Can You Hear Me Now?
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
October 9, 2005

 

Main Passage: Psalm 138:1-8 (NLT)

 

PLAY VERIZON "CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW" COMMERCIAL

That’s a pretty funny commercial. I like the whole ferret thing, but I really wanted to show it to you for that question at the end. “Can you hear me now?” We’ve heard that phrase on those commercials for years, and we’ve watched that nerdy looking guy with the glasses travel the world and make sure his cell phone worked in a variety of settings. If only they could really make them work that way.

But have you ever thought that in relation to prayer? Have you ever been tempted to ask God, “Can You hear me now?” Have you ever felt like your prayers just weren’t getting through? Ever felt like they were just bouncing off the ceiling back at you? Ever wonder, what’s the point of even trying?

Well, you may be interested to know that you’re not alone. Many of us go through periods of time like that. In fact, most of us do. Even David in the Old Testament… a man after God’s own heart… had times like that. Listen to what wrote…

Psalm 22:1 (NLT)
My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me? Why do you remain so distant? Why do you ignore my cries for help?

St. John of the Cross even gave this period of spiritual dryness a name… he called it “the dark night of the soul.” And that’s certainly what it seems like. You begin to wonder, “What’s the point? Why do I even bother? Is God even listening?”

Consider Job. He endured tremendous suffering. And in the middle of all his trials and suffering, he cried out to God. This is how he felt…

Job 30:20, 22 (NLT)
“I cry to you, O God, but you don’t answer me. I stand before you, and you don’t bother to look. You throw me into the whirlwind and destroy me in the storm.”

Can you relate? Have you ever had a dark night of the soul? Are you going through one right now? If so, I want to suggest to you six secrets for surviving spiritual dryness…

 

Six Secrets for Surviving Spiritual Dryness

1. God hears the prayers of the sincere; He turns away from the proud and unrepentant.

If you are experiencing a season of spiritual dryness, could it be because of sin? Because spiritual dryness may be caused by sinfulness. Now, this is not always the case. You cannot always assume that spiritual dryness is the result of unconfessed sin. You can’t jump to that conclusion, because it’s simply not always true. However, it certainly is true sometimes.

Unconfessed sin can be a hindrance to effective prayer. It can cut you off from God, and if you are stubbornly holding on to sin in your life and will not let it go, God simply will not listen to you. How do I know that? Because God’s Word tells me so…

Isaiah 59:2 (NLT)
But there is a problem--your sins have cut you off from God. Because of your sin, he has turned away and will not listen anymore.

Psalm 66:18 (NLT)
If I had not confessed the sin in my heart, my Lord would not have listened.

Sin is not always the reason that your prayers don’t seem get through to God. But it’s a good place to start. If you’re going through a time of spiritual dryness, then sure, go ahead and do a spiritual inventory. Are there areas of sin in your life… hatred, bitterness, lust, greed, unforgiveness, dishonesty, slander, gossip, pride, theft, a bad attitude…? And let me tell you, you’re not going to have to think long about it. Because you will know if there is sin in your life and if that is the reason that your prayers are not getting through to God.

So if you do this inventory and find something, what do you do? You humbly come before God, confess your wrongdoings to Him, and stop doing them! And He will hear that prayer.

2 Chronicles 7:14-15 (NLT)
Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and heal their land. I will listen to every prayer…

And he pulled no punches in Isaiah chapter 1…

Isaiah 1:15-17 (NIV)
When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen… Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right!

Basically, we’re told to stop doing the things that we know are wrong and start doing the things we know please God. Turn from your sin and turn to God. So, what happens once you get right with God? What happens when you ask for His forgiveness and you turn away from the evil things you used to do? Well, we’re told…

James 5:16 (NLT)
The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and wonderful results.

God hears and answers the prayers of those whose hearts are earnest and sincere. If you are living in obedience to Him, if you have been forgiven by Him and if you are committed to His Word and His leadership in your life, then you can be sure that He hears your prayers.

So if you’re going through a period of spiritual dryness, start by making sure it’s not because of unconfessed and ongoing sin in your life. If, however, you’re experiencing a spiritual dryness that is not caused by sin, there are some other important things that you need to know. The second reminder is…

 

2. You are not seeking an experience; you are seeking God.

I think too often we rely on our feelings to tell us what reality is. But feelings lie. They fluctuate from day to day. As one wise philosopher put it, “Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t.” The simple truth is, you can’t rely on your feelings because they’re not reliable.

