For our churches to become what God wants them to be, we must listen to God. He doesn't have laryngitis. He still speaks today. You and I need to hear from God on a variety of topics – what we're going to preach on, how to effectively lead, how to help our people with particular problems, and so on. We need to have the wisdom of God.
In the Old Testament, Habakkuk saw his nation being overtaken by another. He wanted to know why God would allow this. So he did five things to tune into what God was up to:
1. He withdrew. Habakkuk said, "I will climb my watchtower" (2:1). He got by himself. Getting alone and avoiding distractions can be tough in today's world. But one of the reasons why you don't hear God speak to you more is because you are surrounded by noise. You've always got the TV on, your iPod in your ear, or your cell phone ringing. The world around you is so loud you never hear the still, small voice of God.
Luke 5:16 says, "Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed." Jesus often made it a habit to get alone by himself. If he needed to do it, we do too. But don't stop there. You can't just withdraw.
2. He waited. After withdrawing, you need to calm your thoughts and emotions and be still. After Habakkuk got up in the tower, he said, "I will station myself" (2:1). The Good News translation says, "I will wait." Habakkuk stayed put so he could hear God. Many of us don't hear God because we're just too busy. Hurry is the death of prayer. If you're going to hear God speak, you shouldn't just get away. You must mentally and emotionally calm yourself down.
How do you do that? Relax your body and wait. Psalm 46:10 says, "Be still and know that I am God." As you wait, get still and comfortable. Let go of muscle tension. Your body affects your attitudes. If you don't feel well physically, it affects your emotions and your moods. Your body influences your attitudes. As your body relaxes, so does your mind.
Once your body relaxes, you simply wait. That takes time. It's difficult for most of us to calm down. And you can't force yourself to do it. It takes time for your body and your mind to get those RPMs down. God speaks to people who take the time to listen. If you're in a hurry, you're not going to hear God speak.
3. He watched. Next, you let God give you a mental picture. Habakkuk said, "I will look to see what He says to me" (2:1). Pastor, have you noticed that God often speaks visually to us? He often gives us a mental picture of what he wants to say to us. There are hundreds of examples of this in Scripture. He would impress a mental picture on their mind as they were praying. You can see this all throughout Scripture a - from Abraham in the Old Testament to Paul in the New Testament.
Many of you are natural visual thinkers. You often think in bright, beautiful pictures. It's very normal for you. Studies have shown that 50 to 75 percent of the population see in pictures. If this is you, when you read the Bible, you don't just read the story, you see the story!
Hebrews 5:14 says, "Our spiritual senses must be exercised." You can develop the ability to see with your spiritual eyes if you'll practice and let God work on it in your life. You can train yourself. When you quiet down and calm yourself, and get all the distractions out of the way, then you can simply say, "Jesus, is there anything you want to show me? Do you want to give me an idea, an impression?"
4. He wrote. Record the ideas God gives you. Habakkuk did this. He said, "The Lord gave me this answer, 'Write down clearly what I reveal to you.'"
Many people don't like to pray because they end up saying the same thing over and over. They're stuck in a rut. What's the solution? Write out your prayers as you think them. Journaling can help. Almost every great Christian in history has journaled. They wrote down what they wanted to say to God and wrote what God said back to them.
There are many benefits to doing this. It keeps you focused. It helps you remember what you've said to God and what he has said back to you. That way you don't have to learn the same lesson over and over! And it allows you to test the impression. Not every idea you get is from God. So you can write them down and test them later.
If you want to hear from God, keeping a journal is a terrific discipline to build into your prayer life.
5. He worshipped. Habakkuk 3:2 says, "Oh, Lord, now I've heard your report and I worship you in awe." When you have received God's loving response to your prayers, it's going to make you want to love the Lord more and draw you closer to him. This turns prayer from a monologue into a dialogue. It becomes a conversation. It's important that we express our thankfulness when we hear from God.
Pastor, if you will begin to practice these biblical steps on a regular basis, it will open up a whole new dimension of your Christian life. Prayer will become a great adventure to you instead of a source of boredom and guilt. Of course, this isn't the only way to pray. But this is a key way that God can get your attention and you can hear him talk to you.