Sunday, September 29, 2013

Prayer: From an Absurd Life to an Obedient Life (PrayerLife)

Olentangy Indian Caverns, near Columbus, Ohio

The English word "absurd" comes form the Latin surdus, which means "deaf." Henri Nouwen writes that many Jesus-followers live such cluttered lives that they have become deaf to the voice of God, "unable to hear when God calls us and unable to understand in which direction God calls us. Thus our lives have become absurd." (Nouwen, The Only Necessary Thing: Living a Prayerful Life, 82)

When we learn to listen to God our lives become "obedient" lives. Nouwen explains:

"The word "obedient" comes from the Latin word audere, which means "listening." A spiritual discipline is necessary in order to move slowly from an absurd to an obedient life, from a life filled with noisy worries to a life in which there is some free inner space where we can listen to our God and follow God's guidance. Jesus' life was a life of obedience. He was always listening to the Father, always attentive to his voice, always alert for his directions. Jesus was "all ear." That is true prayer: being all ear for God. The core of all prayer is indeed listening, obediently standing in the presence of God." (Ib.)

How can we listen to God? How can we hear God speak to us? Here's how I see this:

  1. Spend much time in God's presence.
  2. Saturate yourself in the Scriptures.
  3. Hang around people who do 1 and 2.
In our noisy world we are not trained to attend, to listen. Listening to God, and to anyone for that matter, requires a re-training of the heart. This happens as we customarily retreat to lonely places to talk with God. In the relationship we learn to listen, and move from lives of absurdity to lives of obedience.