The power of pausing during prayer

When we face a challenge, a dilemma, or even a crisis…we tend to search high and low for the easy answer.   We cry out to God, asking him to give us the magic pill that will make it all go away!  We call our mom or our girlfriends, and we whine and complain about the problem, hoping they will have the magical, painless answer to our situation.  Well, here’s the thing.  The answer isn’t easy, but it is simple.  Seek God’s counsel and then actually pause to listen. 

Proverbs 18:13 says “To answer before listening, that is folly and shame.”  Yet, that is exactly what many of us do.  We complain to God.  We pray that he would magically fix our situation in the way that WE say is best, and yet, we don’t actually consult the Bible to see what guidance he has for us.  We pray that God would tell us what to do about the problem, yet we don’t actually pause to listen for the Holy Spirit’s quiet whisper of guidance.

The answer is simple.  Dive into God’s Word.  It will guide you.  Psalm 119:105 says. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”   Ask God to give you direction through a quiet whisper to your spirit from the Holy Spirit, who is our counselor.  John 14:26 says (in the Amplified Bible), “But the Comforter (Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener, Standby), the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My name in My place, to represent Me and act on My behalf, He will teach you all things.”

Gaining guidance from God

In any relationship, especially a marriage, there are going to be times when the two of you are in conflict.  Perhaps your husband is breaking your heart through wrong behavior.  At each of those times, we have to make really big decisions.  Should I confront my husband on an issue where he appears to be out of line?  Should I keep quiet and press into prayer, relying on the Holy Spirit to work in my husband’s heart?  Should I compromise on an issue where we’ve been in conflict?

At these times, counsel from other godly women is very helpful, but honestly, my very best guidance comes from God himself.  I just need to take a few moments to be quiet with Him and ask Him to speak direction into my mind and heart.  Psalm 142:3 says “When my spirit faints within me, you know my way.”   When I pause, close my eyes, and ask God in prayer to give me direction, I often sense a gentle nudge, or a prompting, or I feel like He’s speaking a word of direction into my mind in that moment.  Unless the “prompting” goes against what the Bible would say, I trust that God has just spoken to me.

I did this recently on an issue between me and a close relative.  I thought for sure I should make a certain decision, but once I spent just a few moments quieting myself and asking God to speak His counsel into my mind, I received guidance to go the exact opposite direction!  He even allowed me to see why my original idea was flawed. Try this yourself.  God is waiting at the door of your mind and heart.  Open the door and let Him in.

Leave room for the Holy Spirit

The other day, a relative said some things about a person I love that I really found hurtful.  My first instinct was to emotionally withdraw from that person…but that’s a dysfunctional behavior I’m trying to end.  So, I started to tell that person what I really thought about their comments!  Thank God, the Holy Spirit gently stopped me.

You see, sometimes God wants us to confront someone who is sinning against us or doing something wrong.  But other times, God wants us to step back and allow His Holy Spirit to do the convicting in that other person’s heart, especially if that person is a believer.  In John 16:7-8, Jesus tells his disciples, “I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment”   Jesus was talking about the Holy Spirit, and he explained that one of the Spirit’s jobs is to convict people of sin.

What I’m learning is that I need to pause and consult God when someone is doing something that wounds me or bothers me.  I need to ask God for direction.  Does God want me to respectfully and lovingly confront that person, or does God want me to step back and allow His Holy Spirit to do the confronting. 

Back to my story. When God stopped me from laying into my relative the other day and I decided to leave the “confrontation” up to the Holy Spirit…that relative actually came to me and apologized within a few hours. Today’s question for you:  Do you pause long enough to get guidance from God before reacting?

How to receive God’s guidance

We all want to receive guidance from the Lord. You may need to make a decision in your marriage or with your children or regarding your work situation, and you wonder which way to go.  Well, the good news is that God promises to guide us!  Psalm 32:8 says “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.”  The tricky thing is figuring out exactly how to access his counsel!

Here are two primary ways to access his wisdom and his counsel.  The first is….spending time reading His Word.  Duh.  But how many times do we come up with excuses as to why we don’t have the time or energy to spend much time reading the Bible?  Maybe it’s time to stop making excuses and DECIDE to make Bible reading a priority in your life.  I bet you make time to brush your teeth and take a shower, so why can’t you carve out 15 minutes for reading the Bible every morning?  😊  Reading the Bible will give you direct guidance on so many decisions you’ll need to make throughout any given day.  2 Timothy 3:16-17 “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God[a] may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

Next, spend time worshipping God and in “listening prayer”.  When we worship God, he draws near, and he longs to whisper to us through His Holy Spirit if we will strain to listen for that whisper to our souls.  1 Kings 19:12 “After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.”  So try this.  Put on some worship music, or start singing a worship song. As you praise Him, close your eyes and envision God with you.  Now ask Him to whisper guidance to your heart.  Strain to listen. Did he give you a vision or nudge your heart in some way?  I believe He will guide you.  Just make sure that anything you believe you hear from God does not contradict what He says in the Bible.

** Or view this topic as a 2 minute VIDEO BELOW

If facing marriage difficulties…

It’s so very easy to sink into self-pity, despair or flat-out depression when you become disappointed in your marriage.  It happens when your husband doesn’t have the same perspective as you, or when he doesn’t meet your expectations, or when he does something hurtful. 

