Word: Hear His Voice
The most basic means of God’s grace is His Word. He is a talking God. It can be easy for us to take for granted this stunning and remarkable grace: God has not left us in the dark about His person and His ways, but He has revealed Himself to us. He has communicated Himself to us not just in His created world (Ps. 19:1; Rom. 1:20) but in His redeeming Word.
Ultimately, He reveals Himself in His Son, the incarnate Word, the capital-w Word (John 1:1, 14; Heb. 1:1–2), the fullness of God dwelling bodily (Col. 1:19; 2:9). But He communicates Himself also in His spoken word, the gospel (Eph. 1:13; Col. 1:5), the message about His incarnate Word and the rescue He secured and provides for sinners. And God speaks as well in His written Word, the Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:15–4:2). His inspired and inerrant speech through the mouths and pens of His anointed prophets and Apostles (Eph. 2:20; 2 Peter 3:2) is preserved for us as an “external word” (as Martin Luther called it)—a fixed, objective record of God’s revelation to humanity, namely, the Bible.
If we are to “remember Jesus Christ” (2 Tim. 2:8) and daily experience the grace and power that come from the Holy Spirit from doing so, it is vital to seize upon the opportunity to saturate our lives with the words of life in the Bible. This will mean cultivating habits of regular Bible reading, study, and meditation, but especially hearing the Word preached regularly in corporate worship. It can also mean making the most of other avenues for hearing God’s voice in the Scriptures, whether through reading Christian publications, conversing with fellow believers about matters of substance, or even the intentional use of podcasts, social media, and articles online. As we witness and partake in the sacraments also, we experience God’s Word as it is made visible to us.
We will want to become lifelong learners of God’s grace to us in Christ. Such intake then leads naturally to the output of prayer.
Prayer: Have His Ear
His voice sounds first. He is God, and we first need to hear Him speak. Yet, wonder upon wonder, He beckons us to respond. It is a relationship, after all. He wants to hear from us. Prayer is our responding to God in view of what He has said to us in His Word. How remarkable that we have the very ear of God Almighty because of Jesus’ person and work. When we are joined to Jesus by faith, we have the Father’s ear just as surely as the Son does.
And so, we want to learn to maximize this opportunity by praying regularly, as Jesus instructed us, in the “closet” of private prayer (Matt. 6:6) and when we get up off our knees by cultivating a spirit of prayerful dependence as we go about our day—praying without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17; see also Rom. 12:12; Col. 4:2; Eph. 6:18). And we might even call it “the high point of prayer” when we unite our hearts with fellow Christians and pray together, especially in corporate worship.
What might this dynamic of hearing from God in His Word and responding back to Him in prayer look like in practice? Over the years, I’ve learned to lean on a simple three-stage process in personal devotions: begin with Bible, move to meditation, polish with prayer.
I begin with the Bible because I want to start with God’s voice, not mine. He is God; I am not. He should speak first; I should listen. So after just a brief word asking for His help, I start in on my readings for the day at a pace that allows me to find food for my soul. I’m trying to read the Bible to my heart, and I’m on the lookout for places to pause and reflect more deeply on God’s goodness.
When I find a fresh biblical statement of His goodness, I move to meditation and seek to lodge the truth into my mind and heart. Meditation means chewing on some truth and savoring it, seeking to apply it to the heart, to feel its significance. Meditation has become for me the high point of daily devotions, when the real time of Bible reading goes into slow motion, even into freeze-frame, and I linger over some glimpse of God’s goodness breathed out in His Word.
Finally, having walked this bridge of meditation, I finish with prayer. Meditation naturally connects hearing God’s voice in the Bible with responding to Him in prayer. Over time, I’ve found it most helpful not to immediately turn to a prayer list, but to let the content of that day’s meditation set the direction for my prayers in praying for family, friends, church, ministry, and God’s global cause.