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Hearing God in Retrospect

Have you ever recognized God’s voice only in retrospect—He spoke but you didn’t realize it until sometime later? For instance, when Peter confessed to Jesus, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God,”1 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.”2 God had “spoken” into Peter’s life and he didn’t even know it—he had to be told! When two disciples on their way to Emmaus finally recognized it had actually been the risen Savior who explained to them what “was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself,”3 they exclaimed to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”4 They had encountered Jesus in a very rich way, but they didn’t recognize it until He had left them.

A friend of mine proactively positions himself to hear from God: he keeps a prayer journal. He jots down his petitions in black ink, leaving some open space after each one. Then as he subsequently revisits his journal entries, he uses red ink to record God’s responses and outcomes in the spaces between petitions. He told me not only is this helpful in recognizing answered prayer, it also, in his words, “keeps me accountable when I tell someone ‘I’ll pray for you.’” What a wonderful way to engage with the living, loving God and to hear what one might otherwise have missed!

God is never too busy to hear our requests, even though we in our busyness sometimes miss His reply. He not only listens to us; He delights in speaking to us and revealing Himself in surprising ways. Can you imagine His joy when it occurs to us that He, the God of all creation, has spoken to us in one way or another? It must be like surprising someone with the perfect present on Christmas Day, the giver more elated than the receiver. This is our God—in love, He engages us, even though we don’t deserve it; in faithfulness, He responds, even when we don’t realize it. Such humility only accentuates His glory. As you wait for Him to answer your petitions, take time to recognize those He already has. There might be a surprise or two waiting for you.

Father, You are more faithful to speak than I am to listen. Forgive me. Slow me down and draw me near, that I would hear what You have already spoken. In Christ I pray. Amen.

1 Matthew 16:16
2 Matthew 16:17
3 Luke 24:27
4 Luke 24:32

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