitudes, or maybe you’ve been praying for a lost loved one for years and all the prayer and fasting in the world just doesn’t seem to make a difference.

How we handle these sorts of setbacks is actually very important in our walk with God and for our prayer lives. I believe that one of the reasons these things do happen to us is because as we listen, we often receive only a partial picture of what to pray and this picture can sometimes be effected by our own desires. That’s why prayer is a process of listening, praying, listening some more, realigning, praying, listening again… Through this process Jesus grows us, challenges us and works in us. And at times, the answer isn’t what we may have originally thought or even what we may have been asking for.

Last year, along with several other requests, I prayed and fasted for a financial request for our family. I was even brave enough to use a date and make it quantifiable; “By the end of 2014, I ask God for such-in-such.”  I must confess that this request was not answered the way I had asked. Instead, Jesus worked in a different way by continuing to grow my character, showing me where some hidden attitudes were affecting me and I grew in giving up control and learning not to micromanage. Looking back, I can see His fingerprint everywhere in this area over the past year. God knew better, I can clearly see that now, and I rejoice that His ways were better than what I had asked for.

When we don’t get the answer that we are looking for, or when we are listening in prayer and it doesn’t turn out the way we thought, the answer is not to stop listening or praying about our requests. The answer is to keep going back to prayer, to continue listening, asking God for insights, re-alignment, correction, areas He wants to grow our character, etc. We continue pressing in, even when we get it wrong and even when the results are different than we may have expected; trusting that He knows best. We ask for Him to continue speaking to us and we pray for Him to show us what He is accomplishing in us through the process.

So, how did it turn out with my son and his parcel? We are still waiting for the parcel to arrive in the mail. But through the waiting, God reminded me that about a week before this incident, my son told me that he felt that God wanted to grow him in patience. I can now see how this little experience just could have been one way God was working in his life to grow him exactly in that. We’ve had to discuss how sometimes our desire for something can affect what we get in listening prayer and we’ve agreed that God knows best and that we will submit our listening to Jesus, humbly accepting that in our humanity, sometimes we make mistakes, and that that is perfectly acceptable. We don’t get discouraged by these things, instead we focus on how pleased Jesus is when we come to Him in prayer and that in itself is something we can rejoice in. But we are still waiting for the parcel…

In prayer, thank Jesus for always hearing your prayers. Tell Him that you trust that His ways are best, even when it’s hard and when He answers differently than you had expected. In prayer, commit to continuing to listen as well as working on realigning when things don’t line up properly and humbly accepting that as humans, we just don’t get it right all the time.

Update:  When the parcel finally did arrive in the mail, the item broke and we had to wait even longer for the replacement part.  

5 Comments on “God told you what?!”

  1. Great article Dana! (I needed this right now for myself!). This very issue is one that keeps me from whole-heartedly encouraging my kids to do listening prayer. You’ve explained well how to deal with those prayers that aren’t answered the way we thought we heard God speaking. Thank you!

  2. Thanks for sharing this Dana! Your transparency is awesome! I really enjoyed this article. 🙂
    I miss you Btw 🙂

  3. Does God speak authoritatively on some occasions but not others? Is God 90%right or 100%? When you “listen”, do you really hear God, or is it really yourself? Your son felt God wanted him to grow in patience, or does he know that patience is a fruit of the spirit? Can you find listening prayer taught in scripture? Where? Its easy to find Gods will. He says His will is for us to be Holy. Rom 12:2. Pursuing secret knowledge is forbidden in scripture. Deut 29:29. I am not accountable for not knowing God’s secret will. I am free Gal5:1

    1. The Renewed Family

      Hi Ryan, thanks for you comment. The Bible is full of references of God speaking to people, including to people who were not His “capital P” Prophets (who are most certainly still in the Church today – Ephesians 4:11-12) Acts 2 talks about the Spirit being poured out on all people “even sons and daughters and they will prophesy.” 1 Corinthians 14:1 says that we should actually desire the gift of prophesy. The secret knowledge that the OT forbids is a very different kind of secret knowledge – it is esoteric, gnostic and occultic. It must be because in Jeremiah 33:3 tells us to ask and God will tell us secrets that we don’t know – different kind of secret knowledge. And this is a matter of looking for proof texts to support a belief, this is the common experience across the NT as the Holy Spirit comes to reside in people.

      The challenge for us is not a theological one – “does God speak?” – the question is one of function – “HOW does God speak?” Anytime we learn a new language there are many mistakes and while God speaks in a language we understand, that doesn’t mean we hear Him correctly all the time. I can tell you though, that I do hear Him absolutely clearly OFTEN and experiences (grounded in sound Biblical doctrine) are all the proof I need. But I’ve walked with God for since I was a child and I’ve been a pastor for 15 years now, where I have intentionally and passionately pursued a relationship with Christ – how can I expect a child to have that kind of experience and maturity? We do have some incredible stories of children hearing some very incredible things from God, but for the most part we teach that listening prayer needs to stay in the realm of relational questions, not doing questions.

      Finally – I agree that we can find God’s general will in scripture – “Love thy neighbour” but it is only through a living, present relationship with the Holy Spirit do we know HOW to love our neighbour today. You have likely had experiences like this where an idea comes to you and it’s “exactly” what someone needed right at that moment. As Galatians 25:5 says “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”

      God bless!

