five characteristics of a welcoming culture
"When God's people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality. - Romans 12:13
I’ve come to find these prayers essential to my spiritual walk, since they remind me throughout the day that I’m not alone. God is alongside me, guiding me through each portion of my day. He cares about what I had for breakfast this morning. He’s concerned with my drive to work. He wants to be a part of my afternoons.
Not only do these prayers teach me to consistently rely on God’s guidance, but they also retrain my natural tendency to see prayer as formalized spiritual discipline.
Prayer is, after all, not a one-way street. You don’t find time to pray because the Bible says so. You don’t do it because your pastor said all good Christians pray (it’s true, all good Christians do pray!). You pray because you value your relationship with your good heavenly Father. Prayer is a relationship with God – a regular rhythm of communication, praise and adoration of how God is working in your life.
But what about when you don’t hear from God? What happens when your prayer life goes stale, and you go through periods where your spiritual walk feels more like a slug through a vast desert?
Fortunately, the Bible has wisdom to offer you when you feel as if you don’t hear God’s voice.
In the Bible God raises up a series of judges to help deliver the Israelites through some of the darkest moments in the nation’s history. The last judge God calls is a man named Samuel. Samuel’s story starts, appropriately, with an observation about hearing God’s voice:
“Now in those days messages from the Lord were very rare, and visions were quite uncommon.”
– 1 Samuel 3:1
As Samuel’s story unfolds, we learn that statement is quite untrue. In fact, God does speak to Samuel, and ultimately uses him to usher in a new period of governance and wisdom for the nation.
Just like Samuel and the people around him, it becomes easy to think that God is not at work in our life; we think that, today as in Samuel’s day, ‘messages from the Lord’ are ‘very rare’. We don’t hear God’s voice, and so assume we’ve lost his prophetic guidance in our lives.
But if we’ve learned anything from Samuel, it’s that God wants to speak to you. He wants to give you visions of the future; He wants to show you images of how He’s going to use you to reveal Christ to others. He desires a relationship with you.
If you feel like you’re in a vast spiritual wilderness, keep talking to God. Keep praying the popcorn prayers. And know that, just like for Samuel, you won’t be denied His vision and voice in your life. As you journey with Him, know He’s right alongside you working to bring you out of the desert to a more spacious place where you can hear His voice.
As I reflect on this verse, I’m also aware of what it might have to say about our church – and how quickly we might fall into the trap of thinking that God is not at work. The lies we might believe that messages from the Lord are very rare here, visions quite uncommon.
As we lean on Him through the daily rhythms, the popcorn prayers and all the other ways we worship, He’ll pour out His Spirit on us so we can, just like Samuel, hear His voice.
So if you’re one who doesn’t dream big dreams or hear big spiritual revelations from the Lord, start expecting Him to show up in big ways. He did it for Samuel, and He’ll do it for you too. And pray along with me that we’ll see days in our church where God’s voice is so clear that visions, miracles and answers from God become common.