How many people have given up on marriages because they didn’t feel in love anymore? Those feelings may have only lasted for a season, but they threw in the towel and gave up.

Or if you or someone you know has suffered from depression, you know you can feel all kinds of things that simply aren’t true.

When you were a kid, did you ever feel like your mother or father didn’t love you? Sure, we all felt like that at some point… usually when they wouldn’t cave into our desires and give us our own way. But does that mean they didn’t love us? Of course not. That was just a feeling, and bore no resemblance to the truth.

1 Chronicles 22:19 (NLT)
“Now seek the LORD your God with all your heart.”

Don’t seek an experience; seek God.

Isaiah 55:6 (NLT)
Seek the LORD while you can find him. Call on him now while he is near.

You know, I’ve heard people who have attended worship services, leave and say, “I didn’t get anything out of worship today.” Well, they weren’t supposed to! It wasn’t for them! We don’t worship for our own pleasure. We worship for God’s pleasure. We worship because He’s worthy of it and deserves it, whether we feel like it or not. It’s a nice side-benefit when we do feel blessed and encouraged through worship, but that’s not the goal.

Same is true with prayer. We like to feel blessed because of our prayer, but that shouldn’t be the goal. The goal is to communicate with God, and that doesn’t always translate into an emotional response. Prayer is based on the promises of God, not on our feelings. And what does He promise?

Jeremiah 29:13 (NLT)
“If you look for me in earnest, you will find me when you seek me.”

So seek after God. If feelings play along, great. If not, seek after Him anyway.

 

3. God deserves your best, not your leftovers.

Perhaps you’re going through a time of spiritual dryness when it comes to prayer because of when you choose to pray. Do you only pray when you’re surrounded by dozens of other distractions? Do you only pray when you’ve got a couple minutes left at the end of the day? Do you only pray when there’s nothing “more important” to do?

God deserves your best, not your leftovers. That means you need to pray when you’re free from other distractions… when you’re alert and clear-minded. It means you place a priority on prayer over the other things that might threaten to crowd it out.

Colossians 4:2 (NLT)
Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.

Not a tired mind; an alert mind. Not a duty-bound heart, but a truly thankful heart.

The first two sons that Adam and Eve had were named Cain and Abel. We’re told a little bit about them in Genesis 4…

Genesis 4:2-5 (NLT)
When they grew up, Abel became a shepherd, while Cain was a farmer. At harvesttime Cain brought to the LORD a gift of his farm produce, while Abel brought several choice lambs from the best of his flock. The LORD accepted Abel and his offering, but he did not accept Cain and his offering.

Now, what’s going on here? What was God’s problem with Cain and his offering? Did God prefer animal sacrifices over produce sacrifices? No, I don’t think that was the case. I think the key lies in these six words: “…from the best of his flock.” Underline those words in your notes.

Abel brought the very best he had to offer. He didn’t hold onto it for himself, he didn’t try to see how little he could get away with… no, he brought his best. And that showed the importance that God had in his life.

Cain, on the other hand, just brought a gift of his produce. There’s nothing to indicate that there was anything special about it… it certainly wasn’t the best that he had. The passage was clear that Abel brought his best, but made no such description about what Cain brought. For all we know, it could have been food that had rotted away or had been eaten by worms or whatever. It simply wasn’t his best. And God deserved the very best he had to offer.

In the book of Isaiah, God makes this clear…

Isaiah 1:13 (NIV)
Stop bringing meaningless offerings!

God deserves your best. Are you giving it to Him?

 

4. Conversing with God is a daily decision, not a random occurrence.

You don’t pray by accident. You make it a priority, you make the time for it, and you do it. Sure, you can grow and develop in your prayer life to the point that it becomes second nature to you and becomes a habit, and that’s a good thing. But it’s not a random occurrence. You do it because it’s important to you.

Even Jesus had to make time to devote to praying and talking to His Father.

Luke 5:16 (CEV)
But Jesus would often go to some place where he could be alone and pray.

That didn’t happen by accident. He decided to go someplace to be alone and pray. And He set that example for us to follow, too. And particularly before major decisions or after intense, emotionally and physically draining periods of ministry, He would spend significant time in prayer for guidance and for refreshing.

