Listening to God in Prayer and Finding Validation
Listening to God in prayer is vital. If we expect God to answer our prayers, we should be ready to listen and act when we hear directly from Him.
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Have you heard people, and not just young people, putting others down. Sometimes they label it teasing, but what they say and the tone they use can be taken as hurtful. Maybe you have been the target of hurtful words, angry words and words that tear you down and leave you feeling worthless and alone.
Words Are Powerful – Use Them to Encourage and Affirm
Words are powerful. They can undermine confidence, weaken someone’s resolve or injure their self-esteem. But words can also build up another person, encourage them and affirm them or their course of action.
The dictionary defines affirmation as emotional support or encouragement. To affirm someone means to offer them emotional support or to validate. Some of the synonyms include add to, develop, promote, improve, boost, enhance, reinforce and strengthen. What powerful words!
Encourage People on their Journey
Just like a brick layer adds one brick at a time, securing them solidly, as he builds a wall, so God wants us to speak into other people’s lives with positive, uplifting words and show with our actions that we are adding to the puzzle of their life rather than hiding pieces they need to be encouraged in their journey.
I have a file of notes which people have given or sent me. These notes have words of affirmation on them, encouraging words which have helped me realize that God has gifted me with the ability to tell stories that encourage, teach about God and uplift people. When I listen to God and use these talents, abilities and gifts, other people benefit. I heard about keeping an encouragement file a number of years ago and began to keep these notes or other encouraging pieces of information. I must admit the “file” is not well maintained and all in one place which makes it difficult to pull it out on days I need to be built up and affirmed again. That organization is still very much a work in progress.
Affirmation and Validation
Another part of the definition of affirmation includes validation. There are times I wonder if I have heard correctly what God is asking me to do – the direction I need to go. At times like this I have asked trusted friends and fellow believers for their prayers and input. I need some affirmation that I have listened correctly and heard God’s direction. God has also provided affirmation from some unexpected sources.
Listening to God and a Decision Affirmed
When I first thought God wanted me to move outside my comfort zone of teaching a ladies Bible study at our church, which was a relatively new comfort zone for me, I hesitated. Speaking to ladies ministry groups and at retreats had never been on my bucket list and I was not sure I wanted this to be God’s direction for my life at that moment. I shared it with the Bible study group. They affirmed the direction and I took a huge step of faith and let people know of my availability.
The first ladies retreat I spoke at, only a few months later, was on the theme of prayer. What a huge and important topic. I studied for hours. I prepared by praying and asking friends to pray. I went to the retreat filled with peace at what I had learned in the process and yet apprehensive of this big challenge. I had a friend, back home, praying for me during each session. In the second session, as I was speaking, God told me to change my illustration. It was such a clear message I wondered if everyone I the room had heard it. I did not want to change what I had prepared so diligently. I had things planned. I had prayed. I had prepared but I decided to obey God and change the illustration. Two ladies came to me afterwards and said it was just what they needed to hear and a third lady came and shared her story which encouraged all three of us. Wow God had a plan.
Sharing What God Asks
Later that afternoon I had some quiet time to reflect, pray, and review my notes for the evening message. God spoke to me about changing my illustration for that night. He wanted me to share a very vulnerable time in my life that I did not want to share. I knew he had worked and brought people into my life at that time who had helped, encouraged, and build me up but I wanted to keep it to myself that I had struggled with depression. After all, what would people think if I shared this?
I lost the argument with God and with much fear and trepidation I shared what God had asked me to share. It took until noon the next day for a young lady to come and talk to me. She had tears streaming down her face, crying so hard she could not speak. I prayed with her and simply let her cry on my shoulder. Finally she told me that she needed what I had shared. She had felt alone, like no one would understand and she did not know what to do or who to talk to. What if I had not listened and shared what God put on my heart?
When I arrived home my friend who had been praying, asked me to share what had happened. When she had been praying in the morning session and around 4:30 in the afternoon, God had told her to pray I would change my illustrations. She told me she argued with God, knowing how much prayer, preparation and study I had done. She lost the argument. God used this as an affirmation I was on the right path. I had heard him correctly.
I pray that our words to each other will be positive and build others up, affirm the gifts you see in them and encourage them, especially when the puzzle pieces of life do not seem to fit.
What stories of affirmation do you have? Do you have an encouragement file – notes that build you up?
Carol Harrison B.Ed is a speaker and published author with one book, Amee’s Story and stories in twelve anthologies. She is passionate about helping people of all ages and ability levels find their voice and reach their fullest potential.
She knows, through personal experience that some of life’s experiences are tougher than others. She encourages people that even in the twists and turns of life God’s amazing grace provides hope. She lives in Saskatoon, SK with her husband Brian. They have four adult children and a dozen grandchildren.