Does God still speak today? People throughout church history have answered this question differently. As I think about how I would answer, I am reminded of one of my favorite Bible stories about Elijah from 1 Kings 19:11-12 which speaks of the Lord’s “gentle whisper.”
This whisper has become more real to me over the last few weeks. I should begin by saying that as I pray in groups, God often brings words or Scriptures to mind, and I then share these. Until a few weeks ago, I had never considered that these words or Scriptures might be for specific people. As I was sharing this with Brad Burkholder, lead pastor at Hesston (Kansas) MB Church, he encouraged me to let the Holy Spirit lead me as I use this gift.
This brought about a series of events over three days that I’ll summarize by saying God spoke words and Scriptures to me for six different individuals or families which I then passed on to them. After each time, I thanked God for the gift and for the opportunity to encourage, edify, comfort and strengthen his people, the church.
As I was reflecting on these three days, I asked myself—and probably God—this question: “What happens if God speaks in this way with someone I do not personally know?” All of the situations above involved people that attend my church or that I know. God answered my question within a few hours.
I was sitting and reading at the local coffee shop when my attention was drawn to the door. A woman opened the door, and I heard in my heart, “Matthew 6. Share this with her.”
I don’t have Matthew 6 memorized, so I opened my Bible. While I am looking for Matthew 6, all of these thoughts come to mind: “She is going to think I’m weird. God, are you sure I need to share this? I am afraid. God, am I hearing you correctly? What do I tell her from Matthew 6?”
With my Bible open, I was drawn to these words that are repeated three times in Matthew 6: “Your Father who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” I knew this was what I was to tell her.
When she came to pick up her coffee, I said, “You don’t know me, but I am a pastor at Hesston MB.”
“Are you Brad?” she asked.
“No,” I replied. I then shared my name, and she knew my wife from work.
“As you came in, God spoke Matthew 6 to my heart and he wants me to share these words with you today,” I said.
After I finished, with tears in her eyes, she said, “Thank you, I needed that today,” and then she left.
I share this to encourage my fellow introverts, because if you know me, you know this whole situation was out of my comfort zone. But because the Holy Spirit empowered and equipped, I was able to speak these words so that God gets all the glory. I encourage each of us to pray these words, “Speak, for your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:10). And then be ready because God loves to answer this prayer.
J. L. Martin is pastor of children and family at Hesston MB Church in Hesston, Kansas. He is a graduate of Sterling College and Denver Seminary. He and his wife, Bethany, have four children.
To the author’s introductory question I would also answer with a resounding “yes.” God indeed speaks to us about our own lives and the lives of others, all to further His Kingdom.
But do most Christians hear Him when he speaks? I suspect this is probably not so. Or at least not like we could. And this for two reasons. One, our understanding of prayer is essentially about asking and waiting. But prayer, as taught in the Lord’s Prayer, is much more than waiting for a “yes, no, or a not-right-now answer.” Prayer also involves our collaboration with a divine work God has already initiated.
Eugene Peterson writes the following in The Contemplative Pastor. When praying, “I actively participate in the results of an action that another initiates: ‘I take counsel’.” When we converse with the Father we learn to collaborate with Him regarding concerns we both have. He imparts direction to us and we will to participate in what is willed. And this takes active listening.
The second reason for unfruitfulness in biblical prayer is this: we are better at “doing for God instead of being with God” (Pete Scazzero in Emotionally Healthy Spirituality). Hearing God requires solitude and silence.
I believe as we follow the example of the author we too will experience more moments of hearing God’s gentle whisper. Thanks, J.L.