Discipline is essential in cultivating our walk with God. Without it we simply will not learn to hear the voice of God. Because our lives are often plagued with worry, over-extension, and the intrusion of noise, is it almost impossible to hear God when He is speaking to us. Henry Nouwen states, We have often become deaf, unable to know when God calls us and unable to understand in which direction He calls us. Thus our lives have become absurd. In the word absurd we find the Latin word surdus, which means deafWhen, however, we learn to listen, our lives become obedient lives. The word obedient comes from the Latin word audire, which means listening. A spiritual discipline is necessary in order to move slowly from an absurd to an obedient life, from a life filled with noisy worries to a life in which there is some free inner space where we can listen to our God and follow His guidance. 1
We learn from Jesus life that He listened to the Father for instruction and guidance (Jn. 5:19, 30). Thus listening is at the heart of true prayer. Prayer is being in Gods presence with an attentive heart to hear His voice, anticipating the Spirits prompting, and the Spirits enlightenment of Gods word. For God to break through to us, we need to purposely create both inner and outer space in our lives, in order to disallow the world from filling our lives to the point where there is no space for us to be able to listen. It is therefore essential that we set apart time on our calendar as to when we plan to enter our secret place with God. When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen (Matt. 6:6)
This chaos [of our inner life] can be so disturbing and so confusing that we can hardly wait to get busy again. Entering a private room and shutting the door, therefore, does not mean that we immediately shut out all our inner doubts, fears, bad memories, unresolved conflicts, angry feelings, and impulsive desiresWe often use our outer distractions to shield ourselves from the interior noises. It is thus not surprising that we have a difficult time being alone. The confrontations with our inner conflicts can be too painful for us to endure. 1
But not to despair. As we choose to closet ourselves with God, we invite the Holy Spirit to soften our heart, to reveal the rich truths of His word, and to disclose Jesus at increasingly deeper levels. Slowly, over time, as the inner transformation of the heart and mind occurs, the Scriptures come alive, a deep sense of intimacy with Christ develops, and the ugly manifestations of a life controlled by our lower nature begins to dissipate (Rom. 12:2; Eph. 4:22-24; Col. 3:10; Tit. 3:5; Gal. 5:1v9-21). To our joyful discovery, the fruit of the Spirit naturally finds expression through our lives, affecting those around us (Gal. 5:22, 23).
Years ago I discipled a very angry and proud man whose heart had grown stone cold over the years. So I introduced him to the practice of spending regular time alone with God. After a few attempts at it he told me, Dwight, I dont get it. Nothing is happening. But with a little prompting, he kept after it, sincerely seeking Christ and endeavoring to prayerfully apply the Scriptures to his life. Todayyears later, he is a marvelous reflection of the beauty of Jesus Christ. (I Cor. 15:58; Phil.. 1:6)
This week, may you experience His grace, peace, and protection.
R. Dwight Hill
1 Henri J. M. Nouwen Devotional Classics Harper San Francisco 1990, pp. 94, 95 –