An individual or group comes before God to ask what His will is, either in general recognition that God cares deeply about who we are and what we do and that He might have something to tell us about the two, or in response to a specific question or situation where we will allow God to have a say in how it is answered. The individual or group will start in a prayer where they:
1. Confess sin and seek forgiveness so that one can come before God with clean hands. (Psalm 24:3,4)
2. Admit our desperate need for God's specific guidance for our lives. (Proverbs 16:9, 20:24, Isaiah 30:21)
3. Ask God to quiet your own thoughts. (The idea of "not my will but yours be done." (Luke 22:42)
4. Silence Satan with the spiritual authority God has given us in the name of Christ Jesus. (Luke 10:18-20)
5. Invite God and the Holy Spirit to speak. Then listen to what He says.This is a discipline that I have been trying to cultivate in my own life, and that e-board has started to practice together this semester.
The simple fact is that God wants to speak into our lives WAY more than we are willing to listen. Our God is a God of relationship and communication. He is willing, able, and wanting to burst from the pages of the Bible to speak to us as individuals. Jesus said "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me." (John 10:27) The Bible tells us SO MUCH of who God is, what He has done, what He wants to do, and what He wants to do through us. But it doesn't tell us everything.
As a 17-year-old in school for missionaries in Colombia, I could and did make a great Biblical case for why I did not want to go to college, and instead go directly onto the mission field. Unfortunately, my parents who were also quite versed in scripture could make an equally compelling case for why it was better for me to come back to the States to receive a higher education first. It was only through the Holy Spirits strong conviction that I should go to college followed by almost immediate confirmation (three different people told me in the period of a day or two that they felt like God was telling me to go back to New York for school) that could change my mind.
The Bible tells us everything that we need to do. However it is listening to God in the context of the relationship that we have with Him that tells us how to do it. As leaders in the fellowship, both e-board and small group leaders would be doing the people the lead and serve a huge disservice if they only assumed how to obey God instead of asking him directly.
Below are some common concerns that Christians have with the idea of listening to God. I hope they clear things up for you. If you have one that isn't addressed here, leave it under the comments, and we will try to respond.
Isn't this a little like Ouija board?
Yes, but only in the same way that a one night stand is like good and godly marital sex. Ouija board, tarot cards, and other forms of fortune telling are a perversion of the good and Godly act of seeking guidance from something more powerful then one's self. The difference is who and why you are asking. Fortune telling is almost always done to further one's own interests. Listening to God is done to further God's interests and his kingdom. Fortune telling often includes some level of manipulating the "spirit world" who are demons. Demons and Satan are characterized by lies. God is TRUTH.
How do we know that what we are hearing is really from God?
Once I was praying before bed, and I heard someone call my name. "Katy!" The voice said. I sat straight up and was like, "Holy crap!! Did God just call my name?!?!" I waited and heard again "Kaaaaty!!!" But this time I was more suspicious. Another couple of seconds went by and I hear "Kaaaaaaaaty!!! Turn off the light in the bathroom!! I'm trying to go to sleep." It was my sister, her voice slightly muffled by a pillow, who was bothered by the light coming through the crack under the door of the bathroom that opens into both of our rooms.
Especially when we start off, we might not distinguish between our own voice and will and God's. Not to worry. There are guiding principles that can help.
For situations with minor consequences: Just do it!! If your praying and you feel like God has told you "Billy-Bob, I want you to go to Hinman dining hall and buy a thing of orange juice." Instead of sitting there for ten minutes wondering if it was you or God who placed that thought in your head, just go to Hinman and buy orange juice. If it wasn't God, the worst thing that happens is that you end up with some orange juice you might not have bought otherwise. But imagine if it was God telling you to do this. Maybe the orange juice didn't matter, but as you walked to Hinman you saw a friend who was really upset and you are able to comfort them. Perhaps as you get back to your dorm see a hall mate. When you ask your hall mate how they are they tell you that they feel like they are coming down with a cold. You fortunately have a nice bottle of orange juice in your hands and you can give it to them and tell them "I know this sounds crazy, but I was just praying a while ago, and I thought I heard God tell me to go get orange juice. I had no idea why, but I think its cause God wanted me to give it to you. God cares about you, and even about your sniffles. Can I share with you about Jesus?" (ok, I added that last sentence in just cause I'm outreach coordinator.) But do you see what I mean?
For situations that have weighty consequences: Lets say you're praying about marriage, career, major, how to lead a ministry that you are in charge of, even where you live on campus next year. Confusing your will with God's on who to marry obviously has much more serious implications than ending up with an unwanted bottle of orange juice. For decisions such as these...
1. 1. Compare what you think God has told you meticulously with God's word. He will never contradict himself.
2. 2. Seek the advice of unbiased and mature Christians.
3. 3. Ask God a question in a group. If God gives all of you the same answer, chances are, it's Him and not you. If there isn't agreement, ask God why. (Are you asking the wrong question? is there more He wants to say?)
4. 4. Ask God for peace and/or confirmation on what you think he has said. Its not wrong to ask for a sign if we are asking in faith so we can be confident of God's will
5. 5. If you do all of that and are still not sure, I'd say, go ahead with what you think God wants you to do, but keep checking in with him. Ask him, and trust that he will guide you in the way you should go, and stop you if you start unintentionally going astray.
LisListening to God is an adventure. It requires complete obedience, complete trust, and a strong faith in the goodness of God. Reading of the lives of those following Jesus in the New Testament, actively listening to God was posed to be a normative part of the Christian faith. As we seek to see lives transformed, Binghamton renewed, and world changers sent out, InterVarsity as a community will need to learn to listen to what God is saying to us and following it whole heartedly. God cares for these things more than we do, and he knows how to make them happen better than we do. Imagine what would happen if we only stopped to listen.