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How to Talk to God

The ABCs of having a meaningful and productive conversation with God.

How to Talk to God
Credit: Li Zhongfei
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We communicate with people every day–our family, friends, co-workers. The cashier at the grocery store, the barista making your coffee, the chatty woman on the bus. Conversation is a natural and essential part of our lives. But how are we to talk to God? It’s as simple as A, B, C.

A: Focus on God.
We can know about anyone by hearsay, but to actually know someone requires interaction. A rich prayer life requires us to be attentive to God. Unfortunately we, like Martha, are easily distracted by all we need to do (Luke 10:40). Our minds rush off to other thoughts, and we are not fully tuned into the conversation.

If we are to speak openly with the Lord our God, we must have no other gods–or even other things to do–before Him (Exodus 20:2-3).

We must place ourselves wholly in His presence. Sometimes that takes conscious effort. I bring myself before You, Lord, I say at the start of my morning prayer time, and ask You to help me focus entirely on being with You.  We sometimes miss the point of what God tells us because we are too hurried and too distracted to pay close enough attention.

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B: Listen carefully.
Proverbs 18:13 warns us, “To answer before listening–that is folly and shame.”

In prayer we do not need to worry about whether or not God is available to listen to us. The real question is whether we are quiet long enough to hear Him.

The importance of giving God time and space to speak to us is driven home by how frequently the word listen is used by the prophets. Isaiah and Jeremiah, Nehemiah and Zechariah all have lots to say about what happens when we let God’s will go in one ear and out the other.

“While you were doing all these things, declares the LORD, I spoke to you again and again, but you did not listen; I called you, but you did not answer” (Jeremiah 7:13). The more we listen, the easier it is to hear every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. “My sheep listen to my voice,” Jesus says (John 10:27), knowing that we can only follow Him when we’re more accustomed to hearing His voice rather than our own.

C: Respond thoughtfully.
In everyday conversation, the way people know that we are listening is by how we respond. In the spiritual life, it’s obedience that keeps the dialogue going. “You are my friends if you do what I command,” Jesus said (John 15:14). He gives us the parable of the sower, which is rich in imagery about what happens when we hear but do not live out the Word of God.

There are those who hear, but respond by going their own way. There are others who listen but get distracted by life’s worries, riches and pleasures. It is only those who respond, “who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop” who become mature Christians (Luke 8:15).

When we open our hearts in prayer, we are implicitly agreeing to do what God commands: to love our neighbors, forgive our enemies, feed the hungry, clothe the naked and visit those in prison.

Will you make time today for the most important conversation of all?

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