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Emmanuel Church, Plymouth
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Tony's Reflection 20
What has frustrated you most about lockdown?
At the risk of proving that I’ve become the stereotypical "grumpy old man", I'll admit what bothers me most.
Customer service lines who don't answer the phone.
I have lost count of the number of times I have rung through to a call centre and received a message to say "because of Covid we cannot answer calls as quickly as usual". I am then left hanging, listening to excruciatingly banal and repetitive piped music for half-an-hour or longer. And then cut off. It's turning me into Victor Meldrew, before my time.
For some people, praying can be every bit as frustrating as phoning a call centre during Covid.
You dial up God, so to speak, when you pray. You call him and what happens? Silence. No answer. It feels like your words have just disappeared into thin air. No one is there. No one is listening. No one cares.
The Bible does say there are times when prayer is like that. It's when our attitude to God, or to our nearest and dearest, isn’t right.
That is not what God has in mind for you. He wants a two-way relationship with you. One where you call him and he answers. You talk to him and he talks back.
Come to the "secret place". Come humbly to God. Come without any bitterness in your heart to those around you. Come like that and prayer will not be like phoning a call centre during Covid.
Look at Psalm 91 verse 15:
"He will call me and I will answer him…"
As we saw last time, God is deeply touched, when we come running to him for safety, arms wide open. That was verse 14. We also saw in verse 14 how God responds.
In verse 15, we see further into that response …
You will call on God and he will answer you. Our psalmist lived thousands of years before the telephone had been invented. But his words reflect beautifully what goes on when we need something and make a phone call.
We ring. We ask. We are answered.
It's an extraordinary thought. We really do have a hotline to God Almighty, himself. You might think that God would be too busy to answer your call. He would have more pressing things to do. He would have thousands of people banging on his door, all with needs much greater than yours.
The miracle is that your voice is not drowned out by the clamour of others. It is not lost in the busy-ness of heaven. You come to God in humility and dependence. You pray to him and he hears you.
Not only does he hear, but he answers.
Many people are comfortable with talking to God. Far fewer ever think he might talk back.
How does God talk back? How does he answer, when we pray?
The most important way is through the Bible, as we read it ourselves or hear it explained. We are praying to God, asking for help or perspective. Then something we read in the Bible, or hear explained from it, touches our heart. We know that God has spoken. Maybe God has done that for you, perhaps even through these reflections …
There are many other ways in which God speaks back to us.
Someone might say something which strikes a chord deep within. Maybe something happens, which looks like an answer. Some people hear a "still, small voice within". Others have deep feelings and convictions. They know in their emotions, rather than their minds, what God is saying.
God speaks in many ways. He wants to speak to you.
You may never have thought about God speaking to you, before. You can learn how to listen and hear him. Ask God to teach you. Talk to someone who knows God well and see what you can learn from them. You will get better with practice and what might seem a little strange will become natural for you.
Perhaps you have thought you heard God saying something to you, but it went wrong and ended in disappointment. It is a learning process. Don't give up and you will get better at hearing him more clearly.
When we regularly come into the "secret place" and pray, humbly and dependently, God hears us.
He has also promised he will answer.
Are you listening?