Learning to truly listen is one of the hardest things we as human beings ever have to do. As we engage in conversation with others our minds are constantly churning with ideas, advice, memories, and experiences that relate to what they are saying. There is often a battle raging within to keep those words of advise or even words of compassion from flying out of our mouths when we are supposed to be listening. We even interrupt others because we are afraid if we don’t say what we are thinking right then we will forget what we were going to say.
Listening is an art that requires more than our ears. It requires our heart. It requires selflessness. It requires us to humble ourselves and place others’ needs above our own. Recently I’ve learned that this is true of prayer as well. Listening is actually a vital part of prayer and is one of the most difficult yet rewarding things I have ever learned to do. Up until recently I went to the Lord in prayer with a non-stop slew of words full of my own desires and my own concerns, but I never really took the time to listen to what was on His heart in the current moment. I read a blog where the author spoke of asking the Lord what was on His heart and she listened for His voice. She received and shared such amazing insight from the Lord, beautiful words that touched my heart. It caused me to begin to listen as part of my prayer time. I realized I have been missing out by talking too much, and by putting my agenda above His.
The first time I did this I was amazed at the beautiful things He said to my heart. However, I had a sense of loss because I couldn’t remember all of what He said to me. I knew I couldn’t rely on my memory. So, the next time I practiced listening to the Lord during prayer I had a pen in hand, ready to record His words to me. It seemed as if I could hear Him more clearly with a pen in my hand, and the intention to give Him my full attention. Psalm 139:17 says “How precious also are Thy thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them.” I want to know His precous thoughts toward me, and if I get quiet before Him I can hear them, for I have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16). I also want to know His plans for me. He directed me to Jeremiah 33:3, “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know”. He says call to Him and He will answer. That means He speaks to us! Now I look forward to finding quiet moments when I can simply sit and listen to my Shepherd and know that I can call to Him and trust that He will answer me. His word tells me so. There is great peace when we are still and listening, (“be still and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10). I love to go back and reread the pages of my listening journal, to be reminded of the wonderful words He has spoken to me, words of comfort, reassurance, and direction for my life. It was actually in that quiet listening that He directed me to write a blog.
There are numerous scripture verses about the voice of God, of listening to and heeding His voice. Many people may think it is impossible to hear His voice, or might even think that those who claim to hear His voice are crazy or misguided. However, I take comfort in the following verse: “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27). We must believe that He does indeed speak, and that it is His will that we hear Him. He told us that we, His sheep, hear His voice. Scripture also tells us that He speaks in a still, small voice; not in the wind, not in the earthquake, not in the fire, but in a still, small voice (1 Kings 19:11-12). Therefore we must get quiet and listen. His voice is within us, through the Holy Spirit who bears witness with our spirit, that we are children of God (Romans 8:16). Therefore, as children of God, we are His sheep, and His sheep know His voice.
I wholeheartedly encourage you to make listening a part of your prayer time. It may not be easy at first. You may go through a time of wondering “Was that Him, or was that just my own thoughts?” It takes time to learn to listen, to learn to quiet your mind before Him. Just know that it is possible. Don’t give up. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you. He is the Spirit of truth and He will guide you into all truth (John 16:13).
Please note, this is in no way meant to replace the time we spend reading the Word of God, because His primary way of speaking to us is through His Word. We must be in the Word every day. He speaks to us, feeds us, and washes us with His Word. He speaks in so many wonderful ways. Speaking to us as we listen during prayer is one of those wonderful ways. God bless you.