4.6 Spiritual Hearing Aids for Everyday Living, Part Three (grateful obedience)

In this series of posts, we are considering the “hearing aids” in prayer we have received from God. We want to hear Him and understand what He is speaking, especially in our times of prayer. But, so often we just don’t get it without ears opened to God’s voice. So, to answer the cry of our hearts, God helps us by giving us spiritual hearing aids.

Today, we are considering the fourth and fifth of five hearing aids that interact specifically with our earthly sojourn as followers of Christ under the heading Spiritual Hearing Aids for Everyday Living

  1. Faith
  2. Love for Christ alone
  3. Freedom in forgiveness
  4. Reasons to be thankful
  5. Readiness to obey

The First Spiritual Hearing Aid for Everyday Living is FAITH ― faith that trusts and anticipates good from God and belief in God that moves us to give up keeping our distance and move as close as possible to Him.

The Second Spiritual Hearing Aid for Everyday Living is LOVE FOR CHRIST ALONE. Love for Christ gives us a singular focus that tunes out distracting background noises.

The Third Spiritual Hearing Aid for Everyday Living is FORGIVENESS. Forgiveness in prayer presents a heart to God like his own and invites him to enter, heal, restore, and speak.

#4 GRATITUDE in prayer

The Fourth Hearing Aid of Life is GRATITUDE. Radical in face of a difficult and broken world, intentionally interlacing prayer with gratitude helps us to set aside selfish interest and hear the love and grace in our Heavenly Father’s voice.

Recently I was chatting with neighbors on our street when I noticed that the wife was wearing hearing aids like my own. As we talked about the benefits of wearing them, the thing we all had in common was the pleasure we were finding in being able to communicate with loved ones and friends.

It was a good reminder that though selfishly I’d much rather not have to mess with the hearing aids every day, or when I shower, or lay down to sleep (it hurts to lay on them), the blessings far outweigh the inconvenience and the sharper tones of life. I’m thankful for the hearing aid that humbles my heart and helps me to find blessing beyond my own comfort.

I wonder if sometimes we think of the many biblical admonitions to give thanks in prayer as a necessary inconvenience – if we want to be blessed.[1] If that’s the case, we may not readily take up the posture of gratitude, but rather go through the motions hoping to please God and be heard. We may have heard of the blessings and even tasted of them, but still not see prayer from a heart of gratitude as the very lifeblood of what it means to pray in the power of God’s Spirit.

Prayer interlaced with gratitude is the heartbeat of true prayer…

Is prayer interlaced with gratitude simply proper mechanics, a divinely instituted formula for being heard, or is it the heart pumping life into prayer?

If it’s the latter, then we’re not inconvenienced by the commands to give thanks but called to life by them! By thanksgiving-laced prayer, our prayers of faith are energized. By thanksgiving-laced prayer, we humble our hearts and find we want God’s will more than anything else. By thanksgiving-laced prayer, we recognize with proper reverence and awe God’s presence and wait upon Him with anticipation and a readiness to obey.

The following quote about prayer and thankfulness in the life of Daniel comes from Ann Voskamp (One Thousand Gifts, page 60):

“I am bell and He is sure wind, and He moves and I am rung and I know it for what it is: this is the other side where Daniel, man of prayer, lived. Change agent, mover and shaker Daniel, second-to-the-king Daniel, sleeping-on-perfect-peace-in-the-den-of-the-lions Daniel. Daniel is a man of power prayer, not because he bends the stiff knees and makes petitions of the High Throne three times daily. Rather, his prayers move kings and lion jaws because Daniel ‘prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to his God.’ (Daniel 6:10, emphasis added). Three times a day, Daniel prayed thanksgiving for the everyday common, for the God-love spilling forth from the God-heart at the center of all. The only real prayers are the ones mouthed with thankful lips. Because gratitude ushers into the other side of prayer…. Prayer, to be prayer, to have any power to change anything, must first speak thanks: ‘in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God’ (Philippians 4:6 NIV, emphasis added). ‘First, I tell you to pray for all people, asking God for what they need and being thankful to him(1 Timothy 2:1 NCV, emphasis added). Prayer without ceasing is only possible in a life of continual thanks. How did I ever think there was another way to enter in to His courts but with thanksgiving?

