By Nathan Hart
For seven years, The Rev. Dr. Chuck Davis was my mentor and boss. I served as an Associate Pastor while he was Senior Pastor. During those years, Chuck generously provided an apprenticeship model which trained me to eventually succeed him as Senior Pastor of Stanwich Church. I could say so much more about that profound experience, but today I want to tell you about Chuck’s newest book, Speak Up! Listen Up!: God is Listening, God is Speaking. It is a wonderful book about prayer that is as deep as it is accessible. Reading it, and applying its teachings, will change your life.
Chuck will be preaching at Stanwich Church on Sunday, February 6, at 9:00 AM and 10:45 AM, and will be teaching from his book on Wednesday, February 9, at 7:00 PM, in the Stanwich Church sanctuary. All are welcome.
Ahead of his upcoming visit, I asked Chuck a few questions about his book:
Why did you write a book about prayer? What do you mean by “speak up” and “listen up”?
I grew up in a family and church that modeled prayer and gave me opportunities to pray as a child. Thus, prayer was comfortable to me. I have found that many people did not have the same experiences and so they feel awkward praying. I wrote this book to be a resource for anyone to grow in the practice of prayer.
Speak up – listen up? I have found prayer to be a conversation with God and not just a one way SOS line. I quote Eugene Peterson in chapter 7, “Does God really speak today,” “the fundamental conviction of our faith is not so much that God is, as that God speaks.”
Tell me about your own prayer life.
As mentioned, I grew up praying. I have lived the most amazing life. I am fueled by prayer. I spend every morning in a time of conversation with God, using historical prayers, spontaneous prayer, praying the Word of God, and writing out prayers in my journal. I then pray throughout the day by myself or with others as opportunities arise.
What would you say to a person who is skeptical that God exists, or thinks that believers notice “coincidences” and call them “answered prayers”?
I have had too many unexplainable “coincidences” to agree. I don’t have a desire to convince others about God’s existence. I just want to invite people into a vibrant relationship with God, which for me has been an interesting conversation.
There’s a lot of “noise” in our world and in our minds. How can prayer break through it all?
Silence. Our mind will get quiet with disciplined time turning the world noise off. Put your cell phone away for an hour. Take a meditative day in nature with no social media. I have disciplined myself not to look at my phone until I have had my “quiet time” with God in the morning – reading the Bible, journaling, praying. And then there have been moments, when I felt his nudge to look at my phone before that, and it was timely. My interpretation is that was a nudge from God and not a “coincidence.”
Isn’t God too busy to hear prayers from someone like me?
If that were the case, the Bible wouldn’t invite us and even exhort us to pray. Jesus did not think that God was too busy – his life on earth was peppered with prayer.
In your book you talk about mystery and disappointment. How might we understand unanswered prayers?
I am just as baffled by unanswered prayer as answered prayer. By this I am referring to one type of prayer – asking God to do something that seems legitimate. I talk about this quite extensively in my book. I have been disappointed at times when praying for others and God did not respond as I wanted.
Recently your two-year-old grandson who was named after you was diagnosed with brain cancer and had to endure months of excruciating treatment. What was your conversation with God like during that time?
My conversation did not change much except the intensity of pleading for his life. I pray for several people regularly who are fighting cancer but prayer for Charles was peppered repeatedly throughout the day. His pain and his parent’s pain were right in front of me 24/7. So I prayed and I prayed and I prayed.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the power of confession, and how our society would benefit greatly if everyone experienced confessional prayer and forgiveness through Communion every week. What do you think about that?
Absolutely! I ask for forgiveness every day. Psalm 51 is a good prayer for confession. But there is something special about praying with others to confess our sin and hearing the declaration of forgiveness from the pastor or priest. And it is so tangible as we take the bread and cup together.
How can we understand evil, and why does prayer matter in the face of it?
That is a question that will take more than a few questions. I give a couple chapters to this topic in the book. However, quick answer – Jesus said that the best way to take on evil is a life saturated in prayer. Come to the Wednesday night teaching [February 9 at 7:00 PM at Stanwich Church] to hear more.
What practical tips would you suggest to someone who wants to start hearing from God?
Read my book – there are a lot of practical starting practices. If you don’t have time to read the book, just start talking to God. Begin like this, “God, this is new to me but I am willing to give it a go. Speak, I am listening. And I’ll speak back because I am trusting that you would not have said to pray if you were not at the other end of the line. Amen.” And get with some other people who have already developed the habit of listening to God. Prayer is best learned in community and then deepened in solitude.
Speak Up! Listen Up! is available on Amazon and at Stanwich Church.
Rev. Dr. Nathan Hart is the Senior Pastor of Stanwich Church.