Learning How To Listen
  By Alvin VanderGriend

    "Mary...sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what He said…‘Only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her’" (Luke 10:39, 42).

    "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches" (Rev. 2:7).

    Learning to hear God is not a matter of discovering a formula. There are no surefire techniques. God is a person. Learning to hear Him is a matter of being attentive to a real person. In other words, to improve our hearing we need to improve our relationship.

    Listening to God is not a skill that we inherently possess. It has to be learned in the same way that a growing child learns to listen to his or her mother’s voice. There are going to be mistakes. God will be patient, more patient than any parent, as we live and learn. Following are several suggested activities that will help you learn how to listen.

    First, turn your mind toward God intentionally and often. Get oriented to His ways of thinking and acting. Create times, like Mary, to sit quietly at the feet of Jesus and pay close attention to what He is saying. Be alert to what is happening in your life, to thoughts that are surfacing in your mind and to the stirrings of your heart. Is God in these things? Talk to Him about them. He is interested in every event, every thought, and every stirring. He wants in on your life just as much as you want in on His thoughts.

    Second, ask God for a listening ear. That’s a prayer He will not refuse. Ask Him to reveal Himself to you and to train you to hear His voice. He is a great teacher. Invite Him to interrupt you with His thoughts about any issue or situation. Ask Him to impress upon you situations and people that you should pray for. Ask Him to guide you to assignments that He wants you to carry out for Him. God loves that kind of asking.

    Third, position yourself to hear. Meditate on the Word of God day and night. Hide the Word in your heart so that God can draw upon it at will. Be silent often enough and long enough to give Him an opportunity to speak to your heart. Ask God questions that will invite His response, questions like: "Is there a sin I need to deal with?" or "How can I be more fruitful for You?" Then wait for His answer.

    Fourth, trust God to speak. It’s His responsibility. Don’t try to force Him. You can’t anyway; but you don’t have to. He wants to communicate with His children. He told us He would. He will speak in ways that He chooses: through the Scriptures, by arranging circumstances, through trusted counselors, and by an inner voice. How He speaks is His responsibility; expecting Him to speak and being prepared to listen is ours.

    Fifth, be ready to respond. God is not in the business of revealing Himself to us so that we can decide whether we will respond. Don’t expect Him to speak at all unless you are committed to responding. His word may call for confession. His guidance may lead to action. His Spirit may lead you to pray for or reach out to someone you know. He may simply want you to say "thank you."

    Learn to listen and you will find yourself on an incredible journey to a closer walk with God and a joy greater than you can imagine.

Something to Think About

    • How often do you, like Mary, take time to be with Jesus and pay close attention to Him? When might you take that kind of time for Him?

    • Have you ever asked God for a "listening" ear? Is that something you really want? What would it require of you?

Something to Pray About

    • Praise the Spirit who still speaks to churches and Christians.

    • Thank God that you have the ability to "hear" His voice and that He stands ready to help you learn how to do it.

    • If you have been an "anxious-about-many-things Martha" instead of an "at-the-feet-of-Jesus Mary" you may have something to confess.

    • Ask the Lord to give you a responsive heart and the willingness to do His will as He reveals it to you no matter what.

Something to Act On

    Ask God three questions:

    • What am I doing that You do not approve of?

    • What am I not doing that You want me to do?

    • What am I doing that You want more of?

    Write down the answers He brings to your mind and then act on what He tells you.

    From The Joy of Prayer, Week Three, Day 5, by Alvin VanderGriend. PrayerShop Publishing,©2007. Used by permission. Available for purchase at www.harvestprayer.com.