A Ministry of the School of Theology and Christian Ministry—Olivet Nazarene University

Prayer

Don’t Pray About It!

I read a line in a book the other day that really set my wheels to turning double time.  I didn’t agree with the author one bit!  However, I couldn’t immediately put my finger on my disagreement with him.  His line of thought went something like this:

I know many people who involve themselves in ministry then pray for the Lord to bless their efforts.  Wrong approach.  Don’t even pray about it!  Just do an environmental scan of the neighborhood to see what the Lord is already doing in the community then throw your energies into that effort.

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Two Ears, One Mouth; Regaining the Art of Listening

 

Most professors have favorite sayings that capture a truth.  One of my favorites is “there is a reason God created you with one mouth and two ears.”  The implication, of course, is that maybe we were designed to listen twice as much as we talk.   As a faculty member in the School of Theology and Christian Ministry, our team correctly focuses much of our training and teaching on the skillful ability to teach and preach God’s Word.  Of equal importance is to develop the skill of listening.  Listening has multi-dimensional functions including, among others, the art of listening to God, to your spouse, to your children and family members, to friends, to those in authority, to those in the household of faith, and to seekers. 

It is my growing conviction that one of the paths to a holy life, a Christ-centered life is to become increasingly more skillful in the art of listening.  James 1:19 challenges each person to “’take note of this: Everyone should be should be quick to listen, slow to speak…”  One of my favorite authors, Marjorie J. Thompson states that “listening is the first expression of communication in prayer.  We know that listening precedes speaking in the development of children’s language skills.  The same order applies to the development of our prayer life.  Something in our spirit is touched by the Divine Spirit before we are drawn to speak.”   Today let’s explore the adventure of learning to listen to God.

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A Charitable Accommodation

 

Usually when I sit at my computer to put my thoughts to paper for the Epworth Pulpit I write about something which excites me in some way.  I have no trouble making my point and giving you several illustrations of it.  This is not one of those times!  Today’s contribution comes as much as a reminder to me as it might be to you.  In fact, I think I might even surprise myself with some of the things I am about to say.  This is not one of those articles that has been burning in my heart, just waiting for the right opportunity to share with you.  Rather, its message hit me unexpectedly; I’ve been pondering it for days.

The catalyst for this article came from a tearful conversation I had last week with the mother of one of our university students.  Her words floored me, to say the least.  In order for you to understand the impact of her words, let me tell you two unrelated stories.  These two stories will soon converge in an interesting way.

Story #1.  A young man moved to our campus to start college this fall in answer to many prayers.  His story fits the classic model of a young person still seeking his way spiritually, needing a fresh start, away from home for the first time, and ending up providentially at our university.  I got the word that he was coming our way after he was already packed and on the road.  His was one of those situations where we wanted desperately for all the pieces of life’s puzzle to come together quickly for him.  We wanted all of his classes to go well; we wanted him to make friends quickly; we wanted him to get involved in campus life and like it!

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Kids in the Dark

 

I teach a children's ministry class at Olivet where students are required to do interviews with children. This is always an interesting project because we know from developmental theorists that children's verbal skills and vocabulary do not develop as quickly as their ability to understand and experience life. As part of the interview process, my students have children draw pictures of what they think God looks like and their understanding of the word, "church" (we have found that art is a great way for children to express themselves). One set of questions that the students ask include "Does God ever talk to you? Do you ever hear God speak? What does his voice sound like?" While one might expect kids to say they do not hear God talk, the truth is that many respond in the affirmative.

I realize there are a multitude of potential explanations for their responses, but one recurring comment has intrigued me. Many of the children of various ages have said that they hear God talk to them at night when they are in bed.  For five years I have collected student interviews of children of all ages and those who say God talks to them all say it is at night in bed. This has caused me to ask, why?  What is unique about bedtime?  Is there something special about being in bed?  Is there significance to the darkness of night? 

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