During Advent, every Monday, we will be featuring the 2022 Advent devotional from Gather magazine written by the Rev. Becca Ehrlich.
by Becca Ehrlich
Week 3: The still, small voice
Read: 1 Kings 19:11–13
The months of August 2011 through September 2012 were among the hardest times of my life. I was waiting for a call as a pastor to a Lutheran congregation. Due to circumstances beyond my control, it was just not happening. One by one, each of the congregations I was being considered for fell through, for various reasons that had nothing to do with me.
God felt far away to me. I began to question and doubt if God even wanted me to be a pastor anymore. My husband, Will, and I had gotten married in the middle of all the turmoil, and we were trying to pay the mortgage on a house with income from my three-quarters-time position at the church where I worked and Will’s new job, which came with a huge pay cut. To make ends meet, we had to have housemates for the first few months of our marriage. (What a way to start married life together!) The situation was frustrating at best and seemingly impossible at worst.
I came out of that time with my faith and sanity intact, partly thanks to the support of family and friends. But it wasn’t only that. What really got me through? Prayer.
Even when I felt like God was far away, even when I was angry with God, confused and doubting, prayer kept me going. I forced myself to pray, even when I wasn’t feeling it. And when I couldn’t pray, there were people who prayed for me, as well as a prayer partner who was willing to pray with me. At the time, I wasn’t fully convinced that prayer was really doing much. Now I can look back and see the ways that, even when I couldn’t see it, God was listening to me and others who prayed, answering the prayers in God’s own time.
Prayer is something that our culture doesn’t typically value, perhaps because it doesn’t seem productive. From an outsider’s perspective, spending time with God in prayer looks kind of like you’re doing nothing.
But Christian prayer isn’t nothing: It’s taking time to talk to God and listen for God’s voice and leading. The more time we spend talking to and listening for God, the easier it becomes for us to hear God’s voice and guidance in our lives. Prayer is a way we experience God’s love through Jesus Christ and hear the Holy Spirit’s nudges.
Prayer can easily fall by the wayside in our busy lives, but as I discovered, in times of trouble or calm, prayer is a lifeline to God. God wants to speak to us, hear from us, connect with us and show us love through prayer.
In 1 Kings, we learn some things about how prayer often works. The prophet Elijah is running for his life—the current king and his wife are out to kill him. Elijah runs, hides and prays to God about what he should do.
We are told that Elijah hears the word of the Lord tell him to stand on the mountain and wait for God to “pass by.” So, he does. There’s a great wind, and then an earthquake, and then a fire, but God isn’t in any of these big natural experiences. God shows up in something much less impressive. Depending on which translation of the Bible you’re reading, God finally shows up in verse 12 in “sheer silence” or “a gentle whisper” or “a gentle blowing.”
My favorite is when God shows up in a “still, small voice” (New King James Version). Sometimes God speaks to us in intense ways. In the Bible, there are many such times. But in this 1 Kings passage, God isn’t in the wind or the earthquake or the fire. Elijah’s conversation with God takes place in sheer silence. And that’s how God speaks to us much of the time—not in a flashy way, but in a still, small voice.
Share aloud or reflect:
1. This Advent season, what are some ways you can connect with God through prayer?
2. What does God’s “still, small voice” sound like to you?
Activities to try:
• Spend some time in silence this week, listening for God’s “still, small voice.”
• Consider how quiet, less fl ashy people and activities in your life can be a source of God’s love and peace.