Do you want to hear from God? Do you want to have a thriving relationship with Him, but you just can’t seem to get it right? I’m not saying that a listening prayer is THE answer, but I think it might help. I believe it will.
We live in a time that’s really loud and chaotic. Our cell phones are a permanent fixture in our lives, and though they’re extremely useful, they also offer us constant connection, distractions, and noise.
I was reading a story in the Bible, and I think there’s a great lesson in it for us. The backstory is that Eliljah (a prophet of God) was hiding in a cave, fearing that he was going to be found and killed. God came to him, and then this happened…
[God] said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”1 Kings 19:11-13
Who thought the Lord was going to be in the wind, earthquake, or fire? I found myself reading faster and faster with every, “but the Lord was not in the…” Like, if He wasn’t there, where was he??
HE WAS IN THE WHISPER.
I know, as a parent, sometimes I have to raise my voice to get my kids’ attention. I automatically assume God is the same. If he really wants to get my attention His voice will be loud and obvious. If He really wants to get my attention He’ll speak above the noise.
But what if instead of God coming to us in the noise he’s calling us out into the quiet?
At the beginning of the year I started a new prayer practice, and I want to share it with you today. It isn’t complicated, but it is difficult (at first). It will take some intentionality and some willingness to be uncomfortable. But it’s so very worth it. If you’re in, then read on.
WHAT IS A LISTENING PRAYER?
Prayer is a conversation. It’s a two-way street, but often we only move one way. We speak to God, but we don’t give him space to speak back.
A listening prayer, in short, is just an intentional time where you come to God to say little and listen much.
HOW TO DO IT…
The following information was taken from the book, Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, and meshed with my own recommendations and experience.
- Grab a notebook, or sheet of paper, and a pen.
- Find a quiet and comfortable place to sit.
- Set a timer for 10 minutes.
- Say a simple prayer, such as, “God, I’m here. What do you want to say?”
- When a thought pops into your head or you have an impression on your heart, write down 1-2 words to summarize the thought and reorient your heart to God.
- When your timer dings, thank God for the time spent with him and look at your notes.
HOW TO DISCERN GOD’S VOICE
The question that should arise at this point is, “What does all of this mean? Was this from God or my own mind?” Here’s how I would recommend you assess your notes.
- If you feel like God spoke to you, make sure it aligns with Scripture. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, so he’s not going to prompt you to do (or think) something that contradicts the Bible.
- If you’re not sure, ask a trusted Christian friend. Don’t ask “Spiritual Sally” or “Religious Richard.” Find a wise, gracious Christian person to help assess what you wrote.
- If your notes are full of distractions… meaning you tried to be in tune with the Holy Spirit, but all you could think about was the cars driving by or your to-do list, then give those distractions to the Lord. There are a lot of things that vie for our attention. Tell God you’re sorry for the worry that’s clouding out His voice, and ask Him to quiet your mind.
Then, try this exercise again another day. If need be, find a calm instrumental playlist to help keep your focus off the other noises around you.
A CLOSING VERSE TO CONSIDER
In John 10 Jesus says, “I know my sheep and my sheep know me. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”
When we read the Bible we get to know the voice of Jesus. We become familiar with the types of things he says and wants from us. We get to know him.
But there’s also prayer. When we talk to God, and give him space to talk back, He’ll lead all the little details of our lives. We’ll get to know each other on a more intimate and personal level, which is what we were created for.
Because there’s a better way,
DISCLAIMER on listening prayer
If this type of prayer feels a little eastern religion-y, or if you’ve had a connection with non-Christian spiritual practices in the past, you may want to avoid this type of prayer for now. In the spirit of Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians I would say, though this practice is permissible, it may not be beneficial for you. If you attempt this approach thinking you’re going to empty yourself of negativity and find answers from what’s left, then let me just say… That’s the opposite of what this is.
If you want to have more of a discussion about this, please email me at email@example.com.