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A daily devotional | People of Prayer | A oman with hands folded and looking up to the sky.

Practical Theology | When God Is Silent

  • January 2023 Issue
Practical Theology

“Praying is not like pushing a button or pulling a lever. The kind of prayer that Jesus describes grows out of a relationship.”

Prayer is a conversation with God. But it is not like most of the conversations we have. We do not see God’s face or hear His voice. We cannot gauge the response by observing body language or facial expressions. How is it possible to have a conversation when God is the silent partner?

We know from Scripture that God has a voice. According to the book of Genesis, the first words ever spoken were God’s words: “Let there be light, and there was light” (Gen. 1:3). Yet, the Bible also shows that God is no chatterbox. God indeed spoke to Moses “face to face, as one speaks to a friend” (Ex. 33:11). He spoke to Abraham the same way. But ordinary conversation has never been God’s primary communication mode.

Our conversations with God are in response to what He has already said. Jesus promised, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7). In this promise, Jesus emphasized two essential aspects of prayer. The first is relationship. Praying is not like pushing a button or pulling a lever. The kind of prayer that Jesus describes grows out of a relationship. More specifically, it grows out of a relationship with Christ: “If you remain in me.”

The verb translated as “remain” means to abide or dwell. When we pray as those who are in Christ, we do not come to God from the outside. We are already in communion with God by virtue of our union with Christ. Neither do we approach Him as outsiders. Rather, we come to God as His children (John 1:12; 1 John 3:1–2). Our aim is not to persuade or pressure but merely to ask.

The second critical element that Jesus mentions in John 15:7 is familiarity with what Christ has said. The Bible shows us the kinds of requests we can legitimately make and what to expect in answer. God may not grant all our requests. But He hears every prayer and treats us as His dear children. Although it is hard to accept, just like a human parent, God’s refusal is often more loving than if He were to say yes.

For Further Study

To learn more, read When God is Silent: Let the Bible Teach You to Pray by John Koessler (Kirkdale).

BY Dr. John Koessler

John Koessler is Professor Emeritus of Applied Theology and Church Ministries at Moody Bible Institute. John authors the “Practical Theology” column for Today in the Word of which he is also a contributing writer and theological editor. An award-winning author, John’s newest title is When God is Silent: Let the Bible Teach You to Pray (Kirkdale). Prior to joining the Moody faculty, he served as a pastor of Valley Chapel in Green Valley, Illinois, for nine years. He and his wife, Jane, now enjoy living in a lakeside town in Michigan.

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