      Thom Dick

  4. Thanks for the response. Yes God speaks and moves in His church. I have many times experienced His presence while meditating on His Word, praying, and at other times. I do not seek experiences, I seek the truth of God and love His Word. I know I’m His child and he gives me unsurpassable joy and peace and love. My question is where do you find listening prayer taught in scripture? If experiences are all the proof you need, that goes against Peter’s address in 2 Peter 1:19. After recalling his witness of Christ’s transfiguration (one of the greatest experiences any human has had), he goes on to uphold the written word, “we have also a more sure word of prophecy.” God’s Word must always trump experience. Satan will deceive by miracles and all kinds of deception those who don’t love the truth. (2 Thess 2:9-11) Living by the Spirit is biblically taught, but is listening prayer? The scripture I’ve heard to support it is John 10 taken out of context. Jesus taught us how to pray, and there are many examples of prayer in the bible, but not listening prayer.
    You said “And at times, the answer isn’t what we may have originally thought or even what we may have been asking for.” This makes the following implications:
    1) The outcome is irrelevant … If it fails, God answered differently …If it happens, God did it.
    2) It has no predictive value … you acknowledge that it could go either way.
    3) Again, there is no sense of evaluating whether God speaks this way … it is accepted as an unchallenged truth … It is assumed and we blame or explain God after it does not work. 4) ) Faith becomes ‘faith in a prophecy’ instead of ‘faith in God’. This may
    seem subtle, but there is a HUGE difference here.
    Again, Deut 29:29 says, “the secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” There is no command to know God’s secret will in scripture. The secret knowledge the Old Testament forbids, is not a different kind of secret knowledge. It’s exactly the same! You take Jeremiah 33:3 out of context. God promises revelation to Jeremiah specifically, and singularly. It is not a promise to us or to anyone else. Read how God fulfills this promise to Jeremiah, revealing exact details concerning the houses of that city, and in verse 15, he prophecies the coming of Christ. Jeremiah is not doing listening prayer about trivial matters. Hebrews 1:1-2 says, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.” People couldn’t form a technique to hear God. God spoke how he chose and he spoke through the prophets. You couldn’t just decide to be a prophet. You couldn’t just decide to hear from God. Today you can’t decide to be male or female; you can’t decide to be a prophet. The mystery of God has been revealed in Christ. All the prophecies pointed to Christ. God’s revelation was fulfilled in Christ. Do a search on the word mystery in the New Testament and you will find it has been revealed. Where do the apostles do listening prayer so they can hear what kind of ship to take or what breed of donkey to buy? Share the gospel with anyone you can. Paul desired to preach in Bithynia in Acts 16:7, but the Spirit did not allow them. Why did God speak to him there? It is because he had faith in God’s promises and leading. He simply obeyed God, preaching the gospel to all creatures, and God guided him. He had faith in God’s promises. God promises to lead us and be with us. We are not commanded to do listening prayer to find out information. That betrays a lack of faith in what God has already promised us.
    If we need to know it, God is powerful enough to reveal it in His own way and time. It does NOT depend on your listening technique. This listening prayer as taught is only good for giving church leaders power over their sheep. The leader hears from God, so you stand in awe and don’t question him. You have to be taught how to hear God too, against 1 John 2:26-27. You teach the sheep to do safe prophecies, keep it mostly relational, but the pastor can “hear God” telling him millions of dollars needs to be spent on buildings? The leaders can “hear God” and it has huge implications on others, but the sheep should keep it trivial? Are you limiting God? Or is there a technique that needs to be mastered to really know if you’ve heard from God? You may call this “extra-biblical revelation”, but another name for it is unbiblical. God has given us wisdom, and will guide our decisions if we love and follow Him. Did Adam do listening prayer when he named the animals? Why not? Galatians 5:1 says, “For freedom Christ has set us free.” He was free to follow the revealed will of God, not commanded to strive for the secret will. Listening prayer as taught actually enslaves people and they begin to have faith in prophecies instead of God. When the leader receives direct revelation from God regarding the direction of the church, the whole congregation is enslaved to the leaders’ wishes, since he claims that “God told him”. If he was truthful, he would say, through reading the bible, and prayer, I believe we should move in this or that direction. But instead, He puts words in God’s mouth. There is a huge difference between saying “God spoke to me”, or “through prayer and in accordance with scripture, I believe the Lord is leading here”. God’s word is binding and does not change. If God spoke to the leader, there must be full obedience.
    Would you dare limit God by controlling what He speaks to people? You teach children to keep it relational? You teach people to have safe prophecies? This is because you know they will often be wrong if they prophecy too specifically. There is only one conclusion that can be true here. They are not hearing from God. They conjure up an image or voice in their head, and then call it God. This is blasphemy. Attributing a word to the Holy Spirit that is really your own is the same as calling yourself God. Scripture becomes secondary when we can “hear from God” directly. If you need to go to scripture to make sure what you heard doesn’t contradict scripture, why not go to scripture first?
    I’ve heard of many good things in your church, and seen God’s word defended in the public square. But many questionable things in some small groups, like trivial prophecy, and conjuring up images and words and then attributing them to our Holy God. Your school of ministers and encounter retreats teach people to prophecy, speak in tongues, listening prayer. All experiential, not grounded in God’s revealed Word to us. When persecution comes, and the experiences become dreadful and when these trivial prophecies are seen as what they really are, useless, what foundation is left for the people to stand on? Will there be faith?
    The bible sets a very high standard for prophecy; Deut 18:22, Jer 28:9, Deut 13:1-4
    Please consider these things as you read the scriptures.

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