June 8, 2012

How to Have Conversations with God


I haven’t always conversed with God. I used to just give God my laundry list.

Heal, help, save, restore, and I praise you for x,y,z. Amen.

A few years ago I began taking walks, Frank Laubach style, with God.

Laubach, a missionary to the Philippines learned to practice talking to God and then using his own voice to repeat what he thought God was saying in response. He explains,

"I have just returned from a walk alone, a walk so wonderful that I feel like reducing it to a universal rule, that all people ought to take a walk every evening all alone where they can talk aloud without being heard by anyone, and that during this entire walk they all ought to talk with God, allowing Him to use their tongue to talk back–and letting God do most of the talking." - Letters by a Modern Mystic, 41

Laubach let God do the talking with his tongue. Does it sound freaky?

It’s not possession.

It’s not losing consciousness.

It’s simply trying to hear God as best we can.

You listen by talking.

The things you might hear are not prophecy on par with the inspired Word of God, rather what you get is an experience of 

  1. asking God into your life, to contact you where you are and 
  2. hearing something tangible to analyze and compare with Scripture.

But isn’t this mysticism and sort of weird? you might ask.

Yes, it is weird, I’ll admit, if by weird you mean uncommon.

And yes, it is mysticism if you mean “belief in direct experience of transcendent reality or God, especially by means of contemplation and asceticism instead of rational thought.“

But if you mean definition #2 of mysticism “Belief in the existence of realities beyond perceptual or intellectual apprehension that are directly accessible by subjective experience: belief in séances, astral projection, and similar mysticism.

Or definition #3, "Belief that is not based on evidence or subjected to criticism."

Then, no, this isn’t mysticism.

I believe the God of the Bible proved that he wants to engage with us today, even in 2012. He wants to be loved by us, not merely served. ”Love the Lord your God and serve Him” says the law in Deuteronomy.

But loving God means inviting him into the personal every day.

One way I’ve found to do that is to try Laubach’s experiment.

I take long walks in our White Woods among the aspen. I ask God about what’s troubling me. I’ve had long conversations about my family, my mistakes or what I’m supposed to speak on next. I try to answer myself with an open spirit to what God might be saying. I write down what I think I hear him saying and then compare it with Scripture.

I don’t take these words as gospel inspired, but they are usually good news to me.

God always shares things I need to hear. Sometimes I say things that I realize are more me than him (it’s pretty obvious so far because these statements are often shaming or accusatory—remember who is called the Accuser of the Brethren in Rev 12:10?), often I come away with some very key truth of Scripture, not earth-shattering, but exactly what I needed right then.

Want an example?

What follows is both personal (I was 8 months pregnant and still had one speaking trip left) and yet I subject it to your criticism.

Jonalyn: God, how were you so mindful when you were on earth? What did you do that I can do?

God: I saw people. I was unhurried. I knew my Father was there and was for me.

J: I don’t think I know that.

G: Why do you fear that I am not for you?

J: I don’t know, I’m so sick of always doubting you and your love—will I ever believe you are for me? I think I’m afraid.

G: Of what?

J: I’m afraid that you will leave—that you don’t like me very much.

G: Why?

J: Because I’m so tired and unfit and messy.

G: I want messy people

J: Why?

G: Because you still look like me.

J: I need to know how—how do I look like you?

G: Your hunger for righteousness, your compass strains to point north, you love well.

I have many of these conversations written down, but every time I re-read them I sense God’s nearness, his tenderness, her personal awareness of me. This is the God of Israel orchestrating history and the Shepherd who leaves the 99 sheep for the little lost lamb.

Letting him talk to us takes an ounce of courage, but it truly is simple, as simple, Laubach says, “as opening and closing a swinging door.”

Please open up your questions in the comments below. What do you think of this approach?  How have you experienced God speaking to you in this way?

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