It’s a common question for people learning to pray: ”What am I doing wrong?” It comes when we are asking God for clarity about something. It can be general: “Help me know what to do.” It can be specific: “Help me know the career, the next step, the right relationship.” It can be spiritual: “Help me love you.” Or even, “Are you there?”
We ask and ask and ask and sense no clear answer. We know that it’s possible that we may be missing the answers. We know we may not be listening right. And we are frustrated. (and maybe a little scared and desperate).
One way to navigate this uncertainty is to step back from the praying and read. The Bible. And not just any part of the Bible. The Gospel of John.
This account of the life of Jesus has some things that are helpful for people learning to talk with God. And the biggest reason is identified by Jesus himself.
Let me show you.
Jesus was talking to a group of Pharisees. They were some of the religious leaders most focused on being spiritual. In the process, they made people feel like they had to follow many rules in rigorous ways. As a result, people felt burdened.
Jesus started talking about how he related to people. He used an image he often used, shepherds and sheep:
“The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” (John 10:1-6)
So Jesus is saying that the shepherd’s voice – His voice – is very distinctive for his sheep. He knows them, they know him, he leads them, they follow him. It sounds exactly like what we are looking for, to know how to hear God and follow him. But how can we do that? One simple way is to learn what his voice sound like.
And that’s where reading John comes in.
(Part two tomorrow).