Does this shock you? Week 3-Prayer
23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
5 September 2021
This is the third week of our message series called:
Does this shock you? Do you think God speaks to you? Have you ever heard Him speak to you? Or maybe lead or guide you in such a way that you knew it was God?
In the first reading God instructs Isaiah to tell the people that God is here… now. He says the eyes of the blind will be opened and the ears of the deaf will be cleared.
In the book of James, he writes, listen my beloved brothers and sisters.
And then in our Gospel, Jesus comes upon a deaf and mute man. Jesus takes time to stop and relieve this man of those impediments. He heals him so that he can speak and hear again.
They all have a common theme: listen.
Does it shock you that God speaks to us, to you, in prayer? Do you believe he does? Can you hear voice?
There seems to be a huge stereotype about the way that God speaks to us.
Many times, we think back to the conversion of Saul (who became Paul) who heard God’s voice booming through the clouds above him asking “Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Other times, we are literally waiting for God to whisper something into our ears, hearing His voice whenever we feel conflicted and need answers.
Now, I’m not going to say that literally hearing His voice is impossible. In fact, I know people who claim that they have heard it and that’s how they got to be where they are today.
I believe I heard God call me into the priesthood while I was in Eucharistic Adoration one evening. Before that evening, I had been encouraged by several people to pursue the process to become a priest in the Catholic Church. When I first entered the Church in 2001, I had begun the process. Due to circumstances, I left that process for several years. I really had thought that I had missed the opportunity to pursue the priesthood. But that night, I can remember asking God to help me know what he was calling me to do. There was at one point a thought came to my mind, “I never said stop, you stopped.” So that night I prayed, “God, I will pursue this calling until someone tells me to stop.” And the rest is history.
It can also be dangerous to be so caught up in the ideas of hearing an audible voice that we fail to hear God around us. In fact, we are so often waiting for those types of moments that we miss out on the ways that God is speaking to us.
Know that learning how to recognize God’s voice isn’t something that happens overnight, especially when we have been fixated on a certain idea for such a long time.
Even if we learn how He speaks to us, it’s easy to get caught up in everyday life and miss it. It takes time and it takes an open heart and an open mind. But it can be done.
One of the most common things that I’ve heard people struggle with in prayer (myself included) is that it doesn’t really feel like the “conversation with God” that we want it to be. Oftentimes, prayer can feel very one-sided. There have been points in my life where prayer felt like I was on the phone with God and He fell asleep on me as soon as I called. I had no idea what God wanted in my life. It felt like when I was talking to God, he heard me, but never listened to me.
This, however, is anything but the truth. Even though it may not be easy to see, God is still listening and watching over us. We are God’s children and He is the parent that wants to help us. God listens to us intentionally and is always with us. He’s there when we laugh, and when we’re sad, right beside us. He loves His children too much to simply ignore them. Even though it might be hard to see sometimes, God is working in our lives behind the scenes, even if we can’t see it.
So if God listens to us, why does prayer still feel like we’re writing letters to a pen-pal who never writes back? God responds to our prayers but sometimes, we’re the ones guilty of hearing but not listening.
When things don’t go the way we want them to we might begin to question if God knows what He is doing. It’s at these points that we should hear the word of God and listen to what’s being said. God wants us to know that he has an amazing life laid out for us; as we said last week, because God loves us, he has a purpose for us.
From the Scriptures to the saints, there are countless examples of people who have felt like God simply wasn’t listening.
A great example of a saint that had these same issues is Saint Teresa of Calcutta, aka, Mother Teresa. She went through extremely long periods of doubt about God, even so far as to think that God wasn’t even there sometimes. Instead of turning away from prayer however, she lifted up her struggles to God. It’s this type of thinking that we need to embrace when we think about our prayer life. We simply cannot leave God when our relationship seems tough: we have to lift up those struggles to Him.
All relationships require communication to survive. If a relationship is to truly thrive however, we must work on not simply hearing, but listening, as well. That goes for our human relationships, as well as our spiritual one with our heavenly Father. There are several ways to listen to God when things may feel difficult.
One way is a gut instinct. Sometimes we just have a “feeling” to do something and we don’t know why. It could be to walk away from someone or a situation; or to pray for someone; or that you feel like something is about to happen and you are going to need to help that person out.
A second way is the sounds of the world around us. Even if we aren’t looking for an answer, we still may experience times in which we do not feel God’s presence. If you struggle with this (and honestly, who doesn’t?), try looking at the world around you. Sure, there are many things about this world that are far from pretty, but there are also wonderful things that are part of God’s creation and helps us to realize he is real.
Third, the interactions between other people. It is said in Les Miserables, “To love another person is to see the face of God,” and when we see people love and be kind to one another, we see God radiating through that person. God is love, so all true acts of love are a reflection of God. Even if the person doing the act doesn’t see it.
Fourth, through prayer. This one should be a given, right? But think about it… how much motivation to pray do we really have when we do not feel the presence of God? Sometimes when we feel like we have hit rock bottom we do. But other than that… do we feel motivated on a day that just feels ordinary?
Prayer is a conversation with God, but it doesn’t mean that we are always the ones speaking. Prayer isn’t a part of our relationship with God, it IS our relationship with God. In fact, how can we hear God when we don’t give Him the opportunity to talk? Sometimes God is just waiting for us to reach out to Him in order for Him to speak to us. Or, maybe we need to try a specific type of prayer, the kind when we are listening more than talking. This can happen when we read Scripture or a devotional.
One great tool that we provide at Saint Mary is our daily devotional based on the Sunday readings and message. Each day it provides something to think and pray about, and a way that God may be speaking to you. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to sign up for it on our webpage at saintmary.life. You can receive it either as text or an email. It comes early enough in the morning so that you can easily start your day with God.
Never forget, just because you do not feel God, doesn’t mean he’s not there.