As we looked at Isaiah 51-52 we saw the repeated encouragement (that's a gentle British way of saying "challenge"!) from God to his people to wake up, and really get what he wants to say and show them. A short paraphrase of the passage could read: "Listen, listen, listen! Awake, awake; awake, awake; awake, awake!"
But how do we grow in listening to God? I my sermon I suggested that we need to broaden our (spiritual) diet. Whether you've come into relationship with Christ in an evangelical, charismatic-Pentecostal or traditional-contemplative tradition we can all "broaden our diet", spiritually. Evangelical tradition teaches us about the importance of the word and petition (asking prayers). Charismatic tradition teaches us about faith, expectancy, worship and breakthrough. And contemplative traditions can teach us about adoration, contemplation and confession, through habits like liturgy, sabbath and silence.
I encourage us to learn! To broaden out our spiritual diet, in order that we may hear God more clearly. The evangelical emphasis on the Bible shows us timeless truths about God and his interaction with humanity, in teaching, story and poetry. The charismatic emphasis of Spirit-empowered prayer helps us understand what God wants to do today, and to intercede for that with faith. The contemplative emphasis on silence, reflection and enjoying creation helps us 'dial back' from our 21st Century Western busyness and connect with God for who is, rather than just what he can do.
Many of you reading this will have learned to pray in charismatic or evangelical churches, so this is the list of resources that has helped me (as a fellow-charismatic-evangelical) broaden my own diet.
- A book that explores what we can learn from Christian spirituality from the early martyrs to the modern missionaries - and everything in between! Water from a Deep Well, Sittser (2010)
- One of the earliest books by a charismatic evangelical seeking to learn from older approaches to prayer. Listening to God, Huggett (1986)
- Much-respected Oxford evangelical theologian Alister McGrath on moving beyond the evangelical quiet time. Beyond the Quiet Time, McGrath (2003)
- One of a series of books by Pete Scazzerro, a pastor seeking to find more sustainable habits of prayer and living, while leading a growing a diverse church in busy New York city. Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, Scazzero (2017)
- Pete Greig's best-selling books and the global 24-7 Prayer movement he founded produce a load of great stuff on developing your prayer life. Start with Pete's new book: How to Pray, Greig (2019)
If books are not your thing...
- 24-7 Prayer's The Prayer Course 1 and 2 takes the material from Pete's book into video format. Highly recommended and completely free!
- If even that is too long for you, the Prayer Course Toolshed free downloads each introduce a different facet of prayer and take literally 2 minutes to read each.
- For a Millennial/GenZ tone to all this, read anything by John Mark Comer, pastor of a young adult church in the secular, progressive and weird city of Portland Oregon. Their Practicing the Way website is really good.
- If you want to think about your own prayer language, have a look at this blog from a Vineyard church in USA and the survey linked from it.
- To learn about the impact of healthy diet (food) watch What are we feeding our kids (UK only). Then take time to reflect on your spiritual diet.
- Finally, for blog-readers, check out the blogs I wrote in 2018, after my sabbatical when I explored a lot of this stuff.
Examen: one approach to listening to God
Examen means "an examination of one's thoughts and conduct". Huggett describes it as "a spirituality which encourages us to listen to our feelings and allow the Word of God to speak into them" and Greig as "paying attention to your emotions in order to listen to God".
- What am I angry about (a betrayal, a co-workers hurtful comment, a car breakdown, unanswered prayer)?
- What am I sad about (a small or big loss, disappointment, or a choice you or others have made)?
- What am I anxious about (your finances, future, family, health, church)?
- What am I glad about (your family, an opportunity, your church)?
Go on! Give it a go, and see what God does in you.
Add October 2021: Or look at this video from Sheridan Voysey on praying the prayer of Examen.