“I will instruct and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you. Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have not understanding but must be controlled by the bit and bridle or they will not come to you. Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts him.” (Psalm 32:8-10)

People who come for a ministry session almost always are surprised by the way I pray. It is not unusual to hear me say to the God who is present in the room, “Lord, based on what is happening around him, Billy Joe Bob believes he is unlovable (not worth being with, needs to be punished, whatever – fill in the blank). Is there anything You want to reveal to him about his belief?”

This is often the moment when folks look at me and say, “You pray as if you actually think He will respond.” And I tell them yes, I do believe our God is interactive and involved, right there, right then. After all, the scripture verse above (among many others) seems to come right out and say that the Lord wants to personally instruct, teach, counsel and watch over me – and you.

I did not always believe this way. The majority of my life I was like “the horse and the mule,” busy trying to do the spiritual journey in my own understanding (oh, duh!) and needing to be controlled by the “rules of religion.” It was not a fun, there was little joy, and the Lord’s unfailing love seemed far off.

Then one day – literally, one day – my friend Rudy Gervais led me to do something I had not done in forty-seven years of life. He encouraged me to be quiet and actually listen for the voice of the Shepherd I allegedly knew; to try for just one minute to believe He might actually want to reveal Himself and His truth to me about a specific challenge in my life for which there was no scripture verse. No one was more surprised than me when God “instructed, taught and counseled me” that morning.

When asked why we pray if God already knows our thoughts and requests before we voice them, one young lady at my church responded, “Praying is probably not as much about talking to God as it is the opportunity to listen to God.” Well said.

Mark Batterson, in his book “The Circle Maker,” puts it this way: “The reason many of us miss the miracles is that we aren’t looking and listening. The easy part of prayer is talking. It’s much harder listening to the still small voice of the Holy Spirit. It’s much harder looking for the answers. But two-thirds of praying hard is listening and looking.”

Consider letting the Lord instruct, teach and counsel you this week. You’ll probably be surprised what happens.

Pastor Jim