Listening to God

An Exercise in Listening Prayer

Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.

Jeremiah 33:3

Here is the truth: God loves us and is eager to be in relationship with us and to speak to us. This is the basis of our confidence in listening prayer. So when we seek to listen to God in confidence, what is it that we gain?

  • Clarity (Psalm 73:17)
  • Deeper relationship with God (Psalm 32:8-9)
  • Direction (Isaiah 30:21)
  • Assurance, faith-building promises (Luke 1:45; 2:19)
  • A call to repentance (Hebrews 4:7)
  • Empowerment/Guidance for ministry (Jeremiah 42:1-7)

Prioritize

In the pursuit of hearing God’s voice, there are some things we can do. The first is to make it a priority. This means you’ll need to adjust the ways you spend your time so that there’s some time reserved for hearing God. And not just left-over time, but some of your best time. When in your day is the prime time for hearing God? Are you listening during this time?

Making listening a priority also means you bring yourself to a place of stillness. Chances are the best time to hear God is when you can be still. When there are so many voices vying for our attention, our spirits can get distracted and our bodies follow suit as they respond to these voices’ demands. Make listening to God a priority for you spirit by getting quieting your spirit and being still.

When your time and your energies are prioritized toward listening to God, you create a space of expectancy. It’s like cleaning your room before you welcome a special guest. It’s like raking the leaves before the snow comes. When you do these kind of things, you can’t help but expect the guest to come or the snow to fall. Since God wants to be in relationship with us and wants to speak to us, expecting to hear from him is entirely appropriate!

Cultivate Humility

The second thing you can do in your pursuit of hearing God’s voice is to cultivate a humble, learning posture towards God's Word, other people. This takes practice and won’t come overnight, but just recognizing the need for a learning posture gets you well on your way. Soon, you’ll notice yourself hearing profound things come out of others’ mouths. You’ll read the scriptures and be amazed at what you never saw before.

Cultivating humility cleans out the ears of your ears and gets you in tune with truth and reality. This is a good way to be when you want to hear from God, but none of these things will guarantee that you hear from God. God is not a vending machine, nor is there a recipe for our interactions with him.

Experiment and Fail

As you pursue hearing God, it is vital, therefore, to be willing to experiment and be willing to fail. God is not an abstract ethereal idea. He is relational even in his Trinitarian essence. And he seeks relationship specifically with you. This means you won’t hear God exactly like someone else.

For example, perhaps stillness comes for you, not in sitting in a quiet room, but through running in nature. Perhaps you best cultivate humility through attending the theater. Try things out and don’t worry too much about getting it wrong. As G.K. Chesterton said, “If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.”

God doesn’t expect you to flawlessly execute listening prayer from the beginning. Listening to God is not about arriving at some destination, it’s about journeying in relationship with your creator.

Listening Exercise

  1. Ask yourself questions like “What am I happy about/grateful for right now?” or “What do I regret or feel guilty about?” or “What am I worried about?” or “What am I excited about in the near future?” Write what comes to mind as it comes to you. Don't edit as you go.
  2. Take some time to place all of these thoughts and circumstances, your past, present, and future, in God's hands. Actually look at your hands, fill them with your concerns, and then lift them up to God and let them go.
  3. Ask, "Lord, is there anything you would like to say to me?"
  4. Listen for Jesus' prayer for you. Ask, "Jesus, how are you praying for me right now?"
  5. Enjoy listening to God's Word. Select a short passage of scripture (more than a verse but less than a chapter) and read it slowly.
  6. Read your passage again, and this time, select a word, phrase or verse that you like. What do you like about it? What does it reveal about God?
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