The essence of all Christian living consists in only two things–listening to God and responding to him. That’s it. That’s all we have to do! If we do but these two things, we can assure ourselves that we please God immensely. We fulfill our destiny. We function the way God made human beings to function. His wind fills our sails.
We build church services around these two elements and personal prayer should be likewise structured. The ‘PARE’ prayer pattern outlined in my book is built around these two elements, listening (attentiveness) and response to God. The “P” in PARE stands for preparation to hear and the “E” stands for enjoyment (lingering at the end of prayer to simply enjoy God’s presence). So the pattern is Preparation-Attentiveness-Response-Enjoyment.
Having said that, however, we can simplify our responsibility even further. Jesus told Martha he required only ONE thing. Martha’s sister, Mary, knew what that one thing is, listening to Jesus (Luke 10:38-42). If we steadfastly listen to him, we will inevitably respond by living the way he wants. We’ll love, pray, forgive, help the vulnerable, stand up to injustice etc.
Perhaps someone would argue that we can hear God and refuse to obey him. That’s only partially true. We can say no to God only if we turn away from him. We can’t keep listening and disobey for the pressure would drive us crazy. By listening to God we open ourselves to the power of the universe and that current moves us in the direction of his will–loving and doing good works. To refuse to go along with God would be harder than standing against the Niagara. The human frame could not take it. We would end up like those who stoned Stephen. When they heard him speaking God’s truth, they covered their ears and yelled as loud as they could to drown out the heavenly words he spoke (Acts 7:56,57). If we don’t want to do what God says, avoiding him remains our only option.
If we decide to keep listening, as stated above, we open ourselves to wonderful, divine power. We may feel pressure build as elements within us resist going God’s way, but as we stay the course God helps us through. The river of his presence washes those blockages away like so much driftwood. We begin to move in the Spirit. Therefore, whatever you do, build some quiet attentiveness to God into your prayer time.