Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Linda Evans Shepherd's new book, Experiencing God's Presence: Learning to Listen While You Pray (Revell Books, 2013).

God loves to hear what you have to say when you talk to Him in prayer. But how often do you listen to what God has to say to you?

It’s easy to fall into the habit of just talking to God when you pray, rather than trying to hear what God is telling you. It’s always worthwhile, however, to make the effort to listen to God whenever you communicate with Him. Prayer is meant to be a two-way conversation between you and God. When you experience prayer as a real conversation, you’ll emerge from every prayer session changed for the better.

Here’s how you can experience great conversations with God:

Experience God’s presence. Although God is constantly present with you, you can sense His presence especially well during prayer. The Bible promises that when you draw near to God, He will draw near to you. God does so by communicating to you through His Holy Spirit.

Experience God’s messages to you through the Bible. You can enjoy conversations with God when you read the Bible, by asking God questions about the verses you’re reading and then listening for God’s responses in your mind. Start by asking God to quiet your mind so you won’t be distracted, and to speak to you. Then read a passage from the Bible slowly, several times. Write down the thoughts that occur to you. Then read the passage again, emphasizing different words or phrases this time. Write down the new thoughts that enter your mind. Finally, read over what you’ve written to discern if God is speaking to you through those words, and if so, how you should respond to His message.

Experience God’s transforming power. Ask God to use your prayer times with Him to change you to become more like Jesus. Don’t hesitate to express even your most difficult feelings and thoughts to God in prayer, since God already knows it but wants you to communicate with Him about it and invite Him to work in the situations that concern you. Keep in mind that God loves you unconditionally and offers you mercy and grace. After you pray about various situations in your life, shift your focus from your circumstances to Jesus, meditate on how Jesus would approach the situations you’re facing, and pray for the power you need to take the same approach yourself.

Experience God’s blessings. Open yourself up to receive the blessings God wants to give you by thanking God in prayer for specific blessings He has already given you and inviting God to work through your life to bless other people.

Experience God’s hope. When you’re discouraged about challenges in your life, seek the hope that God offers you during your prayer times with Him. Remember that God’s intentions toward you are always good; trust Him to use anything you go through to fulfill good purposes in your life. Pray about your burdens, giving each one to God. As you do, God will increase your sense of hope. Then take the next step that God leads you to take.

Experience trusting in God. Deepen your trust in God through prayer by: asking God to help you view your life from His perspective, giving God the situations that concern you (no matter how difficult they are), inviting God’s peace into your circumstances, and resting in God despite your difficulties with the confidence that He will provide what you need.

Experience deliverance from evil. In prayer, you can receive the power you need from God to resist Satan and the evil side of the spiritual world. Confess and repent of your sins, and ask God to help you live each day under the Holy Spirit’s direction. Pray for the help you need to overcome temptation. Ask God to spiritually protect you from evil every day. Pray for the wisdom to identify lies you’ve believed about yourself, your life, other people, and God – and ask the Holy Spirit to replace those lies with biblical truth by renewing your mind. Stand against evil by engaging in spiritual warfare prayer.

Experience God’s healing power. God may choose to send you some type of healing through prayer when you ask Him for it. He’s always willing to give you spiritual healing, such as forgiveness for your sins or peace to heal difficult emotions you’re experiencing (such as anxiety or bitterness). Sometimes God is also willing to send you physical healing, when doing so will help accomplish His purposes in your life. When you pray for healing, be confident that God hears you and will do what’s best in response.

Experience praising God. When you praise God through prayer, you can connect with Him directly, since He will respond to your praise by pouring His love into your soul. Either speak or sing words of praise to God when you pray. Seek to live a lifestyle of worship by praying for God’s guidance about how you can best serve Him in every part of your life.

Experience God’s love. Spending time in prayer with God will help you bust the myths that God doesn’t really care about you, because you’ll encounter God’s love in powerful ways when you communicate with Him. Receive the love and forgiveness that God wants to give you by opening yourself up to Him in prayer.

Experience joy from God. God will give you joy when you pray. First, surrender all of your past pain, current worries, and future plans to God and welcome Him to work on your behalf with whatever concerns you. Then shift your focus from your concerns to Jesus, and the more you meditate on His love and care for you, the more joy will flood your soul.

Experience peace from God. Rather than wasting time and energy complaining about your problems, pray about them. Ask God to give you specific instructions for how to handle every problem that you bring to Him in prayer, and He will respond with both guidance and peace that is so strong that it will even surpass your understanding.

Take action on what God has told you. It’s a tragic waste to hear from God in prayer but fail to do what He tells you. Be sure to obey the messages you discern God giving you during prayer by taking whatever next steps you can take to respond faithfully.

Adapted from Experiencing God’s Presence: Learning to Listen While You Pray, copyright 2013 by Linda Evans Shepherd. Published by Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, Mich., http://bakerpublishinggroup.com/revell.    

Linda Evans Shepherd is an award-winning author, a successful speaker, and a radio personality. The president of Right to the Heart Ministries, she is the author of When You Don’t Know What to Pray and When You Need a Miracle, and the coauthor of the Potluck club books and the Potluck Catering Club series. She lives in Colorado. Visit her website at: www.visitlinda.com.   

Whitney Hopler, who has served as a Crosswalk.com contributing writer for many years, is author of the new Christian novel Dream Factory, which is set during Hollywood's golden age. Visit her website at: whitneyhopler.naiwe.com.

Publication date: September 10, 2013