Radical Gratitude!

Recently I was speaking with another dear friend who is suffering daily from extreme back pain, despite multiple medical interventions. She said that she was practicing “radical gratitude.” Now that’s a hearing aid for prayer!

One of C.S. Lewis’ most famous quotes is this: “Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

The radical gratitude we express in prayer seizes on the fact that in EVERYTHING there can be found the dynamic, life-giving components of God’s grace and glory.

“’Jesus offers thanksgiving for even that which will break Him and crush Him and wound Him.’ How could Jesus express thanksgiving even as He faced the cross? How can Jesus’ example shape your own response to times of pain and loss?”

Ann Voskamp | One Thousand Gifts: Attitude of Gratitude
And that’s why the Bible teaches that in our praying we must always find something for which to say thank you to God. [1]

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-7 NIV

I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.

Psalm 9:1-2 ESV

#5 Grateful OBEDIENCE

The fifth and final hearing aid for prayer we want to discuss in this summer session of the Hudson Valley School of Prayer is OBEDIENCE. In a person’s prayer life, it is intimately connected with the proceeding four, especially gratitude.

Before hearing aids, I was unaware of how much I was missing.

Since God gifted me with a good ability to read people nonverbally, I could get along reasonably well. For instance, not too long before getting hearing aids I was speaking with a friend in the hallway of our church. There were a lot of other people moving through the hallway, fans blowing, cars in the parking lot beginning to exit, and children scurrying about ― so there was considerable background noise. As my friend began to speak, she seemed quite animated about “something.” Understanding a word here and there, I could mumble enough encouragement that she continued with her story and ended it with a beaming smile, evidently thinking I had understood. But I didn’t. To this day I couldn’t relate one feature of the exciting story she was telling me.

But then I got hearing aids.

And once again I had the opportunity to speak with that same friend in a very similar setting. Imagine my joy when this time I understood what she was saying and could assure her of my understanding ― and prayer support. My joy was found in both hearing her, really hearing her, AND taking up an opportunity to do something with what she said ― both from love for her and also from the natural law God has instituted that to whom much is given, much is required.

Throughout the Bible “watchfulness” or “keeping watch” for God can be connected to the life of prayer. Jesus, praying in the Garden of Gethsamane, asks his sleepy disciples, “Could you not watch with me for one hour?” (Matthew 26:36-46) To my mind, it’s as if Jesus is saying to them, “If only you were awake, if only you understood, if only you knew what I was doing in this hour, surely you would have prayed with me for the Father’s sustaining and overcoming grace!”

In another passage (Luke 12:35-48), Jesus is addressing the need for servants to be ready for service, to keep their lamps burning and reading for the master’s return. Peter asks him if the parable applies to Jesus’ disciples and the Lord’s answer and conclusion in verse 48 is stunning: “From everyone who has been given much [i.e., the disciples with the Lord], much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

Hearing the Lord, our only option is to obey. It’s only then that we can receive more from his hand. [2] It’s only then that we can run in the power of His smile. It’s then, as Eric Liddell is quoted in the movie, Chariots of Fire, as saying. “When I run, I feel God’s pleasure.”

What employer gives more responsibility to an employee they can’t trust or has yet to follow through on what has already been asked of them?

Buster Keaton in “Once Upon a Mattress”

Henry was the undisputed master of the shipping department of Omaha’s Serta Mattress Factory. He was a fearful taskmaster for some, but somehow God helped me to understand his motivations and earn his favor. This is how it happened.

I walked into his shipping department as a college freshman out of the North Dakota farming community. In those days, it was assumed that anyone from our rural culture who went to college earned their own way. That was fine with my generation because there was little that our strong bodies and minds couldn’t handle and no expectation that our parents would, even if they could, help us financially. My primary goal as a college freshman was not making the grade academically (that was easy) but earning enough money to pay the bills and eventually move out of the college dorm into an apartment of my own. So, the first thing I did after enrollment was to set about getting a job.

