Chapter 20 – Talking to God

 

May my cry come before you, Lord;

   give me understanding according to your word.

May my supplication come before you;

   deliver me according to your promise.

May my lips overflow with praise,

   for you teach me your decrees.

May my tongue sing of your word,

   for all your commands are righteous.

– Psalm 119:169-172, NIV

I love that we can be completely open with God – that we do not need to speak in a particular way or use particular phrases, or speak any differently to Him than to our closest friends. I love that when we don’t feel capable of ‘praising’ or ‘adoring’ God, He is still absolutely overjoyed when we come to Him as we are and talk to Him about what we are going through. I love that even in those times, when we surrender, He equips us and provides the strength to praise Him for His greatness even in the midst of our situations. May we surrender to God our mouths and ask Him to open them, aiding us in our prayers and teaching us how to talk openly with Him throughout each day, and teaching us to genuinely adore and praise Him – something we cannot do in our own strength.

I know several people who believe that God does not want to hear about the little things on their minds, the petty worries and concerns that they may have – that God has bigger things to worry about than our feeble nothingnesses, and so we should not bother Him with them. But hang on – if we never mention to our spouse or best friend or close family member (or whoever else) of the little things that niggle us in life but only talk about the “big” things, the things that seem deep and meaningful and holy, then does the relationship not start to seem just a little superficial? God desires to be not only our Lord and Saviour but our closest friend, more intimate even than the spouse and more involved in our situations than anyone else. He wants to be closer to us than we could ever imagine – He wants us to share everything with Him and speak openly with Him about everything. He longs for us to tell Him of the little things that concern or excite us – this way we invite Him to play a part in those things, and even the sharing of the information with Him in itself can bring us closer to Him, as a child on the lap of the Father. So may we surrender to God our mouths, and let Him grant us an openness regarding even the smallest of things within us, so that we can share everything with Him. Nothing that remains significant to us in any way is too small for Him to be infinitely interested in.

In the same way the opposite is true – that nothing is too big or too painful or too dark to be lifted to God in prayer. I’ve heard people misuse Philippians 4:4 to the extent of saying that we can never show grief or sadness of any kind to God because we always have to be joyful in His presence. This, likewise, can put up a huge barrier in our relationship with God – making it again seem superficial as we mask our true thoughts and feelings. I believe it hurts God when we try to hide our pain from Him. Just as a parent is hurt if their child refuses to come to them with their pain – God wants us to talk with Him openly and honestly about what we are going through. We can tell Him about things that have hurt us – maybe things that people have said to us, or situations that have annoyed or upset us. God wants us to be free to express to Him everything within us!

We can come to God with all our mess and mistakes, just as we are – from that point alone can He transform us into His likeness. Only the sick need a doctor! And so, as we surrender to Him may we recognise and acknowledge our own failings. As we surrender to God our mouths may He teach us to be open about our struggles and temptations and sin. He knows everything we have done and said and thought, and everything we have left undone or unsaid. He longs for us to be open with Him about those things so that He can bring transformation. As we surrender to Him our mouths may He bring us freedom to confess our sin to Him. May He remove any masks or barriers that we have put up that stop us from talking about those areas of our lives – may He remove those so that we can come to Him as we are, recognising the way we are instead of trying to pretend to the all-seeing God that we are holy by our own efforts.

As we surrender, may God touch our lips with His burning coals (Isaiah 6:7) and cleanse us of any bitterness that may be lingering within us. May we surrender to His holy transformation of the mouth so that we are able to follow His leading as we talk to Him and pour out our hearts to Him each day. As we surrender may He teach us to be honest with Him about our worries and concerns and fears, and may He lead us each day in a journey towards real adoration of who He is. May we surrender to Him our mouths and let Him enable us to express our prayers, petitions and praise in words beyond our own ability. As we surrender, may He teach us to pray.

I believe God loves to teach His people to pray. And I believe there are as many ways of talking to God as there are people in the world. Jesus gave us the Lord’s Prayer as a starting point, a wonderful and subtly in-depth as well as practical example of what it means to pray, and even within it we can see several different elements or types of prayer. As we surrender may God teach us, leading us to vocalise the words written all over our hearts which just don’t come out right until our lips are free to speak them – freedom that God brings as we surrender. God can give us the freedom to pray beyond the limits of our human effort and our faith; He can equip us to boldly pray for the impossible; He can empower us to act in His name and move mountains in His Name; He may even bless us with the ability to speak to Him in languages we don’t understand. May we surrender to God our mouths, that He may shape and fill them, and bring us into a new freedom of expression and prayer fuelled by love. In surrender may we learn to release everything up to Him, vocalising in His direction all that we are and all that we see or experience.

