I love the opportunity we have at the moment to learn more about prophecy and how God speaks to us. When I talk to friends about what they want from their faiths, hearing from God is always the number one thing. We want to hear God’s voice more. If he’s always speaking, we must always be listening. Not just that, but listening well and being up for following the shepherd’s voice. Some of us are further ahead than others, but it’s important to remember that we’re all still learning. No one is fully ‘there’ with hearing from God. One thing we can be sure of is that God is open to us; this he displayed most magnificently when He sent His son to make a way for our relationship to be restored.
Words for the Week
In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death. And Isaiah, the prophet, the son of Amoz, came to him and said to him ”Thus says the LORD, set your house in order, for you shall die, you shall not recover”.
Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD and said ”Please, O LORD, remember how I have walked before you in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and done what is good in your sight”. And Hezekiah wept bitterly.
Then the word of the LORD came to Isaiah. ‘Go and say to Hezekiah, Thussays the LORD, the God of David your father; I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold I will add fifteen years to your life. I will deliver you and this city out of the hand of the King of Assyria, and will defend this city’.
Isaiah 38:1-6, 15-17
Hezekiah’s song: ‘But what can I say? He has spoken to me, and he himself has done this. I will walk humbly all my years because of this anguish of my soul. LORD, by such things people life and my spirit finds life in them too. You restored my to health and let me live. Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish. In your love, you kept me from the pit of destruction; you have put all my sins behind your back’.
1 Thessalonians 5:21
Test everything; hold fast to what is good.
Someone once told me that God deals with our prayers in one of three ways. Some things He will make happen whether we pray for them or not. Other things God will not let happen, regardless of how much we pray. And some things God will only bring about if we pray for them. I don’t know how defensible this is theologically, but it certainly got me thinking about how we pray and how God receives and processes our prayers.
In the Isaiah passage, initially it seems as though God has very much made up His mind about Hezekiah and the outcome of his illness.
So much so that He sends Isaiah to tell the king that his days are numbered. But after Hezekiah prays and pleads, God grants him 15 years more life. This is a strange passage, and for some it will raise more questions than it answers. Why would God tell Hezekiah he is definitely dying, only to have His mind changed later? How do we change God’s mind? Do we do know when we have changed God’s mind? And how do our prayers affect the plans God has had since the beginning of creation?
I don’t know the answers to most of those questions. But the bit I do like about this passage, is that it shows the God of the Old Testament, often seen as a more violent and vengeful character, had compassion and humanity. He hears the cry of a man not wanting to die, and His mind (but not His character) is changed. God was open to hearing from Hezekiah and allowing Himself to be moved by his prayers. I wonder what their relationship, Hezekiah’s prayer life, was like following this moment.
I don’t want to build a theology on how God responds to terminal illness from this passage, but the one thing I do want to build into my life is to live in the knowledge that God hears us. Who knows how many times I’ve prayed and things have changed as a result. We may never know until we get to Heaven, and maybe not even then. All I do know is that God’s openness to us can be summed up as a desire for relationship. He wants to hear from us, He wants to hear from us more, and he wants to hear more from us.
Onto the second passage from Thessalonians – Prophecy can be described as hearing from God. As much as it’s good for us to be heard by Him, what we’re all really longing for is to hear back from God. I believe God wants this too, and I am currently working out, over time, what this means for my spiritual gifts and my everyday life. So far I am testing everything; trialling all methods I’ve heard through the years of how to hear from God and hone my ability to hear Him. I have felt hurt in the past when I haven’t been immediately granted the gift of prophecy, or indeed seemingly at all. This hurt has stopped me from seeking prophecy with the fervour I once did, and has probably stopped me from hearing God when He has spoken. What Thessalonians instructs is to let go of the bad and hold tightly to the good. What we must do is process hurt and in time reject the notion that certain things aren’t for us. We must hold onto the good.
‘Follow the way of love, and eagerly desire the gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy’ Corinthians 14.1
So continue testing everything. Whatever is bad or neutral, throw it away. Hold onto whatever is good. No matter how small or insignificant it may seem, we must hold onto it. We must hold onto those pieces of good until we turn back and realised we have a huge bank of goodness we have learned from God and how much He has imparted to us along the way.
Own it personally…
If God is open to us, He is always open to us. Let’s learn how to be open to Him. If you struggle with this, this week try some of the following things and see if any of these methods help you to hear from God more.
‘Pray continually’ Thessalonians 5.17
- Ask Him questions. ‘Who should I sit next to on the bus?’ ‘What do you have for me to say in this meeting?’ ‘How can I bless my spouse today?’ ‘What do you have to say to this friend?’ Let God into all the decisions of your day, big and small and see what happens.
- Follow the instructions of the quiet voice inside (of course within the guidelines of good prophetic practice). If you hear a quiet voice telling you to pray for someone, give money to someone, encourage someone or just get in touch and reach out to someone, why not follow it.
- Ask God to speak to you through the things you have in your life already. If you listen to music, ask God to speak through the lyrics of the songs you hear. Ask Him to speak through the weather you experience, the animals you see, the people you bump into, the little interactions you observe throughout the day. Be open to God speaking through seemingly inconsequential things, just keep asking Him!
If after this you’re still struggling, ask yourself; do you really believe God is open to you and wants to talk with you? If you do believe this, or want to believe it, ask Him to take you on a journey with it.
Speak it Out – Pray and Prophesy
please give us the wisdom and courage to throw off past hurt and continue pursuing not only you, but the things you promise to give us. Help us to always turn to you whenever we have questions; help us to keep pushing in, even when we don’t get answers and please continue to give us revelation and insight into your infinite wisdom, purposes and plans.