After experiencing the dirty and dangerous shipping docks of a hardware distribution center, I moved on to Henry’s watchful, if stern, care.

What I quickly understood about Henry was that yes, he was concerned that we loaded out the sofas, recliners, and mattresses of the company as quickly and efficiently as we could, but also that he could train up his employees to be the best we could be. Those who received his orders and chafed at them, or reluctantly obeyed them became disgruntled and most didn’t last very long. But having been given some understanding of what was driving him, I took a different attitude.

Whenever Henry would tell me to load such and such, I’d ask him “is that all?” Or “as long as I’m heading that way, what more can I get?” Without showing it, I knew Henry loved that and so he began giving me longer and longer lists to see what I could remember and follow through on. The longest list I can remember is a list of 11 items from several different departments, but the most blessed thing was the look of satisfaction and pleasure from Henry when I arrived at the trucks with everything he had sent me to get.

Because of our spiritual hearing aids, we understand that God is looking for more in us than lock-step obedience. What he wants is for us to be transformed into the image of His Son! (2 Corinthians 3:18) And so, He patiently, lovingly gives us something to do as we wait upon him in prayer. At first it is simply listening, and then it’s the renewal of our minds, and finally it’s a step in the direction that He himself is going.

Today in prayer, we have an opportunity to surrender to and gladly obey God’s voice. Perhaps we might have an excuse if we didn’t have the hearing aids freely available to us, but we do.

The greatest benefit of faithfully, eagerly following through on what we hear from God, using the spiritual hearing aids He gives us, is His smile upon us. [3]

Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord;
    let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before him with thanksgiving
    and extol him with music and song.

For the Lord is the great God,
    the great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth,
    and the mountain peaks belong to him.
The sea is his, for he made it,
    and his hands formed the dry land.

Come, let us bow down in worship,
    let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;
for he is our God
    and we are the people of his pasture,
    the flock under his care. Today, if only you would hear his voice,
“Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah,
    as you did that day at Massah in the wilderness,
where your ancestors tested me;
    they tried me, though they had seen what I did.
10 For forty years I was angry with that generation;
    I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts go astray,
    and they have not known my ways.’
11 So I declared on oath in my anger,
    ‘They shall never enter my rest.’

Psalm 95 NIV

Biblical Teaching on Thanksgiving and Obedience:

[1] The radical gratitude of true prayer: Psalm 50:14-15, 100:1-5, 95:1-7, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Ephesians 5:18-20, Philippians 4:4-7, Colossians 3:17, 1 Peter 1:6-7, cf. Psalm 16:1, 5-11, 23:4-6, 40:1-3, Lamentations 3:19-27, Daniel 6:10

[2] Blessing follows obedience: Deuteronomy 28:1-3, 30:19-20, Psalm 19:1-4, 95:6-8, Proverbs 1:20-33, 2:1-15, Isaiah 30:20-22, John 7:17, 8:31-33

[3] God smiles on His obedient children: Psalm 4:4-8, 5:11-12, 44:1-3, 95:1-11, Zephaniah 3:11-17

Additional Resources on Thanksgiving and Obedience:
  • Paul Tripp’s excellent list of many everyday reminders to give thanks: “Thank You, Lord
  • Daniel Ritchie comments on the command of 1 Peter 1:6-7 to rejoice when grieved by various trials: “God Shouts to Us in Our Pain
  • Alistair Begg brings “Christian realism” to bear on what it means to give thanks in every circumstance: “Pain: God’s Megaphone
  • Jennie Allen interviews Ann Voskamp on the subject of radical gratitude: “Radical Gratitude with Ann Voskamp
  • Mandy Pallock asks if each of us feels God’s pleasure in what we do. She asks, “how has God designed you to fill in that sentence?” – referring to Eric Liddell’s statement, “When I run, I feel God’s pleasure.”: “Feeling God’s Pleasure

POSTS IN THIS 2021 Summer Session of the hudson valley school of prayer:

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