Giving thanks yes, or LISTENING. There is no mention of prayer being used as a time to listen to God. No mention of someone asking, God, “what do you want me to do, how do you want me to live?” and then sitting back and prayerfully listening.
I guess it shouldn’t surprise us afterall, most prayer tends to be a list of requests or even demands. Most prayer tends to sound like, “God, what can you do for me or the people I love?” and not “what can I do in gratitude for all you have already done?” Certainly asking for specific things can be a part of prayer, but the prayer that leads to our best self, the self born in the image and likeness of God to be loving and generous is more about listening than speaking to God.
Think for a moment about the greats of the bible. People like Moses, Abraham & Sarah, Deborah, Ester, Ruth, David, Daniel, and the men and women of the New Testament: The apostles, Joanna, Rahab. What made these legends of our faith so memorable as to make such a difference in the coming of Jesus and the spreading of God’s goodness, beauty and truth?
It wasn’t their status, nor their wealth, some didn’t have either. It wasn’t their education, living conditions, physical strength, bloodline, family honor, or even their unwavering faith, some wavered quite a bit. What they all share is what we call “prayerful willingness.” (The Generosity Challenge p 47). A quality of character in which a person is willing to listen, to go, to give, and do that which God asks without proof, answers, blueprints, or a money back guarantee.
They listened to and for God in their midst. They attuned themselves to the movement of God in their given situations. They pursued understanding and remained open to what God was doing, not what they were doing or what they wanted or didn’t want. To do that, we need to learn to quiet the noise around us and within us. We need to learn how to sit with the silence. We need to lean into the unknown, uncomfortable, and the uncertain that surrounds us. Which is hard to do when some research says our thoughts change every seven seconds! If you don’t believe me, later today, try sitting in silence for 30 - 60 seconds and see how many different ways your mind wanders.
The mystery, power and beauty of extravagant generosity is that when we realize our original goodness, which is being made for good, and we recognize all that we have been given monetarily, materialistically, and relationally is a gift, provision, blessing, and the very presence of God with us, we can then ask “God, what is it you want me to do with what you have given me?” When we ask that question, and we are willing to listen and act on what God reveals to us, we are then we have developed prayerful willingness.
The act and attitude of prayer moves us from acknowledging our blessings to offering them back to God, asking, “God, how would you have me live?” Prayer courageously asks, “Based on all you have given me, all you have done for me, how can I give back?”
A word of caution: praying in this way and listening for God’s answer requires courage. Why? Because God just might give you an answer.
Pastor Jenothy Irvine