Listening and Prayer

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Picture by Josh Benton

I’ve been really struggling with listening lately. It’s not that I’m not listening. In fact, I’m doing all I can to listen. I strain my ear to listen. But I’m hearing a jumble of things. The background noise is loud. And I strain to make out what I hear. Then I wonder if I heard what I thought I heard. Then I wonder if I’m just hearing what I want to hear and not what’s being said. Then I wonder if I heard anything at all. I question myself too much and I struggle more with listening.

What am I listening to? The voice of God.

Okay, pull up the psycho bus, I’m ready to be admitted. Listening to the voice of God. It’s interesting in that when we pray, we say we’re speaking to God. In fact, we are. We are bringing our joys and concerns, praises and petitions to the God of the universe. Yet when we sit silently in prayer, waiting, tuning the ears of our heart to the voice of God, people look at us (or maybe just me) a bit weirdly. But that’s what prayer is. Prayer is speaking your heart to God and then listening to His reply.

And He speaks in many different ways. He speaks through the heart. He speaks through other people. He speaks through His Word, the Bible. But He does speak and we are to listen to Him when He speaks.

Yet there are times where I’m in doubt. There are times where I struggle to listen or wonder if I’m actually hearing His voice or just what I want to hear. Then there’s the background noise. It’s deafening sometimes. It over powers the quietness of my heart. It’s my over thinking, my tendency to ponder what I’m pondering. Maybe I’m being too hard on myself. Maybe I need to lighten up a bit, but for me, following God is so serious that it should take every fiber of my being.

I wonder sometimes at hearing the voice of God. For the last number of months (years even?) I have been trying to train my ear to hear His voice in my life. I spend time quietly reading through His Word, the Bible. I spend time quietly sitting in silence (and for an extrovert like me that is sooooo hard) just listening and waiting. I don’t just sit there either. I try to open “doors.” That is, I try to see if God is leading one way and see if there is a viable way of going that direction. When I feel that there is not, then I back away from that “door” and try another route. I’ve learned that God leads by what He provides and other times He leads by what He doesn’t provide. I’ve learned that God is not usually early but He’s never late.

So what am I to do?

I wait upon the Lord. I wait to hear His voice. I step forward in faith and see if the “door” will open or not. I listen to what others have to say, those wiser than me, those who are not on my side as well as those who are. I pay attention to what’s going on around me. I try to be self aware and what’s going on in my own heart. And I wait upon the Lord.

David writes in Psalm 139

How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them!” (Psalm 139:17)

That’s how it is for me. God’s thoughts are precious to me. They are vast and amazing. And I await His voice to speak. He knows me. I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). God has searched me and He knows my thoughts. He knows what I’m thinking and what I desire (Psalm 139:1-4).

And so I wait on the Lord to speak.

Until then I test doors. I walk by faith not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7 KJV). And I keep praying and speaking with God. I know He hears me. I know with assurance that He hears me. I must listen through the noise to hear Him.

And so I listen. Call me crazy, but still I will listen.

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