What does this mean for you? Well, make prayer a regular part of your day. Put it on your calendar. And don’t skip it. Maybe once a month or every two or three months, set aside an afternoon… or even an entire day… and go someplace where you can be alone and where you can simply spend the time with God in prayer. And I think you’d be amazed at how beneficial it would be for you in your relationship with God and in everyday life.

 

5. God loves you and wants to answer your prayer; He wants the best for you.

But those two things need to go hand in hand. If you’re praying for something that’s not in your best interest, then God’s not going to want to answer that prayer. And trust me, you don’t want Him to answer it either. Remember, He sees the big picture. He knows all the implications and consequences of you getting what you ask for. And in His limitless wisdom, He’s able to make the right call. You can trust Him.

James 5:14 (NIV)
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.

I want you to underline the words, “According to his will.” You see, God is under no obligation to answer self-indulgent, self-centered prayers. And He doesn’t have to answer any prayer that falls outside of the boundaries of His will. But when our prayers fit with His will, He hears them and answers them.

Psalm 37:4-5 (NLT)
Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you your heart’s desires.
Commit everything you do to the LORD. Trust him, and he will help you.

Yes, it says He will give you the desires of your heart. But you have to first of all take delight in the Lord. That means that you want His will to be done. It means that you submit to His wisdom. It means that you trust Him. It means that the things He wants are the things you want. And when that is true, you will get your heart’s desires. It may not always be what you’re expecting, but it will be what you’re desiring.

The key is that you’ve got to trust God’s wisdom and grace. Something I’ve given you before but I want to give you again is this…
 

  • If the request is wrong, God will say, “No.”

  • If the timing is wrong, God will say, “Slow.”

  • If you are wrong, God will say, “Grow.”

  • When all is right, God will say, “Let’s go!”
    (From Bill Hybel’s The Mystery of Unanswered Prayer)

 

6. Seasons of spiritual dryness are necessary; they lead to maturity.

Listen to these words from Psalm 10…

Psalm 10:1 (NLT)
O LORD, why do you stand so far away? Why do you hide when I need you the most?

Have you ever felt like that? Ever wonder why God seems to be absent? Ever wonder why He seems to step back and let you go through these spiritual valleys?

Well, at the beginning of this message, I made a reference to Job. Job is someone who lost everything he ever had in a single day. And he had done nothing wrong. He was considered a righteous man. In fact, we know that God was proud of him. But he still lost everything. If anyone ever had a reason to feel betrayed by God, Job did. And he didn’t understand everything he was going through. He cried out to God and received no apparent answer. He was going through a dark night of the soul. But listen to his conclusion. He talked about searching for God and said…

Job 23:8-10 (NLT)
“I go east, but he is not there. I go west, but I cannot find him. I do not see him in the north, for he is hidden. I turn to the south, but I cannot find him. But he knows where I am going. And when he has tested me like gold in a fire, he will pronounce me innocent.”

Job knew full well that no matter how unpleasant the process, it was necessary for him to grow and mature and be refined like gold being refined in the fire.

There’s a quote in your notes by a man named Floyd McClung. In a book entitled Finding Friendship With God, this is what he wrote:

“You wake up one morning and all your ‘spiritual feelings’ are gone. You pray but nothing happens. You rebuke the devil but it doesn’t change anything. You go through spiritual exercises, have your friends pray for you, confess every sin you can imagine, then you go around asking forgiveness of everyone you know. You fast, still nothing. You begin to wonder how long this spiritual gloom will last. It feels like your prayers bounce off the ceiling. In utter desperation you cry out: ‘What’s the matter with me?’ This is a normal part of the testing and maturing of your friendship with God. We all go through it! It’s painful, but absolutely vital to developing your faith. You see, God is always present, even when you’re unaware of Him. His presence is too profound to be measured by intellect or emotion. He’s more concerned that you trust Him, than that you feel Him. Faith, not feelings, is what pleases God.”
~ Floyd McClung

So this morning, if you feel like your prayers are not getting through, let me encourage you to first of all make sure that sin isn’t the culprit. And if it isn’t, then don’t give up. Keep on praying. Keep prevailing until you make it through this time of spiritual dryness. Because you will make it through. And you will be stronger and more mature because of it.

 

 

 

Copyright © Greg Hanson, 2005 SunriseOnline.ca