Only when we express our desires and our hopes and our fears to God can He shape and change them, aligning our minds to His will. In some of St Ignatius’ teachings within his Spiritual Exercises, he uses a three-part pattern: Imagine (visualise a situation, for example seeing Christ’s presence with you or imagining yourself within a scene from His life on earth); Ask for what I want (for example transformation of a situation or of a mindset, or maybe a new understanding of an aspect of His character); Surrender (and thus let Him transform you and teach you). Let us see the Lord with us and notice His presence – even visualising Him before us in the imagination if that helps – and present honest requests before Him, no matter how trivial or “ungodly” or small or big or faithless or crazy they may seem. And may we then surrender to His will! May we surrender our mouths so that God can take away any shame we may feel in expressing our desires and presenting our requests before Him. As we surrender may He also shape our words and requests according to His will.

May we surrender to Him our mouths, and let Him teach us openness in prayer so that our words and our emotions and our pain can flow out freely to Him without holding anything back. May we cry out to Him for His help, for His comfort and guidance, for His peace – and may we tell Him how we are feeling throughout each day, knowing that He is with us and that He cares. As we surrender may He teach us openness in prayer, and bring us freedom to express to Him what needs to be expressed. Then, and perhaps only then – when we are truly open and honest with Him – He can lead us on to a different kind of expression: worship.

But I must confess that there are days when my circumstances don’t seem to lend themselves to worship. Days when I feel so caught up in my own problems or so pulled down by my own depression that entering into worship would almost feel hypocritical. What am I to do on those days? – On those days I am to worship anyway! I am to bring the Lord what the Bible calls sacrificial praise: ‘So through Jesus let us always offer to God our sacrifice of praise, coming from lips that speak His name.’ (Hebrews 13:15)

– Claire Cloninger

Perhaps you have a special name for God, a name that means more to you than the countless other things that He could be called. A friend of mine always addresses God as “Papa”, because it is meaningful to her. Several Bolivian friends of mine call God “Papito” in prayer, which is like saying “Daddy”. Maybe God is your Wonderful Counsellor, having brought you through sticky situations and given you counsel and guidance in your times of need. Maybe He is your Eternal Comforter or Faithful Lord or Gracious King or Saviour or Healer or Father, or a whole host of other things. It is true that He is all of these things at all times to all of His people – His nature and character never changes – but to each of us certain aspects of His character may stand out as more special than others, at different times in our lives. I want to encourage you, that if there is a name of affection for God that is meaningful to you, let this name be always on your lips.

And as we surrender our mouths to God, may He teach us to speak out His name as if breathing, holding Him in our hearts and minds wherever we are each day, acknowledging His presence with us and inviting Him to share life with us each moment. In the Hebrew, the name with which God revealed Himself – YAHWEH (YHWH) – sounded like breathing; signifying in part that His name should be always on the lips of His people, just like breathing. May we surrender our mouths to God and let Him write His name there, that we can acknowledge Him with every breath. May He teach us to live with an awareness of His presence and an attitude of worship, with His name as a seal on our mouths and on our hearts. As we surrender may God shape us, just as a potter can shape soft clay. So as we surrender let us make ourselves soft and vulnerable, open to God’s shaping, so that He can teach us and use us and mold us into the likeness of Christ.

I find, the more I surrender my words to God the more He surprises me by leading me to spontaneously pray and look to Him, in the middle of whatever I may be doing in everyday life. This way He can lead me into a deeper and more continuous awareness of His presence, and I can learn to live with Him as my companion – not ignoring Him but talking with Him as with a best friend, always beside me. If only I would learn to more fully surrender to Him each day! Through surrender He can teach us the wonders of His love through every situation and show us the beauty in things that would otherwise have gone unnoticed, and speak to us during any and every part of each day. So may we surrender to God our mouths so that He may lead us to always have prayer on our lips – even subconsciously, as breathing, so that when we have really learnt this we no longer need to try and try to focus on Him but He is always at the forefront of our minds. Prayer is a response to His love; it is a reaction; it is natural fruit; it is apparently spontaneous but has clear roots and a clear cause. Continuous prayer does not come about by trying and trying and trying to remember to pray – nor by ignoring God and hoping that suddenly one day we might find ourselves praying constantly. It is a gradual change, which comes about through surrender, and recognition of His companionship. May we surrender and let Him fill our mouths with prayer, shaping us to pray naturally – freely responding to the constant nudges of His Spirit in everyday life.

