You spend hours in the prayer closet, and God doesn’t say a peep. But when you get into the shower afterwards, suddenly He pipes up with some word. What’s up with that? Why does God wait until you’ve got a head full of shampoo distracting you before He’ll say something? Ever sit down to have that focused prayer session only to wake up an hour later wondering when you drifted off? Or how about waiting all day for God to speak to you, only to have Him suddenly pipe up when you’re sitting at a friend’s house feeling distracted by noise and people? What are we to make of God refusing to show up in these sacred settings we arrange for Him? Is He telling us to stop trying to put so much effort into seeking Him? No, He’s actually teaching us a very different principle.
God is always with you. He isn’t with you more in the prayer closet. When Christians talk about God “drawing near,” they usually mean having a sensual awareness of His Presence. Well, this term is really very misleading, for to say that God “draws near” at certain times suggests that at other times He’s far away. God is never far away. He’s always in your business. In fact, He’s the One defining what your business is. So there’s no sense in which you have to go into a closet to find God. There’s no sense in which a ringing phone or noisy neighbors or having the television on can throw up some kind of communication barrier between you and God. God is not so limited that He must have perfect silence before He can get a message through to you. And if you’re eager to know Him better, then it’s actually in your best interest for God to start being extra difficult about the way that He communicates with you.
Think about what you’re really trying to accomplish by spending time in focused prayer. Often what we’re really searching for in these moments is a sense of assurance that, yes, God is paying personal attention to us. If God speaks to us in such moments, we feel relieved by the “evidence” that the lines of communication are open between Him and us. Well, when we’re trying to avoid talking to God, focused prayer sessions are quite needed. But when instead we’re trying to pursue a deeper bond with Him, then often what we really need is for Him to boost our confidence that He’s talking with us even when we’re in the midst of daily life.
You’re not going to gain solid confidence in God if you think He’ll only talk to you in church or when you’re reading your Bible or when you’re focused and quiet. You need to understand that God is intimately involved in every aspect of your life, and break out of the mindset that you have to postpone talking to Him.
Your boss is talking to you and suddenly God pipes up. Sure, it’s overwhelming at first, but you really are able to talk to God at the same time as another human, and this is an important skill to learn. Plenty of times in life, God is going to be feeding you the cues of what to say and do in the middle of the chaos, and He wants to teach you how to get good at recognizing His Voice even when you’re feeling distracted by earthly affairs.
You’re in the bathroom, and that’s when God decides to show up. Really? What’s less holy than being in the middle of a bathroom experience? Well, you might not feel that it’s the appropriate time to discuss spiritual issues while you’re sitting on the john, but God doesn’t like the idea of you shutting down on Him at certain times. God created humans and all of their bodily functions—He doesn’t find it awkward to talk to you in the bathroom or in the shower or anywhere else.
A critical part of deepening your relationship with God is to learn how to grow out of the mentality that you are going through your life on your own while God occasionally chimes in. That’s just not the way things really are. Picture yourself going through your daily routine with one wrist handcuffed to Jesus and you’ll get a better idea of how impossible it is for you to ever do anything alone. Now if you were really in such a situation and you could see Jesus with your physical eyes, what would happen? You’d talk to Him a whole lot more because with Him right there, it just wouldn’t feel natural to stay quiet. Well, this is the perspective God is moving you towards by refusing to make the appearances you’ve scheduled for Him. In the first place, God won’t be scheduled by you or anyone else. When you see Christian leaders putting on events in which they promise that the Holy Spirit will show up, such people are talking most irreverently. God is not our dog who we can get to perform tricks at our convenience. By refusing to stick with your schedule, God steers you away from the temptation of trying to control Him, and instead pushes you to stop being so rigid about when you’ll talk to Him.
You’re rocking out to a radio song and suddenly God says something convicting. Respond to His conviction right then, don’t just make a mental note to address it when you get home. You’re at work and God starts really pulling at you. Stop what you’re doing and focus on what He’s saying. You see, at first we try to get God to come when we’re ready to listen. But we really need to learn how to drop everything and listen when He’s ready to talk. Maybe it means you stop what you’re doing so you can think for a minute. Maybe it means you suddenly tell your friend that you’ll have to call her back. God is going to speak up at some really inconvenient times, but with practice, we can get better and better at listening to Him in the midst of distractions.
God doesn’t want to just talk to you in your prayer closet. He wants to talk to you anytime any place. He wants you to practice following His lead instead of wasting effort trying to get Him to follow yours. Once we understand that God’s reason for not showing up when we want is to improve our overall communication with Him, we can stop trying to set up the perfect prayer moments, and instead ask Him to help us get better at hearing Him amid the normal chaos of life.
Talking to God: Why is He being so cryptic?