There seems to be some confusion among Christians as to how God speaks to us. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard Christians claim that God has spoken to them during prayer. Some of them, like “Deleted so as not to upset the applecart”, and “Deleted so as not to upset the applecart”, actually proclaim that, not only did God speak to them, but He told them to write what He said down, and tell everyone what He said. This puts their personal revelation in the same field as the divine revelation of the men used to write God’s word. So do we look to modern day Christians like these, as writing new books of the Bible? If not, why don’t we? After all, they claim to have been divinely inspired by saying that God spoke to them and told them to write it down and proclaim it to people. Does this bother you? Are you upset because you see me challenging a very popular lady who you like? What is it about what I am saying that is bothering you? I challenge you to ask yourself these questions and then compare your thoughts and feelings to God’s authoritative word. I exhort you, bring your thoughts and feelings into submissive subjection to God’s word.
Can you name for me people in the Bible who were spoken to by God directly who weren’t Adam and Eve, Patriarchs, Prophets Major/Minor, Jesus (God 2nd Personage of the Trinity,God incarnate) or the Apostles/Disciples of the foundational Church commissioned by Christ personally in that time? I just want you to think of what the normative and regulative principles are here. Seriously, take a moment and think about it. I’ll wait right here… … … … OK you’re back, great! So, what did you come up with? (leave comments)
The regulative principle would say that here and now we hear from God by reading His word, and His Holy Spirit indwelling us illumines it to our understanding, and we in our new life obey it. We trust His providence and we don’t presume to say, “Thus sayeth the Lord” and then proceed to claim a bunch of things in God’s name. That would be wrong.
The normative principle would imply that because we don’t see a prohibition to teaching that we can, “hear God” in our prayers, means that we can teach people to listen for God speaking to them in their prayers. What this looks like varies from group to group. Most would say that they get a thought in their mind and believe that it is from God. Then, they test it against scripture and see if it really is from God. I’ve seen some charismatic groups that take this to the extreme. They look for any scripture to twist and make fit. Then there are the false prophets of Mormonism, Islam, and Jehovah’s Witnesses that all claim personal extra-biblical revelation from God.
I would rather err on the side of faithfulness than selfishness or man-centeredness. I believe that I have had some of the sweetest times of communion with God while studying His word. I also believe that about times when I’ve prayed to God. There is a difference though. When I think that God has told me something, it is something I read in His word. When He hears from me is when I pray to Him. I know that He knows me and all of my thoughts before they happen. I know He knows me in perfect truth. I know He doesn’t need me to pray to Him for Him to know anything about me. I also know that He has told us to pray. He has told us how to pray. As we pray in obedience and in the Spirit, we align with God’s will and it sanctifies us. We also know that it is efficacious. We know that it accomplishes what God has ordained it to accomplish. We know then it is glorifying to God.
The danger with just considering the regulative principle is that we can become cold and ritualistic in prayer. We might end up just repeating very simple prayers because we believe that God knows it all anyway. This can become ritualized, but so can the other ditch we fall in. I’ve heard some wild charismatic prayers that are composed of Christianese modules strung together that frankly don’t mean much to anyone. This is one of the rituals in err on the other side. Another risk is to read too much into your prayer. I know you will all get bent out of shape for the mention of your favorite false teachers earlier but, the truth is that they have claimed extra-biblical revelation and have not recanted. They are plainly stating that they have personally heard God say to them, “X” and He told them to write it down and tell everyone else. He apparently has also told one of them, that He has given them the proper understanding of His word and everyone (the orthodox) else is wrong. Let’s be better at discerning the truth, by reading the truth, and knowing the truth. That way when these false teachers come along, I won’t have to delete their names so all the Christians on broth won’t get bent and make personal attacks on me for allegedly bashing their favorite flavor of false teachings this month.