Richard Foster wrote, “Prayer is the human response to the perpetual outpouring of love by which God lays siege to every soul. When our reply to God is most direct of all, it is called adoration. Adoration is the spontaneous yearning of the heart to worship, honour, magnify, and bless God. We ask nothing but to cherish him. We seek nothing but his exaltation. We focus on nothing but his goodness”. Sometimes this selfless, joyful adoring of God for who He is seems much easier said than done. Sometimes in Church meetings we can find ourselves singing the songs and saying the words but thinking, “I KNOW that God is great and powerful and amazing, but I just don’t feel it right now.” The simple fact is that in our own strength we CANNOT adore and praise God. We do not have the capacity or the ability or the love or the strength or the awareness of who He is, within our human nature, to give Him adoration of any kind. It is only by the grace of God that we have this ability, and opportunity, to come before the Most High and offer our expressions of praise to the Love of our lives. So may we surrender to God our mouths and ask Him to fill them with words of praise and adoration and worship of His greatness, for who He is – and words of thanks for what He has done and continues to do for us.

May we surrender to God our mouths so that, in our darkest and most desolate and desperate times of fear and stress and despair and abandonment, He can lead us to worship – genuine worship; an expression of adoration and love for our Holy God; worship that leads us to move beyond crying out to Him for help, into a bold declaration of His goodness and faithfulness and grace. I believe this is the most profound, powerful and transformational time of praise – in the hour of darkness when all hope is lost it is a great opportunity grow in intimacy with God and depth of relationship with Him through praise, recognising His continuous greatness regardless of the situation. This is not to say that the situation means nothing, or that our problems do not exist, or that what is going on in life doesn’t matter – but that there is something, Someone, more important who demands our focus and leads us to praise. May we surrender to God our mouths and let Him lead us from “I need You”, to “I love You”, to “You’re wonderful!”. As Jack Hayford pointed out, “Worship changes the worshiper into the image of the One worshipped”. In no time of life is this statement more true than in the times when we feel like praising God is the last thing we want to do.

Ole Kristian O. Hallesby wrote: “Praise lies upon a higher plain than thanksgiving. When I give thanks, my thoughts still circle around myself to some extent. But in praise my soul ascends to self-forgetting adoration, seeing and praising only the majesty and power of God, His grace and redemption”. So may we surrender to God our mouths, and let Him shape them and cause praise to naturally flow from our lips even in the middle of trials and suffering, frustration and annoyance, mourning and grief. Then, even when God seems completely silent and it feels as if He has left and abandoned us, still there are true words of praise and adoration on our lips which bring glory to Him and make Him smile. When we adore God in His silence we recognise that relationship with Him is not about how we feel or what He does for us or says to us, but who He is.

Come, ye famished souls, who find naught whereon to feed; come, and ye shall be fully satisfied! Come, ye poor afflicted ones, who groan beneath your load of wretchedness and pain, and ye shall find ease and comfort! Come, ye sick, to your Physician, and be not fearful of approaching Him because ye are filled with diseases; expose them to His view and they shall be healed! Children, draw near to your Father, and He will embrace you in the arms of love! Come, ye poor, stray, wandering sheep, return to your Shepherd! Come, sinners, to your Saviour! Come, ye dull, ignorant, and illiterate, ye who think yourselves the most incapable of prayer! ye are more peculiarly called and adapted thereto. Let all without exception come, for Jesus Christ hath called all. …

… Again, beholding themselves in the state of a feeble child, sorely bruised by repeated falls, and defiled in the mire, destitute of strength to keep up, or of power to cleanse himself, they should lay their deplorable situation open to their Father’s view in humble confusion; now sighing out a few words of love and plaintive sorrow, and again sinking into profound silence before Him. Then, continuing the Lord’s Prayer, let them beseech this King of Glory to reign in them, yielding to His love the just claim He has over them, and resigning up themselves wholly to His divine government.

– Madame Guyon

 

My Love,

Thank You that I can come to You, as I am – bringing all that I am.

Thank You that You love to hear my requests, confessions, praise….

I’m sorry, that I often fail to talk with You in the ways that I’d like to.

I surrender to You my mouth – please teach me how to talk with You!

Please bring me freedom to pour out my love to you, to adore You.

Give me strength and the words to confess and repent before You, and to talk with You about my struggles or temptations.

Help me to vocalise my requests and worries, the little things on my mind and the huge things that demand my attention.

Cause me to believe that You hear and care about what I say to You.

Mold my mouth so that it is prayer-shaped in every situation, so that I live and breathe in prayer!

Lead me to make a sacrifice of praise to You when I’m at my lowest or most difficult and painful times.

My Teacher, teach me to speak with You as You’d like me to!

I surrender to You any barriers that may be hindering me in expressing to You all that needs to be expressed.

Once again, I surrender to You – please teach and shape me, Lord!

I surrender to You the way I live, as a result of the way I pray.

I give You my mouth and I ask that You’d replace it with Your own.

May I live in Your ways, speaking with You at all times and on every occasion, bringing thanks and praise and all the rest!

Amen

 

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