However, you do have a choice in how you’re going to view this challenge in your marriage.  You can choose to feel sorry for yourself and become consumed with resentment and hopelessness….or you can choose to do much more productive things!  You can choose to make the most of your hardship by….

1. Praying without ceasing for God to intervene in the situation. (read Luke 18:1-8) 

2. Seeking guidance from God on what possible actions you should take.  Sometimes God may want you to extend grace, realizing that your husband will never be perfect, just as you will never be perfect. Other times, God may want you to courageously establish boundaries with your husband, especially if he is sinning against you.  Consult the Lord for guidance through His Word and through listening prayer. (read Psalm 32:8)

3. Asking God what He wants you to learn through this situation so that you grow in character and faith. (read Romans 5:3-5).  Is he trying to teach you patience?  Is he trying to teach you how to communicate your frustration in a more respectful way when your husband upsets you?  God is always trying to mature us!

4. Seeking God through Bible-reading and worship so that you can experience his comfort at a new and deeper level than you ever knew was possible!  (Psalm 34:18)

Are you multiple-choicing Jesus?

I don’t know about you, but I fall into a really crazy and unproductive pattern when I seek God for advice and direction.  I intend to be a good listener, but instead of quieting myself and really straining for God to speak to me through his Holy Spirit, I keep….talking!  In fact, one second after I ask God the question “what should I do about …..?”, I start mulling over the options.  My thoughts start ricocheting in my head and after a few minutes, I feel like I’ve boiled down the choices to 3 or 4 options for God to choose from. Yikes! 

The other day I found myself doing this again.  This time, however, I heard God speak a word of correction (or what some might call rebuke!).  I heard him say “Why are you multiple-choicing me?”  He reminded me that He doesn’t need me to lay out options from which to choose.  He reminded me that, often, his answer or direction is not even listed among my multiple-choice options!  I heard him whisper to my spirit, “What if my answer is “e” and you have only given me A-D from which to choose?”

Thank you, Lord, for reminding me that I need to do less talking and more listening. This is the essence of James 1:19  “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak…”

By the way, one tip that has helped me quiet my thoughts so I can actually hear the Lord’s whisper of guidance is this:  Close your eyes and envision being with the Lord. (I like to envision walking beside him in a beautiful meadow next to a quiet stream).  Then, while your mind is occupied with that vision, ask your question.  Within a few moments, I usually sense Him whispering a word to me, or giving me a vision, or bringing a Bible verse to mind that will guide me.

When desperate for God’s help

Are you in the middle of a really difficult challenge in your marriage or in some area of your life?  Are you consumed with worry or outright fear about the future?  It’s at those times in our lives that we need to press into prayer in a more earnest way.  Throughout the Old Testament and New Testament, we see that when God’s people were extremely troubled or worried or bewildered, they sought God with every fiber of their being by…fasting. 

What is a fast?  It’s a time where you go without some types of food or all food for a specific period of time in which you seek God with your whole heart.  Sometimes, people give up something other than food, such as media.   I remember a time when I fasted from all food for 3 days as I earnestly sought God’s counsel regarding a relationship.  At the very end of that fast, God gave me a vision that made my path very clear.  Praise God!

In Ezra 8, we read that the Israelites fasted and implored God for a safe journey through enemy territory and Ezra says, “God listened to our entreaty“.  Is it time for you to enter a time of earnest prayer and fasting of some type?  Please consult your doctor if you have health issues that could be adversely affected by fasting from food, but otherwise, fasting may be just what you need for a breakthrough in prayer!

Invite 3rd person into your marriage

One of my super humbling moments as a newly divorced woman actually reminds me of a vital marriage principle.  Here’s the event forever etched in my memory from December of 2002:

It was nearing Christmas and I had just gone through a divorce after 18 years of marriage.  My children were 16 and 14 at the time and I wanted to keep as many Christmas traditions in place as possible, so I announced that I was taking the kids to cut down our Christmas tree from a local tree farm.  Just before we took off, I realized I didn’t have any way to tie the tree to the top of my SUV.  But hey, I’m a reasonably intelligent person, or so I thought. lol  I wasn’t going to let anything deter me!

So I searched my new house for something resembling rope or a bungee cord.  Alas, there was no such thing on hand.  All I had was some….sewing thread. Hmmm. Well, maybe a whole bunch of thread would work?

Off we went to pick out our beautiful Christmas tree.  My son cut it down.  Unlike me, he apparently knew how to handle this part of the operation.  We hoisted the tree to the top of my SUV and then I carefully wove my spool of thread back and forth across the tree to secure it to the roof.  My kids just shook their heads in disbelief.  Then we took off, and we actually made it about a half-mile before the tree took a slow, inelegant slide from the top of the car to the road. Splat!

Why am I sharing this story with you?  I’m using it to remind both you and me that a tiny thread is not sufficient to hold anything heavy when the wind starts blowing against it.  In the same way, we need a super strong rope to hold a marriage together when we are slammed by the wind of miscommunication, frustration, and unmet expectations in marriage. We need a rope of three strands…you, your husband and the Lord.  Ecclesiastes 4:12 says “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.  A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

Sit down with your husband and brainstorm ideas on how you can keep God in the center of your marriage. You will need him to help hold you guys together when you encounter the inevitable adversity and challenges that hit every marriage! Invite a third party into your marriage…the Holy Spirit!